Tag Archives: comments

On the record: Who’s inspiring? Who’s offending?

“It’s the story that I witness every single day, when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful black young women — head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the president of the United States.”

— MICHELLE OBAMA in a commencement speech that she delivered at City College in New York.

“Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? You know what I’m talking about? OK.”

— DONALD TRUMP singling out an African-American person in the crowd at a rally for him in Redding, California.

“For many Americans, Caitlyn Jenner has become the reference point for their perceptions and expectations of transgender people. Unfortunately, her experience is hardly representative of the rest of the population.”

— JOHN CULLEN, the coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center at the University of Rochester, and his colleague NICK KASPER writing for Newsweek.

“People can shout at the parents and people can shout at the zoo. The fact is that a gorilla that just celebrated his birthday has been killed.”

— ANTHONY SETA, an animal rights activist in Cincinnati, who helped organize a vigil for a gorilla who was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy entered the primate’s habitat.

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.”

— PASTOR ROGER JIMENEZ, preaching about the Orlando massacre.

“What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house? I’ll tell you exactly what kind of man does that. It is a man who cares about no one but himself — a small insecure money-grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes a profit off it.”

— U.S. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN delivering a 10-minute invective on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a Washington gala two weeks ago. Warren has not ruled out joining Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ticket as vice president.

“I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby encourage all Iowans to join this historical 99 County Bible Reading Marathon and, furthermore, encourage individuals and families in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.”

— Iowa’s Republican GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD in a controversial proclamation that was described by the Iowa ACLU as precisely the “sort of government overreaching and endorsement of a particular faith” that the U.S. and Iowa constitutions ban.

“If you could decide what 40 people you would put on the spacecraft who would save humanity, how many of those would be same-sex couples?”

— U.S. REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, R-Texas, warning of the reproductive uselessness of gay astronauts if the world ended.

Racist statements lead lawmakers to reject John Wayne Day

What a lawmaker intended as a benign resolution honoring John Wayne exploded into an emotional debate over decades-old racist comments.

The California Assembly defeated the official ode to John Wayne after several legislators described statements he made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society.

Known as “Duke,” a nickname he picked up as a boy in Glendale, California, Wayne grew into the star of movies including “The Alamo,” “The Green Berets” and “True Grit,” for which he won an Academy Award, while portraying the gruff, rugged cowboys and brave soldiers who were his stock in trade.

Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born.

“He had disturbing views towards race,” objected Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, leading off a 20-minute debate.

Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne talked disparagingly about blacks.

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people,” he told the magazine.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, who is black, said he found Wayne’s comments personally offensive.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, cited his comments defending white Europeans’ encroachment on American Indians who Wayne once said “were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Wayne is the latest deceased white icon to recently come under attack. Former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner and Indian fighter, is being removed from the face of the $20 bill. Princeton University recently announced that former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name will remain on its public policy school despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist.

Harper’s resolution fell on a 35-20 vote to what Harper called “the orthodoxy of political correctness.”

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!” he said later in a written statement.

Harper said he sought the resolution, ACR137, to keep up with a Texas resolution commemorating Wayne’s birthday a year ago.

He represents the legislative district that includes John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The airport, among the largest in California, was renamed after Wayne’s death in 1979 and hosts a nine-foot-tall statue of the actor.

“I think the assemblyman would know if there was a cross word about having the airport named after him,” said Harper’s spokeswoman, Madeleine Cooper.

Several lawmakers supported the resolution, recalling Wayne as an American hero whose family created a namesake cancer foundation after his death.

“He stood for those big American values that we know and we love,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach.

Lawmakers have honored others despite controversies that eventually clouded their legacies, said Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine. Wagner cited President Franklin Roosevelt, who has been honored despite his internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Every one of us is imperfect,” Wagner said.

 

On the record: Tommy Thompson said what?

“I don’t think any candidate between now and the Republican convention is going to get the necessary number of 1,188 delegates to get the nomination. …  I think we’re going to have a convention in which nobody has enough votes.”

— Former Wisconsin GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON telling Milwaukee right-wing radio personality Charlie Sykes that he believes Republicans will end up having a brokered convention next year.

“I’m just getting started.”

— PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA telling listeners at a fundraiser about his post-presidential plans.

“Instead of celebrating Columbus, who is more accurately credited with initiating the trans-Atlantic slave trade than with discovering America, this bill observes the importance of indigenous peoples to our society. Our children especially deserve a state that recognizes the truth so our schools can teach the same.”

— State REP. DAVID BOWEN, D-Milwaukee, in a statement announcing that he’s circulating legislation to recognize Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day.

“Racism exists because we have a sin problem in America, not a skin problem. #DemDebate”

— MIKE HUCKABEE live tweeting during the first Democratic presidential debate.

“White supremacists post to social media and studies now posit that mass killings are contagious. Violence begets violence, and through the power of the Internet, a meeting hall is no longer needed. Formal organizational structures are unnecessary. Connections are made, and messages spread, through the push of a button.”

— JOHN CARLIN, assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Security Division, speaking  at George Washington University.

“It is scary that people believe this, but it’s not unusual. Human beings have this propensity to believing, falling for every single apocalyptic doom that they are told is happening. It’s just absurd and it’s all based on bogus, bohunk computer modeling. There’s not one shred of scientific data.”

— RUSH LIMBAUGH mocking climate change as an outrageous apocalyptic conspiracy theory to his radio audience.

“I saw something on Facebook (that said), ‘How about every time somebody wants to buy a gun, we put them through what we are talking about putting women through with having an abortion?’ So it’s like, ‘Are you really sure? Are you really sure? Watch the short film on what could happen if you get a gun. It’s like, come on.”

— AMY BRENNEMEN, star of HBO’s The Leftovers, talking to HuffPost Live.

“(Republicans) don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it.”

— HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON during the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. 

Hey anonymous: Websites move to block toxic online comments

Mix blatant bigotry with poor spelling. Add a dash of ALL CAPS. Top it off with a violent threat. And there you have it: A recipe for the worst of online comments, scourge of the Internet.

Blame anonymity, blame politicians, blame human nature. But a growing number of websites are reining in the Wild West of online commentary. Companies including Google and the Huffington Post are trying everything from deploying moderators to forcing people to use their real names in order to restore civil discourse. Some sites, such as Popular Science, are banning comments altogether.

The efforts put sites in a delicate position. User comments add a lively, fresh feel to videos, stories and music. And, of course, the longer visitors stay to read the posts, and the more they come back, the more a site can charge for advertising.

What websites don’t want is the kind of off-putting nastiness that spewed forth under a recent CNN.com article about the Affordable Care Act.

“If it were up to me, you progressive libs destroying this country would be hanging from the gallows for treason. People are awakening though. If I were you, I’d be very afraid,” wrote someone using the name “JBlaze.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has long been home to some of the Internet’s most juvenile and grammatically incorrect comments. The site caused a stir last month when it began requiring people to log into Google Plus to write a comment. Besides herding users to Google’s unified network, the company says the move is designed to raise the level of discourse in the conversations that play out under YouTube videos.

One such video, a Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family, met with such a barrage of racist responses on YouTube in May that General Mills shut down comments on it altogether.

“Starting this week, when you’re watching a video on YouTube, you’ll see comments sorted by people you care about first,” wrote YouTube product manager Nundu Janakiram and principal engineer Yonatan Zunger in a blog post announcing the changes. “If you post videos on your channel, you also have more tools to moderate welcome and unwelcome conversations. This way, YouTube comments will become conversations that matter to you.”

Anonymity has always been a major appeal of online life. Two decades ago, The New Yorker magazine ran a cartoon with a dog sitting in front of a computer, one paw on the keyboard. The caption read: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” At its best, anonymity allows people to speak freely without repercussions. It allows whistle blowers and protesters to espouse unpopular opinions. At its worst, it allows people to spout off without repercussions. It gives trolls and bullies license to pick arguments, threaten and abuse.

But anonymity has been eroding in recent years. On the Internet, many people may know not only your name, but also your latest musings, the songs you’ve listened to, your job history, who your friends are and even the brand of soap you prefer.

“It’s not so much that our offline lives are going online, it’s that our offline and online lives are more integrated,” says Mark Lashley, a professor of communications at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Facebook, which requires people to use their real names, played a big part in the seismic shift.

“The way the Web was developed, it was unique in that the avatar and the handle were always these things people used to go by. It did develop into a Wild West situation,” he says, adding that it’s no surprise that Google and other companies are going this route. “As more people go online and we put more of our lives online, we should be held accountable for things we say.”

Nearly three-quarters of teens and young adults think people are more likely to use discriminatory language online or in text messages than in face to face conversations, according to a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV. The poll didn’t distinguish between anonymous comments and those with real identities attached.

The Huffington Post is also clamping down on vicious comments. In addition to employing 40 human moderators who sift through readers’ posts for racism, homophobia, hate speech and the like, the AOL-owned news site is also chipping away at anonymous commenting.

Previously, anyone could respond to an article posted on the site by creating an account, without tying it to an email address. This fall, HuffPo began requiring people to verify their identity by connecting their accounts to an email address, but that didn’t appear to be enough and the site now also asks commenters to log in using a verified Facebook account.

“We are reaching a place where the Internet is growing up,” says Jimmy Soni, managing editor of HuffPo. “These changes represent a maturing (online) environment.”

Soni says the changes have already made a difference in the quality of the comments. The lack of total anonymity, while not a failsafe method, offers people a “gut check moment,” he says. There have been “significantly fewer things that we would not be able to share with our mothers,” in the HuffPo comments section since the change, Soni says.

Newspapers are also turning toward regulated comments. Of the largest 137 U.S. newspapers – those with daily circulation above 50,000 – nearly 49 percent ban anonymous commenting, according to Arthur Santana, assistant communications professor at the University of Houston. Nearly 42 percent allow anonymity, while 9 percent do not have comments at all.

Curbing anonymity doesn’t always help. Plenty of people are fine attaching their names and Facebook profiles to poorly spelled outbursts that live on long after their fury has passed.

In some cases, sites have gone further. Popular Science, the 141-year-old science and technology magazine, stopped allowing comments of any kind on its news articles in September.

While highlighting responses to articles about climate change and abortion, Popular Science online editor Suzanne LaBarre announced the change and explained in a blog post that comments can be “bad for science.”

Because “comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories,” wrote LaBarre.

We can’t wait to see the response to this story.