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Commentary: Hateful online comments spoil civic debate

November 02, 2013|By Ken Nyquist

Having never paid much attention to the comments that follow articles in the Daily Pilot until this past July, I was actually surprised at their number and nature.

When I delivered the Pilot back in the mid-'60s, on a very good route in Newport Beach, the newspaper ran letters to the editor and editorials. If you so much as made a derogatory statement, or smeared another person's integrity, there would be zero chance that your letter would make it to publication. No exceptions to that one.

The push-button phone was something that you saw at Disneyland, in the Monsanto House of the Future exhibit in Tomorrowland. Some of us still had a party line at the time. Not a get-wasted party line, but a telephone party line.

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No cell phones, no tablets, no computers and, for sure, no instant upload to make comments. An editor was in control of all editorial comments.

Facebook is now the editor of the comments that follow just about every article or opinion piece that appears in the Pilot, using some kind of algorithm (in this case automated reasoning) to separate out the spam.

In order to post a comment in the Pilot, you have to be on Facebook, so being eager to comment because of what I was reading about Costa Mesa issues, I reactivated an account that had been closed for years, this time taking more control of my page and limiting my "friends."

When I or others post something that does not toe the line of a few regular agitators, I sit back and wait for the onslaught of nasty, rude, vile and downright-mean comments.

Hiding behind a computer to spew this garbage at other people is becoming the norm for this group. I doubt that these same agitating haters would have the nerve to say such offensive things it anyone's face. It's kind of like the kid who calls you names from half way down the hallway and runs. It is sad and sick at the same time.

One of the saddest parts of all the agitating comments is the sheer joy that seems to come with them and the fake sincerity to a cause. Facebook "likes" will follow in a pattern. We called it a dog pile when I was a kid.

Once you fake sincerity, the rest is easy.

KEN NYQUIST lives in Costa Mesa.

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