Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Devil's In The Comments

The Devil in likeness of a goat with horns and...Image via Wikipedia
An interesting thought (well, to me at least) to end the week. We've got this little phrase, 'the devil's in the detail', a version of 'never look a gift horse in the mouth' and many other similar wee pieces of wisdom that boil down to 'that looks like a great deal, why don't you take a good, long, hard look at it and make sure you know precisely what you're getting into here.'

When we're looking at information and opinion posted online, the devil's actually not so much lurking in the detail as in the comments - whatever you've got to say, it's how people, the 'community', reacts that's perhaps more telling. Take this example, the article that sparked my thinking about this. It's a really, really nice piece that tries to take a reasoned, moderate tone about the whole controversy revolving around the infamous South Park/Prophet Mohammed debate (and, by inference, the original Danish Cartoon Saga and the recent 'Let's All Draw The Prophet' saga). It basically asks Muslims to consider what the Prophet himself would do and counsels them to, effectively, turn the other cheek. I liked it.

But read the comments. Read how quickly that feedback descends into vituperation, unreason, hatred and bigotry.

What amazed me is how much stronger it all made the original post and how much the howling of the 'haters', directed at a moderate and well-argued voice, made that voice seem more reasoned and even more powerful.

The devil, these days, is certainly in the comments. But sometimes devilment doesn't half backfire!
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Luke said...

Alex, it seems to be a common trait among very ordinary religious folk to show aggression to those with a different or no faith.

There is a fantastic passage in Richard Dawkin's "God Delusion" regarding letters he and his fellow atheists receive from : (starts halfway down that page).

Luke said...

Sorry, try this link:

Keefieboy said...

Hmm. I remember well the original Mohd cartoon saga and its aftermath. I blogged about it in quite disapproving terms (the aftermath, not the inciting incident, which was, I'm sure, designed to provoke a reaction). I can't think of any religion operating today whose 'followers' (usually radicals) are so ready and willing to go apeshit over the slightest perceived slight. Without a doubt, followers of other religions have in the past been equally as crazed as current-day radical Muslims, but it still doesn't make it right.

Seabee said...

It used to be, of course, that the mainstream media simply talked to us and, apart from the odd letter to the editor or a call to talk-back radio, there wasn't an option for comment.

There's a lot to be said in favour of the new interactive, two way communication but an unfortunate part of it is that it gives a world-wide platform to the world's lunatics, bigots, racists, fundamentalists.

What disturbs me is that it's exposed just how many of them there are.

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