Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Comments and the Strange World of Message Boards

I've witnessed some of the strangeness of message-board conversations, the trolls, the yes-men, the intelligent commentators, and the fierceness web debates can take on. The Newsarama message-boards are usually a lively affair, but then again, comic book fan boys are serious about just about everything. Those debates can take on surreal proportions as fan boys slug it out over the merits of an artist, the decisions of a company, the direction of a storyline or the characterization of their favorite characters by a new writer. The key thing commentators have to remember is to remain civil and the ones who garner the greatest respect are the ones who consistently make insightful or intriguing comments. Generally when those commentators weigh in on a subject the rest are ready to accept their wisdom and nibble at the boarders of the argument, seeking perfection.
Yes, message-boards are strange sometimes, but a new level of strangeness seems to have infected the comments section of several left-leaning blogs I read. To wit, I have watched as Clinton supporter after Clinton supporter waylay posts in support of Sen. Obama and those who offer their agreement with the remarks of the blogger. It's not quite troll-like behavior but does verge on it. What I find so strange though is the nature of the attacks on those who, at the very least, voice their agreement with a blogger who writes a post suggesting support for Sen. Obama. Now I don't necessarily know whether these attackers are Clinton supporters but they to display certain traits that mark them as such: a fierceness in their criticism of Sen. Obama, a push to ignore or spin questionable actions on the part of Sen. Clinton, and a tendency to accuse the media or those in the comment section of sheepishly following the Obamania.
Another strange element is the accusation that commentators who agree with pro-Obama sentiments are damaging the Democratic party or otherwise hampering the efforts of the Democratic party from attaining the Presidency. Now as an Obama support myself, I can't say I'm pleased with such sentiments but this has been an interesting primary season and I do think the attacks Sen. Obama has struggled against work to make him a better candidate for the general election. But there's an objective part of me that cringes whenever I see a post accusing Obama supporters of blind faith or levying attacks that rely on anecdotal evidence, the kind that are hard to substantiate with real evidence. It's...troubling to say the least. I believe that Clinton supporters do her a service by defending her in comment sections but I also believe they do her a disservice when they use such tactics to try and win a message-board argument. For one, it's a message-board argument. Only those who generally have a good grasp on the key elements of the issues and candidates post comments so attempting to persuade supporters of one candidate to switch their support is a bit of a lark. In addition, using such tactics as a means of winning these arguments only deepens the opposing supporters' beliefs. So I have a hard time seeing why Sen. Clinton's supporters would go so far out of their way over message-board comments. They display a rabidness that does not engender themselves to supporters of Sen. Obama or those sitting on the fence. I can't quite understand why Sen. Clinton's supporters believe they are doing anything good. The strangeness of message-boards doesn't quite encapsulate how strange these debates have become. It's a new arena I suppose, and a new tone for how message-boards will operate. I just don't get it yet.

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