Just the other day, I wrote about a man who commented up to 70 times per day on the Sacramento Bee Web site and how he wouldn't even make the top 20 on the site, according to the paper's managing editor. Internet commenters are a strange and fascinating breed, to be sure. They can be witty or vile, astute or offensive, and every possible measure in between.
No doubt the anonymity breeds a certain level of confidence that people wouldn't have on the street. Sure, there are plenty of idiots who would get into a fight in public over politics or sports or whatever inane subject they choose to engage. But the percentages of people ready to start an actual war are substantially lower than the ones prepared to begin an online flame war.
Take the case of a story posted on the local CBS Houston Web site about a homeless man in Fort Worth who was killed after the dumpster he was sleeping in was emptied into a trash compactor. It's gruesome and tragic. It probably says something about our society that something like this was able to happen, particularly given the rather extraordinary wealth we as a country have amassed.
But, when reading the comments to the story, there is nary a glimpse of social commentary with any real substance. What we have instead is a mix of conspiracy theory, dismissive retort, political rhetoric and weak attempts at humor. Here are some of the gems.
Bonus points for bringing back the Costas handgun debate. Highly appropriate.
This whole thread needs reading. If there is an important, cautionary tale to this story, it is that the writer wrote contractor instead of compactor, because no one ever makes mistakes like that.
I see what you did there. Homeless = criminal. Funny. Stupid, but funny.
Here we go. Finally, a little politics. And "who cares?" Yeah, who would care that a human being was crushed to death in a trash compactor?
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The first "Darwin" reference along with the mention of a lawsuit. Two for one.
Yes, the government. Weren't you the same commenter who complained about typos? Right, you were. So, explain how you missed that the investigation is being done by THE COMPANY AND NOT THE POLICE. May want to get a new editor for your comments.
Wow, a Martin Sheen reference! Way to pull a golden oldie out of the hat because Sheen being a "phony" is 100 times worse than, you know, A MAN CRUSHED TO DEATH IN A TRASH COMPACTOR!