Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When Comments Freak The Frak Out

by Sherlynn Hicks (writer), Reseda, May 04, 2008


Websites have their cultures and comments are part of it, but what's acceptable?

A big hairy ass brouhaha broke out over on Gawker today.  Yeah.  On a Saturday.  It was a mess.

Gawker Media has 12 sites, each with a strange but curiously applicable name and specific interest, each posting stories in the specific interest.  Gawker, its flagship site, focuses on media and pop culture, Deadspin is sports oriented, Gizmodo is about gadgets, Kotaku is for gamers, iO9 is for sci fi enthusiasts, and Fleshbot is, well, get the idea?  Jezebel centers on women with the credo of "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion, Without Airbrushing."

It started at 12:07 p.m. EST with the posting by Gawker's intrepid weekend editor of congratulations to Jezebel.  Today Jezebel and its editors and contributors were highlighted in a rather tepid story in the New York Times Fashion & Style section centering on the site's posts, comments, commenters, and the policing thereof.  The headline of the story read "Not on Our Blog You Won't."

Because no interest is static, often there are stories on, for example, Kotaku that Consumerist readers may be interested in or on Deadspin that Jezebel readers may be interested in; Danica Patrick winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is a good example, so there are cross-posts.  Also, within the Gawker Media empire, once you become a commenter on one site, you can log into the other sites and post.  This cross-commenting is a tricky proposition, because each site has its own vibe, its own culture, and its own clique of regulars.  What may fly on one site can get you eviscerated or worse, soundly and purposefully ignored on another.

In full disclosure, I am an infrequent commenter on Jezebel.

In common practice, the weekend editor posted the New York Times story on Gawker because it was about media and cross posted to Jezebel, because the story was about Jezebel.

 Jezebel commenters ambled over to the Gawker site to post their two cents regarding the story and brought the Jezebel vibe, culture and cliques with them.  It started out okay with a cautious melding of the cultures.  Good snark was had all around.  A commenter mirrored the NYT story with his comments.  Another cleverly warned the Jez women to stay away from the Gawker men.  Several sound and valid criticisms of the commenting culture on Jezebel were voiced by Gawkers and the visiting Jezebels ceded points and conversed on the subject, but no blood was let.  It was cute, intelligent fun.

And then the fit hit the shan.

"Hi, Jezebellites, or whatever you're called.  You know you actually have an entire site that's dedicated to your brand of bullshit, nonsense, and general sadness, right?  So howsabout you fuck off back there?  You will?  Super.  Bye now!"


Jezebelles, often affectionately refer to themselves, mocking the mocker, as "fucking dykes" or "bonerkillers."  To even the casual observer, these are not the kind of women to STFU when invectives are hurled at them, even when they're in someone else's house.  A Bonerkiller countered with:  "Why don't you take it up with [the weekend editor].  It is after all cross posted on Jezebel.  No one is pissing on your tree, so in the spirit of the comment, go fuck yourself."

The tactful weekend editor:  "Come on you guys...  Please no?"

Both parties apologized.  How could you not?

But then, one didn't let it go.  Speaking of the site Jezebel:  ...sadly nothing clever...that even resembles a contribution to the discourse accompanies the commentary.  So yeah, back to your little..."

Posting the rest of the comment would just be rude, but suffice to say that it involved women, their cyclical biological nature and a cat box.  It wasn't pretty.

It degenerated into a slugfest thereafter, with editors commenting on commenter's comments and each other and the situation and finger-wagging and Gawkers gawking and Jezebelles jezzing and exclusive asides and nasty remarks and imaginary picnics and Viagra and Ken Dolls and grudges and a general clusterfuck of gloriously hilarious spiteful arrows, hurt feelings and rude behavior, remarks and manners.

It's now 1:00 a.m. EST and after 500 plus comments, it has just calmed down.

Now, here's the thing.

Because you look at websites, they don't look at you; because few know your real name; because comments can be written and dispatched without having to look into or say them to anyone's face; because it has come to you sitting at a computer virtually surfing the world in total anonymity, yet seeking fellowship in like-minded anonymity, it seems that your free range internet is the Mr. Hyde of RL Dr. Jekyll.

Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

About the Writer

Sherlynn Hicks is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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