Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Decline of Eschaton?

Atrios gave me my first big-time link last year (to "The duToitification of the Western Conservative") and has, in the few e-mails we've exchanged, seemed to me to be a nice and reasonable guy. Although he's rather to the left of me I frequently read Eschaton and find much of it to be informative and sensible. Unfortunately I worry about the direction the site sometimes seems to be taking. It's not Atrios's posts that concern me, really, it's the content and tone of the comments. Case in point, consider this recent post about Tucker Carlson and then, if you have the patience and the stomach for it, read the comments (although the Haloscan count says something like 26, there are really over 200 (most of which can be skipped over)). Most of them are typical examples of blowing off steam in the Blogosphere, but a not-insignificant number of them are truly nasty, including some short fantasies about violent sexual assault agains Mr. Carlson and at least one apparently at least semi-serious call for someone to beat him up. I won't quote these comments or link to them individually since (a) I don't want that kind of shit on my site and (b) I can't stand to read through them again.

Now, I realize that veiled threats of violence on the internet are generally made by wimpy little fellows who probably couldn't even beat up Margret Carlson, much less Tucker...but that's not the point. If comments like these had been directed at, say, Paul Begala on some right-wing site there would have been outrage on the left. Very few commenters on Eschaton, however, objected to the comments. Far more objected to a post by one SWR who opined that Carlson probably wasn't really as bad as a certain (cruel and stupid) comment he once made made him sound. Perhaps most commenters were treating the offenders as if they were trolls and simply ignoring them in the hope that they'd go away. It didn't seem that way to me, but such things are hard to gage.

Needless to say, almost any popular political site will attract its share of idiots, and that's not Atrios's fault. And, of course, I'm not saying that I think he should edit his comments or anything like that. But it does seem to me to be incumbent upon sensible commenters on sensible sites to call bullshit on this kind of thing.

I suppose it's worth noting that some of the really virulent comments seemed to be in response to the revelation that Carlson has been going around calling Edwards a "Jacuzzi lawyer" and saying that he specializes in "Jacuzzi cases" because he once got a $25 million settlement for the family of a little girl who's bowels were sucked out by an improperly-installed pump in a public wading pool. The girl lived, but has to be fed intravenously for twelve hours a day every day. Carlson has apparently been called on this several times, but apparently continues to use the misleading locution. I am, of course, not saying that the fellow's not an ass. I don't think he's any worse than, say, James Carville, however. Personally, I'm more disgusted by the concept of Crossfire itself than I am by the depravity of any of its participants. The show is set up to bring out the worst in people, and it does so very effectively, helping to drag American political discourse into the sewer in order to achieve the greater good of peanut butter and BMWs.


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1:53 PM  
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