Some of our readers have met the enemy and it is them

I got sick to my stomach twice Tuesday. The first wave of nausea hit when I heard Presidential press secretary Tony Snow’s cancer had returned. The second came when I read some of the comments on our web site and others from those who rejoiced in his illness.

Like many Americans, I don’t much care for Tony’s political views. I didn’t like them when he pontificated on Fox News and I sure as hell don’t care for his posturing for the Bush administration.

But I admired the man’s courage in battling colon cancer and coming through a 2005 surgery where he lost his colon and faced months of chemotherapy. My wife’s mother died of that horrible disease and we know first hand what it can do to a person.

So the news that Snow’s cancer had returned hit our home hard but not as hard as clicking on my own web site and seeing comments like:

The voice of evilness is just as much a part of the body of evilness as any other part.

I cry no tears for Snowjob. As we slip and slide closer and closer to nuclear war, I remember that it was Snowjob who helped make sure this would happen. As criminals in the White House murder innocent people and loot the possesions of the murdered, I remember it was Snowjob who helped enable this evilness.

I feel no pity for evilness.

Or:

Karma’s a bitch.

Or:

Live by the lie, DIE by the lie.

Or:

Sorry, but considering Tony Snow’s former employer, I just can’t give the classy response to this news. I wonder if Mrs. Snow will enjoy her celebrity as a widow?

I expected more class from the readers of Capitol Hill Blue. Reading those comments left me feeling sick and in need of a shower. Yet they were tame to some of the bile that spilled out of the keyboards of Bush haters on places like Democratic Underground.

And such comments also play into a current debate among web publishers on the value, or lack of value, of allowing direct – and unmoderated —  comments directly to news stories and opinion columns.

Over at Huffington Post, readers are required to register before being allowed to comment on stories, but that didn’t stop some posters from wishing that the suicide bomb attempt against Vice President Dick Cheney had succeeded.

Arianna Huffington ordered the posts removed and some of the posters banned.

"No one at HuffPost is defending these comments — they are unacceptable and were treated as such by being removed," she told Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post.

The Post is grappling with the same problem as posters with vile agendas espouse racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred.

Kurtz says Washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady complains that he does not have the staff or resources to pre-screen the 2,000 daily comments that come into the Post site but has dedicated one staffer to delete offensive comments and ban authors of those comments when readers complain.

Yet many Post reporters and editors feel the tone of the comments degrades the image of the paper and makes life difficult for writers. Post reporters have had doors slammed in their face by subjects of stories because they were upset over comments posted on the web site.

Says Post reporter Darryl Fears:

If you’re an African American and you read about someone being called a porch monkey, that overrides any positive thing that you would read in the comments," he says. "You’re starting to see some of the language you see on neo-Nazi sites, and that’s not good for The Washington Post or for the subjects in those stories.

Concludes Kurtz:

What is spreading this Web pollution is the widespread practice of allowing posters to spew their venom anonymously. If people’s full names were required — even though some might resort to aliases — it would go a long way toward cleaning up the neighborhood.

Capitol Hill Blue receives about 500 comments a day on its articles plus another 100 or so on various topics on our moderated discussion board, ReaderRant. Most of these comments spark rational debate on the stories but we always have a few troublemakers whose vile comments spoil the discussion.  I delete about 20-25 comments a day because they cross the line of decency, spout racism or bigotry or advocate violence against other posters or public officials. Most of those comments come from anonymous posters.

In the past, I’ve considered dealing with such problems just the cost of running a web site but the comments posted to the Tuesday article about Tony Snow have left a sour taste and made me rethink the entire practice of allowing unmoderated reader comments directly to stories and columns.

I’m not sure what I will do yet but I will take whatever steps are necessary to make sure Capitol Hill Blue does not become a haven for racists, bigots, anti-Semites or those with nothing but hate on their minds.

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