Cherwell.org is by no means unique in giving its users the freedom to comment on articles. Online commentary is often amusing to read, encourages criticism of the article itself, and sometimes highlights a new perspective.
But the amount of whingers on the web is just plain silly. I’ve got no problem with a good whinge – hence this heckle – but more often than not, comments make it abundantly obvious that the author hasn’t read the article properly, if at all; sometimes it’s as if they’ve simply read the headline and then scrolled down to the comment box below to inject their opinion on the topic. These unchecked commentators have their pet peeve which is going to be regurgitated, regardless of the article’s actual content.
Likewise, serial whingers cotton onto key words; cutting and pasting entire paragraphs from their ‘controversial’ manifestos.
There’s also the trolls: people who play devil’s advocate purely to get attention. They blurt out some blatant statement, shocking readers with breathtaking ignorance and tempting them to respond in kind.
But ‘angry’ commentators are probably the worst. Please, no one takes a blind bit of notice of your EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS, the web equivalent of shouting.
Finally, there’s the question of anonymity. By brandishing a digital disguise, people revel in their ‘power to address the world’ while concealing their identities. Self-righteous venomous personal attacks often ensue. If you were responding to a tutor or friend’s email you wouldn’t use the same words or tone. But that’s exactly what you’re doing on a public website. I only hope that over time these whingers will grow up and reserve their comments for insightful and well thought-out points.