I've been watching the Democratic debate on TV tonight while flipping through memorandum.com to read early thoughts on both that and the GOP one from earlier. Who knows who "won" or "lost." But what I do know is that tonight turned into the pinnacle (nadir?) of depression after all these months of reading blogs.
I challenge you to visit any number of blogs, whether about politics, gaming, art, whatever, and read the comment threads. Any notion you have that humans are essentially good and decent creatures will be destroyed slowly yet substantively the more comments you read. It's a realization I've been coming to over the past several months, and reading stuff about the candidates tonight just made that realization unavoidable. So much hostility, so much hatred, so much venom--signed by everymen like "Jim" or "Carolyn" or more often than not "Anonymous." It completely depresses me to wonder if "Jim" the mailman is the guy who calls people "f*(king babykilling b*tch" with seemingly zero provocation beyond a few paragraphs on a blog. Who is this Carolyn who agrees that "Jews use people as tools" to get what they want. Do I work near her? Does she teach my child? Does she really hate me and mine? Do average people really wish that someone had assassinated a sitting US President? Who are these fellow citizens flirting with fatwas? Who are they? And why the hair-trigger leap to angry, splenetic viciousness toward others based on something they WROTE? It's not only depressing, it's f*cking scary that seemingly so many people are just brimming with barely-contained contempt and disdain to the point that they can't even read a blog without letting loose a diatribe of hateful expletives toward another person.
It certainly bothers me how the rest of the sharks attack at the first sign of chum. But perhaps what bothers me more is sometimes the lack of counterpoint when a blog post itself is hateful. One in particular (no link provided on purpose) was posted a week or so ago that was so anti-semitic that other blogs noted the "psychotic break" style of the post. But what of the comments to that post? Supportive. Cheering. Encouraging. My reaction to reading it? The same as one commenter on another site who said, "I can't read this stuff anymore; it hurts my soul." Like, whatever people may agree or disagree on politically, do you really really REALLY think that some people deserve to not live based on their religious beliefs? That some people deserved to be exterminated in a holocaust? Really? How do you go there on a blog, then log off your computer and go about your business as a member of the human family, going to work, buying groceries, kissing your kids goodnight? Do you live near me? Is my family safe from you? It boggles the mind, and now my mind is sufficiently boggled that I don't want to read another comment to another blog if I can possibly avoid it. Even if it's a blog about needlepoint I feel pretty convinced tonight that some "average Jim" person will find a way to turn it into something petty and malicious. And you can ban them from the site but they just pop up somewhere else to feed the dual beasts of anger and ignorance that seem to stalk the internet.
I know that I'm breaking my parents' rule that you never state a problem (ie, complain) without proposing a possible solution, but I don't know that any solution is possible beyond humanity rediscovering some humanity. So in addition to my rules to never blog drunk or sleep-deprived (that one I've been flouting since March '05), I think I might have to add Never Blog Depressed. Because what you end up with is a solutionless post deploring comments that ironically still allows comments.