World's Fair

Two things happened last year when we started to get the Sunday Washington Post. One was that I tried to figure out those crossword puzzles. That’s not going so well. The other is that I would read the humor column in the back of the magazine by Gene Weingarten. That’s turned out better. I thus feel compelled to share what is the definitive statement on why blogging does not straightforwardly amount to the democratization of public discourse. Or, I should say, does not straightforwardly elevate the value of the public sphere. “No Comment,” at this link. And pasted in full below the fold.

No Comment
(We wish)

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, September 14, 2008; W48

It’s too bad that most of the remaining newspapers in America have boring names like the Times, the Post, the Herald, the Times-Post, the Post-Herald & Times, etc. I miss the old eccentric types of newspaper names: the Bugle-Beeblers, the Chronicle-Complainers, etc.

I started my career at a now-defunct paper called the Knickerbocker News, a fine, weird name that unfortunately sounded like “the Nicaragua News,” which often resulted in phone calls not being returned. My favorite real newspaper name, though, was the Genius of Liberty, which published in Leesburg in the late 1800s.

The name was created on the theory that our nation is great because it runs on the collective wisdom of a free, informed and wise citizenry. This theory was noble and inspiring, but it was probably based on the fact that in the old days, newspaper editors seldom actually got to really know their readers. Alas, today it is obvious that this theory is untrue. I say this because of the contents of the online “Comments” section that accompanies most news articles, the place where readers are encouraged to post their thoughts, free of editorial control.

They tend to read like this:


by Alicia Rosenblatt

(Comments below)

* I posted frist!

* Very good article. Trees should be saved and not cut down and turned into pulp to print your Communist rag WHICH SHOULD BE RENAMED THE HAVANA TIMES.

* You didn’t mention motorcycles in this article at all. Just because motorcycle riders sometimes hit trees doesn’t mean we need a fascist helmet law.

* You are wrong. Old trees must be preserved and not cut down. I am cancelling my subscription.

* You idiot it was all about saveing old trees like you can even read get a life.


* I noticed the “reporter” on this “story” has a Jewish name. WHAT IS THIS, THE JERUSALEM POST?

* Thank you for this fine article. It made me weep. I am a published poet and your story has inspired me to write an epic poem about trees.

* Can anyone tell me where I can find naked pictures of Brittany before she got fat?

* Okay, I’ve got the first lines. “I weep for you, o lovely sycamore/I don’t want you to be sick anymore.”


* That tree might fall down and crush innocent children without proper care by licensed professionals.

* I have more lines: “O, handsome tree, have no fears/I will nourish your roots with my tears.”

* So what if the writer is Jewish you are just a bigot I bet you are a muslim you jerk.

* Why Muslim and not Moslem? When did that happen? Is it like Mao when he stopped being Tse Tung and became Zedong?

* Sycamores drool, maples RULE.

* If trees could vote we wouldn’t be drilling offshore.

* I posted first!


  1. #1 Coturnix
    September 15, 2008


  2. #2 Becca
    September 15, 2008

    “Sycamores drool, maples RULE” should definitely be a more common phrase.

  3. #3 JLowe
    September 15, 2008

    Makes me glad that I write about a somewhat arcane topic that does not gather a lot of readers.

  4. #4 Reginald
    September 16, 2008

    There was nothing in this blog post about monkeys wearing small hats and as an organ grinder I am offended and will cancel my subscription immeidately.

  5. #5 Bee
    September 16, 2008

    The comment moderation, it does nothing!

    Seriously, the above ‘humourous’ comment list illustrates why there are places on the internet where no sane person over the age of twelve will ever comment. There ought to be an internet scaling device available wherever comments are enabled which reads ‘you must be ‘this’ smart to use a keyboard here’. Lolcats comes immediately to mind. I love Lolcats, but I will not enter their nightmarish comment threads – and most of those people are, apparently, over the age of twelve. Strangely, the Loldog portion of the sight is nowhere near as bad.

    OTOH – I think what we are seeing is partly a result of the ease with which one can immediately respond to bloggers and newspapers and so on. Even twenty years ago, if you wanted to express your opinion about a newspaper article, you’d have to write a letter, on paper, put it in a stamped envelope, and send it. Stopped a lot of people from bothering.

  6. #6 the real sockpuppies
    September 16, 2008

    You didn’t mention that the real failure of blogdom are all of those douchebags with agendas who label people as trolls, sockpuppets etc, and then edit and or delete comments they don’t like–PZ Meyers, feminists, and other anal chakra based folks with misinformed or calculatedly disinformational agendas…

  7. #7 KAS
    September 16, 2008

    LOL – that was great!

    I rarely skim anything (unless I am not interested in the bulk and looking for something – as I do scholastically) but that is likely due to my passionate love and avid practice of reading; and speed in which I am able to do so.

    I think that ‘ignorant commenting’ is a result of either the apparent need for people to be noticed/in the spot light/noisy (which I don’t understand) or people’s lack of interest in actually having to construct an opinion/combine thoughts or to understand.

    And… I hate to say it, but some people are just not so smart 😉

    OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! (chuckle) …& Peas suck!!