Abuses in Blog Comments

Sometimes I feel the quality of Indian blog comments is really nosediving. I’m not talking about flawed logic, or other diversionary tactics. Those are undesirable, but can be found everywhere. I’m not even talking about violent disagreement of ideas. What I’m talking about is abuse. Pure, unadulterated abuse in its most vitriolic form.

An example is on this post talking about the dangers of the UID. Most of the comments there agree with the author’s point that it can lead to dangerous invasion of privacy. But there are some who disagree, and that is fine given that it’s an open forum for the discussion of ideas. By and large the comments are decent, and make valid points. But a few comments are just abusive. Here are some snippets:

people like you…Anti Indians, pseudo seculars.. wearing a mask of goodness and patriotism.. I knew it!.. U don’t give a damn about our country or neither you have any sense of patriotism or pride left as an Indian. Because people like you all they love is to defend the minority terrorist groups in name of human rights etc…Indians like you… who have no whatsoever pride,love for our nation..nor u want to know the truth..but all u want to propagate s false peace..goodness..and image of a perfect writer who actually r antI Indian pseudo secularS.

and

People like you who r anti-national, anti-Hindu pseudo secularists, communists, minority appeasers, extremist/terrorist sympathizers and truth blockers should open up and see..that what IS the real situation and propaganda is… rather than going against some1 who is a patriot and opposing Stallman for talking anti-India.

Those who’re interested can find many more of these sort of comments in my experiments on dialogging with those who disagree with my views.

Most of us have come across them, and I must admit to enjoying it immensely at some level…they’re kind of funny. The problem is they completely short circuit any mature discussion. I’ve come across many of these recently, and almost all of them are by Indians. They’re very common on news sites like the Times of India which strangely enough, holds all comments for moderation and yet lets these through! This is in contrast to the New York Times which has a strict policy against abuse.

Where is all this anger coming from? I don’t like to stereotype and I’ve seen abuses from both sides of the political spectrum, but it seems to me that most vitriolic hatred is spewed by the right wing. I mustn’t tar all right wing commenters with the same brush and there are many who engage in civilized debate even if it’s something I don’t agree with. But if a particular comment is vitriolic and hate filled, it’s probably from a right winger!

It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic is about. I’ve seen such comments on Religion, Government, the Media, and even topics such as Climate change! No sphere seems to be free of abusive comments. I wonder if this trend is only going to increase, or will some sort of consensus emerge where those spouting vitriol will be shunned? We’ll just have to wait and see.

One thing I’ve started doing is to reply to such comments drawing their attention to the fact that they’re being abusive. I ask them to be polite, tell them it’s not good manners and also suggest that people will take them more seriously if they come across as being cool and level headed instead of frothing at the mouth.

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Comments

  1. Bhagwad,

    Yes, I had meant something similar. Except, that I would tend to distinguish between ‘affiliations’ and ‘beliefs’. Affiliations are imposed externally, whereas beliefs are somewhat shaped by external agencies, still there is a feeling of having ‘chosen’ them.

    Kind of repeating what I said above, and also adding to the Shobha De and Muslim examples, I would say that if all you know about a person is an idea that is opposed to yours (which is more likely to happen on the internet if you’re commenting for the first time), then yes, that opposed idea becomes the personification. But if you know a person personally, or some of their intimate thoughts, then it is easier to realize that they stand for much more. It is perhaps for this reason, it is much easier to be hostile towards strangers, and by extension, towards Muslims, who are viewed to be ‘antagonistic’ to Hindus. And, this antagonism leads to further lessening of interpersonal relations, which makes it easier to see Muslims as symbols of Islam (which is viciously opposed to ‘idolators’) as against normal human beings. But I would not say that the reason for this is solely Hindus’ being in majority as I could give the examples of Jain and Parsis. Anyway, I won’t get into that tangent.

    Last one thing, that you’re quite likely to disagree with, I find it very easy to be skeptical of sincerity/honesty of a person whose income/career depends greatly on how they are perceived and how many people’s attention I am able to gather. Because that (perception leading to income) represents an inherent conflict with sincerity in one’s expression. This group largely includes ‘public figures’. E.g., it is difficult to believe that a waiter is being nice to me because he actually likes me; I would rather believe that his warmth is insincere, perhaps because his job demands it, or he might expect a generous tip from me. Of course, my approach would needlessly tarnish (in my mind) those who might be actually vivacious by disposition.

    Reply

    • In reply to Ketan

      Yes, the whole thing boils down to dehumanization. The Nazis never viewed Jews as people and this made it easy to kill them off. In fact, they had to dehumanize them. Otherwise I doubt if a mind can take the strain of killing with full consciousness of what is being done.

      As far as perception=>income formula goes, I would say that after a point one stops caring about money and higher needs take over. In any case, hardly anyone does a complete about turn with regard to closely held beliefs at an advanced age.

      So for example, Dawkin’s reputation, sales of his book, and therefore his income depends on his perception since he’s an “atheist friendly” guy. But his honesty is unlikely to suddenly lead him to change his views, and so I have no problems believing in his honesty when he writes a new article, book, or makes a TV appearance.

      Of course, there’s the counter example of many successful preachers who were violently opposed to homosexuality turning out to be closet homosexuals themselves. For that I would say it’s not just the money, but the social stigma/expectations as well…

      As I’m so fond of saying, it’s not all black and white. Shit is complex.

      Reply

  2. Bhagwad, Ketan,

    Let me take a moment to appreciate you guys here. The outstanding feature of the debates between you guys (as compared to almost any other on blogs that I have read) is that both of you take the other guy’s arguments head-on.

    – No snipping out select, weak pieces of the other guys points to rebut

    (in fact you seem to prefer to take on the strongest points in the other guy’s salvo. It may even be true that you will ignore any silly mistakes in the other party’s argument or dawkins forbid even correct it for him)

    – No, or very few strawmen.
    – no mischaracterization of the other guy’s PoV.

    It gets too wordy for others to follow who join in late but must be easier for those who see it go from the start I guess.

    That said, please do find something new to talk about, the NG bankrolling Indian media thing is done to death
    :-)

    thanks,
    Jai

    Reply

  3. I always pull out of discussions, that turn personal, verbally abusive or even threatening. For the simple reason: If a debate partner is not prepared to listen to arguments and therefore also prepared to move away from his/her point of view,

    A debate is always welcome, but it has to follow simple rules:
    1. No point of view is permanent, you have to be willed to find a common point of view.
    2. Don’t change subject when you can’t find a counter to an argument, acknowledge the argument!
    3. Always provide a source of argument and make sure it’s well founded and not just pub-talk.
    4. There is no loser in an argument, everybody that can agree with having been wrong, is automatically a winner.
    5. Every discussion has only one common point. And in most discussions, neither side was holding that point at the start of discussion. So don’t be surprised, if you have to change your stand.
    6. If the other side of debate is not willed to find a solution or point of view, pull out and let them b wrong. One day they will be wise enough to understand.

    Reply

  4. G Vishwanath says

    Thanks Bhagwad and Ketan,
    I read all the way through this afternoon and enjoyed the “rallies”.
    I knew this match too would end in an honourable draw and I was proved right in the end.

    I have had my share of abuse too but compared to what you seasoned bloggers receive, it was nothing.

    I read and comment on Hindi blogs too and one person without any provocation from me, referred to my age (which is obvious from my profile picture) and called me a “pidhla hua mom-batti” and asked me to keep off from commenting on the issue.

    In my younger days, when the blood was a lot hotter, I would have come up with a fitting response, probably “buddah hoga tera baap” or something on those lines.

    The skin has thickened over the years and I just let it go.
    But I noted that the blogger did not censure the reader and also allowed the comment to stay when I checked after a couple of days.
    The least I expected from that blogger was to delete that comment.

    I stopped visiting that blog site.

    Regards
    GV

    Reply

    • In reply to G Vishwanath

      And that is what I feel is inexcusable. If a blogger has any respect for those who read and take the trouble to comment on his or her blog, they should at the very least intervened to prevent abuse against those readers. Of course no one can force them,but if they don’t, they shouldn’t be surprised if decent and clean-discussion oriented participants don’t visit them anymore.

      Reply

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