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The Tiresome Hate of Everything

I came across a column last week that has to be shared. While not explicitly sports-related it is nonetheless entirely relevant.

In Why are you so terribly disappointing?, San Francisco Chronicle writer Mark Morford barrels head-first into an issue that sometimes keeps me up at night. To wit: our wonderful and burgeoning New Media conversation is in danger of running off the rails.

The column is quite worth reading, but if you don’t have time the gist is this: there is entirely too much bitching and whining going on.

Not that you needed either me or Morford to tell you that, but I’m impressed with how well he makes the case. Particularly this passage:

Not only are we disappointed, we need to express it. Vent it. Hiss it and spit it and hurl it like fistfuls of mental manure at the great wall of hey, screw you.

As Morford points out, this attitude is everywhere. In blog posts and articles and, particularly, in the comments below them. Part of it can be attributed to the widely-held misconception that attention equals value. The fastest way to create attention is to stoke anger. People slow down to see the accident. The more gruesome it is, the longer their eyes linger.

Another part of it can be attributed to a growing idea that because something can be said, it should be said. That the existence of a forum is itself a reason to speak.

It is time — past time — to call bullshit.

I get frustration. And over a few beers watching a game (or whatever) I’m as likely to talk a little shit as anyone. Maybe even more likely. But those are moments of release, casual good times. It’s nothing to build on.

Not “at least to me” or “in my opinion.” It’s nothing to build on. Full stop.

Criticism is good. Debate is good. But they are only good when they are well-considered. If they aren’t, they obscure and water down the efforts of people who take the time to actually say something.

We’re in the midst of a heavy transition. The means by which people gather and assimilate information are changing rapidly. In the process we’ve lost a lot of filters. In some ways that’s a good thing, but it comes with a price.

Don’t feed the trolls. An idea as old as the internet itself. It’s time to expand that idea and understand that it includes anyone whose sole goal is to aggravate others or draw attention to him/herself. It’s time to pay more attention to becoming curators of our own media experience, and to share what we learn.

That’s the only real way to ensure the survival of quality content and the relegation of sub-par work to a dark corner where, if we do our job well, it will silently, finally, suffocate.

Wishful thinking? Probably. Every little bit helps.

28 comments to The Tiresome Hate of Everything

  • neal s

    I should also point out that this post isn’t about this site. I’m grateful that TLC is something of a refuge — that’s always been part of the reason it even exists.

    This is simply a discussion worth having, and one that I think has enough currency in terms of Baltimore sports discussion to make it worth posting here.

  • Andrew

    I’m definitely as guilty as anyone of exactly what that dude is talking about, and here’s the thing: that attention isn’t even fulfilling. You feed the troll and the troll just keeps on trolling, because he or she isn’t getting anything of sustenance. They’re getting attention, yes, but without a quality exchanging of ideas, that attention is completely meaningless on both sides of the ball.

    That’s how I see it, anyway. It’s why as a – trying to be – responsible adult, what I say on the internet has recently tried to be more restrained and open. Ironically, that’s sort of the whole idea of sabermetrics – the thing that I spend most of my vitriol arguing about, to be open to new input and to Think and not Assume.

    Anyway, yeah – don’t feed the trolls.

    I watched 500 Days of Summer tonight. It was offal. Just terrible.

  • neal s

    @Andrew – I liked that movie, but you’re not the first person I’ve heard call it terrible. It seems like it’s become a really polarizing piece of work.

    You make a great point when you say “that attention isn’t even fulfilling.” I think part of what I’m getting at is the idea that more people should actually want some kind of fulfillment (or value) from these exchanges. If they did, the tenor would no doubt change.

  • Andrew

    @neal s – I had only heard that it ripped off Annie Hall before I saw it, but I figured, hey, I love Annie Hall, so a modern retelling would be fun. It absolutely borrows heavily from Annie Hall, but I just could never connect with the characters in 500 Days of Summer. I felt like I never got to know anything about any of them except that he loves her sort of insanely, and she’s kind of a big cocktease, and the whole thing felt kind of reduced to a series of sit-com scenes. So, it just didn’t work for me and I got pretty bored with it after an hour.

    But it had its moments. The Han Solo bit was hysterical. The “misinterpretation of The Graduate” was funny then sad. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s boss was a riot. All in all, though, it was just really underwhelming and vapid for me. -1 on the Posnanski scale.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    lol @ trolls here!

    ya’ll are lukewarm blorange porridge infinity

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    seriously i just thought of “blorange” but that’s what this site is. how ’bout some original fucking thought once in a while.

    some fuckin’ groundbreaking, contrary thought about a team that everyone knows SUCKS but no one says anything original about.


  • dan the man

    So when did BBM stop being fun to read and start being a poor Drew Forrester derivative with more swearing? Fucking groundbreaking, man.

    The “original fucking thought” is this entire website. It’s a place where if you have something to discuss, you can discuss it intelligently instead of just popping off at the keyboard and not really saying anything. You feel the team sucks, ok, but you don’t offer any real suggestions for fixing it and doing so without using something tired and easily squashed in a debate such as “spend money”.

    You’re becoming a slightly more interesting Baltimore Sun message board poster, and that’s sad.

  • Andrew

    Yeah, I’m getting pretty tired of the whole “the loss column is a place for homers” routine. Fuck, this winter alone all of us haven’t agreed much on the Orioles’ moves and motivations. There’s been plenty of disagreement. But because we aren’t just waking up every morning to bash the team endlessly we’re kool-aid drinkers?

    I mean, some of us probably are kool-aid drinkers, but there’s definitely been enough disagreement to suggest we’re not blind fucking followers in the Andy MacPhail cult.

  • dan the man

    I mean I’m a kool-aid drinker, but at least I can back it up with solid reasons and still, you know, debate some things. Hell, sometimes I even change my mind on things if I hear a good reason to. It’s less about “original thought” than it is about open-minded discussion. This blog does have a positive tilt towards the current Orioles state of affairs, but that doesn’t mean we won’t hear any other viewpoints if they are brought to the table rationally and with an open mind. Shit, look at some of my earliest comments on this site before MacPhail took over. I’m drinking kool aid not because that’s been me from Day One, it’s because I saw a reason to believe in Andy MacPhail and I’m running with it until he proves me otherwise. And screw being negative all the fucking time.

    I just read that article from the main post and the guy is so right. The biggest mistake the internet ever made was putting a god damn comments section on every fucking article. Why would I want to read about what people think about such and such news topic? I want to gather my own opinions. There’s a lot about the internet that is amazing and world-changing, but you don’t have to look far to find someone using it as an outlet for their anger simply because it’s anonymous. It’s gross.

  • Miles

    Anyone else bummed that Brad Bergesen hurt his shoulder while making that kickass commercial?

    I know I am.

    I hope they wrapped Wieters in bubble wrap or sealed him in a bubble while shooting his spot.

  • Miles

    You know, Neal, that column describes me to a “T” these days.

    Ever since I was laid off from my job in Baltimore and started living the life of a DC commuter, I’ve been a miserable bastard.

    I’ll try to do better.


  • Andrew

    @Miles – Boy, that makes me wonder what on earth the Orioles were thinking not having anybody from the medical or training staff there to supervise? I mean, gosh, it isn’t like Bergesen is one of the cogs you’re trying to put into the competitive picture, is it? Stuff like this makes me wonder about the common sense quotient in the warehouse sometimes.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t sound even remotely serioius, and hopefully 3E1N learned a lesson about ramping up so he won’t do the same thing in Spring Trainings of the future.

  • dan the man

    @Miles – Yeah that Bergesen thing is pretty scary, and it’s especially bad since the commercial was pretty bad ass. I guess he was going all out which is probably why the commercial was effective, but someone should probably have been there to say “don’t do that”. Oh well, hopefully it’s nothing serious.

  • Bitching about people bitching is, in itself, bitching…bitches.

  • df1570

    Morford missed the entire point about today’s viperish on-line world.

    I read his stuff all the time.

    I expected more from him, frankly.

    In fact, ha ha, I thought his attempt to sort out the issues was “disappointing”.

    The issue isn’t with a country hell bent on spewing venom or hate or dislike.

    The issue is this: the folks creating the communication applications either on-line or via blogs and such created a monster when they allowed folks to comment and render opinion without giving their real name or revealing their true identity.

    The problem in America isn’t with WHAT people say or HOW they say it. Unless you’re trying to keep your season media credential at OPACY, free speech still exists in this country.

    If someone doesn’t like something, they can say or write that in whatever form they want.

    The problem now is that folks can say it and then not be held accountable for it.

    That dilemma exists EVERYWHERE – including here, frankly – and it’s really what’s most bothersome about the subject Morford addressed.

    “I’ll just be an asshole for the sake of being an asshole but I don’t have to let people know who I am.”

    Look no further than those jag-offs who run around in white sheets and spew racial and ethnic hate.

    “Hey, pardner, mind if I ask you a question? Why do you insist on wearing that hood as a member of the KKK?”

    Oh, OK, that makes sense now. You don’t want anyone to know who you are. Right.

    I guess if I were going to be an asshole in public and didn’t want anyone to know who I was, I’d put a hood on too.

    I get plenty of nasty, hateful, anti-Drew mail. 90% of it comes in the form of a fake e-mail address, a name-in-disguise or some other method of ID-cover-up.

    I NEVER give anyone’s thoughts or opinion a consideration if they’re not willing to put their name or face next to it.

    Man-the-fuck-up and tell people who you are and then say whatever you want about whatever you want. This is America.

    Morford missed that point, big time.

    BTW, my wife is pregnant with our second child. For boy’s names, Calvin is a finalist.

    And yes, we’d call him “Cal” if it comes to pass that we have a boy and that’s what we name him.

    Maybe that will get my credential back, eh? LOL

  • neal s

    @dan the man – Two of the smartest sites on the internet — Daring Fireball and Seth Godin’s blog – don’t allow comments at all. No less a destination than Engadget recently had to turn comments off because some of their readers couldn’t manage to act like adults.

    I think that, more and more, people are realizing the need for careful curation and management of online discussion. The free-for-all, “everyone has an equal say” thing was great at first but you’d have to be blind, stupid, or both to think that it’s (a) working very well now, or (b) going to work for much longer.

  • dan the man

    @neal s – I mean, I’m all for having comments on blogs. At least initially. When the website starts to become a national hotspot or it focuses on touchy subjects (although apparently, everything is touchy… dogs, computers, gardening, sports, music, name it), you cease to attract “individuals” and you start to attract “a mob”, which as we know are two completely different things. This is especially true when you put comments on news sites. I am so completely against this unless it’s blatantly an editorial piece, and even then, why bother? I guess it creates more traffic which equals money, but I mean… the NEWS? Reporting the news and debating the reported news should be two separate things. Read the news here. Debate it somewhere the hell else, please.

    This is interesting timing because I noticed on Roch’s blog a few posts ago, he hinted at shutting out the “terminally negative”, which I was thrilled to finally see happen. I do like to read some of the comments, even if I don’t always agree. But when the entire comments section is hijacked by one troll and people bashing that troll, then the comments aren’t serving their original purpose.

  • Andrew

    Fire Joe Morgan didn’t have commenting, either, until one horrifying weekend after which they swore never, ever, ever again. It was disgusting. Roch and Schmuck’s blog are just horrible places for conversation because of the quality of the guys and gals who take over the conversation.

    But on the other hand, a place like Camden Chat is built entirely on a really strong ground of commenting and not much else, and it’s one of the absolute best places in the interweb. The difference? I have no idea, really. But they enforce a strict set of rules and don’t let people hijack multiple threads. Maybe that’s all that you need: laws and enforcement.

    Drew, congratulations on your new child. I might hate your guts (I haven’t really decided yet), but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for you and yours. I’d figure you’d name your child “Alexander” before “Calvin”, but maybe I just have you pegged wrong.

  • neal s

    @Andrew@dan the man – I hope it’s clear that I’m not against comments at all. I love them, in fact. If it weren’t for you guys and the other folks who spaek speak here I’m pretty sure that the many readers who don’t comment would be less inclined to stop by. We’ve got a nice dynamic.

    My points on this issue are big-picture, not targeted at one specific site or another. I think the reason we’ve got a good thing going here is because of what I mentioned a couple comments ago — “careful curation and management of online discussion.” Andrew mentioned Camden Chat and I’d say the same thing about them (albeit on a larger scale). Plenty of other sites fit the same bill.

    After writing this post I saw Roch’s post on the same issue and I think he handled it well.

    So it’s not about complaining that there’s too much negativity or hating on people who approach things that way. It’s more of a call to action. Me using this corner of the conversation to make a plea for everyone to do their part and not reward a small — but very vocal — minority that enjoys ruining things for the rest of us.

    I say: don’t respond in kind. Stand above it. On a blog, in traffic, in line at the grocery store, whatever. I say it as much to remind myself as anybody else.

  • dan the man

    @Andrew@neal s – All well said. Agreed that a place like Camden Chat is amazingly different than a place like, say, the Sun article comments. Like you guys said, there’s almost nothing differentiating the two other than some clear rules. Likewise for TLC, there are some general rules. It’s really all the separates a discussion from endless ranting. In the end, if you aren’t following the rules that govern a particular site, the majority of the people that frequent said site are just going to drive you out or ban you.

    Someone somewhere is thinking, “that’s against free speech”, and that’s exactly where everything gets crossed up. The internet as we know it is free speech in and of itself (at least in this country). The websites, however, should be thought of as private property. Neal can let us in to his website, he can lock us out, or whatever he chooses because he paid for the domain and that’s his right. It’s our privilege to visit his website and post thoughts. In other words, if you own a website, you should be allowed to make the rules and have your visitors adhere to them or face consequences. They are free to express themselves in a legal sense, but they don’t get the rights to the property and shouldn’t be allowed to use it as an agenda platform. Trolls are like vandals. You can spray paint whatever you want on the walls, but the act of graffiti is what’s going to get you in trouble.

    But yeah, I like this “call to action” thing. It’s time for the internet to evolve a little. And with that, maybe we’ll see the attitudes in the real world change a little, too.

  • ryan97ou

    thanks for that article neal. i agree we can all do better and i myself am always trying, and will continue to.

    that said – i still don’t feel bad making fun of the opening ceremonies last night 😉

  • Chris

    @neal s – “Zing”, what? Am I wrong? Or you just don’t think my comment is worth addressing? Or you think I’m kidding? I’m not exactly sure what “Zing” is supposed to mean.

  • neal s

    @Chris – “Zing” is short for “zinger,” and I was just having some fun. If you want me to be serious: I agree. It’s a good point. I’m philosophically opposed to pointless bitching and negativity even if it’s directed at pointless bitching and negativity.

  • I like Zingers man, their shelf life is like 247 years but they are still tasty.

    Also, if you haven’t watched the video of the olympian from Georgia dying please don’t. It’s effing with me big time. Seriously, don’t watch it.

    Am I the only one that finds it insane that there’s a sport where you can travel on ice at speeds of 90+ mph, on a platform that you’re not attached to, surrounded by fixed metal structures?

  • dan the man

    @George – Yeah I was happy to see the Olympic coverage come out and say they would not be airing that video for the rest of the Olympics. And it’s sad that it took something like that to happen before they made some adjustments to the track.

    On another note, I was pleasantly surprised at how exciting that final speed skating race was, with the three Koreans poised to sweep the medals before two of them wiped out leaving Ohno to nap silver. Not bad as far as Olympics drama goes. And likewise, I enjoyed watching the American girl (name escaping me, shame on me) win gold on the last run down the moguls. Someone set a really fast time and you could see the rest of the women push themselves and wipe out one by one to try to beat it. I would crap myself doing 99% of the winter events. The 1% being Curling, which is always a good time.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    i understand everything in your original post neal (though i bristle at it a bit). i thought it was obvious that i was trolling after that but whatever.

    i guess i notice subtle differences between websites. there are the ones full of dummy voices (youtube), dummy voices with a high school education (newspaper sites), dummy voices with a college education (blogs), and dummy voices with a higher education (political blogs).*

    to me, everyone is a dummy on the internet. so many comments lack an inherent tone, intent, identity, earnestness, intellectual honesty, and truth that an actual conversation will always contain.

    what you seem to be trying to cultivate at this site seems totally genuine and i respect it. i think where we would disagree is what the internet is all about.

    without imminent conflict internet discussions are boring to me. from our conversations in real life i would think you’d understand that haha.

    friction, heat, dissent. where is it here?

    i respect ya’ll for smokin the orioles weed but damn. i just can’t do it.

    *i have an high school education

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    also i’m only talking about the relatively anonymous internet, not the familiar one (if you know what i mean).

    this new internet social experiment shit fascinates me