It’s time for yet another school budget meeting this evening. Be still, my beating heart. Another chance for ill-tempered people to drain away three to four hours of my life. But I’m going to go (again) because I’m almost sure they’ve concocted yet another crazy scheme to try and cut the budget by a huge amount. They want to wear me down. And so I’ll keep going.
It’s a sad state of affairs where the biggest motivation for me at this point is spite.
But I’ve written plenty on this topic already, and I don’t think I have that much more to add. But, having read through another comments section on the budget process, I do have a few observations about why I refuse to engage on the comments section. I’m all for a healthy exchange of thoughts and ideas, but my area’s local newspaper comments section is anything but that. Here’s why:
- Anonymous comments are allowed. Remember MySpace, anyone? It was the precursor to Facebook, and it was kind of a cess pool. Sure, there were the friendly pages where people just gushed about things they loved. But there were tons of pages created anonymously, many with objectionable content. My big takeaway is that as long as anonymity is allowed on the internet, garbage will follow. This has proven true time and time again. I know it can be an important ability, especially in oppressive regimes, and I’m certainly not going to say all anonymous comments are garbage, but in America, I’d say the bulk of them are.
- Name calling abounds. This is connected to the anonymity, I’m sure. We live in a small community. If people were forced to say who they were and knew who they were deriding, I’m sure the name calling would go down. (In most cases.)
- There’s no evidence that people actually want to discuss ideas. You’ll see a few people do their best to bring the conversation to a higher level. They’ll write well-reasoned posts that take a frank look at the various issues facing readers. They’ll take time to research their facts, and they’ll have clearly thought things through. How is that met? With more name calling, or with naysayers latching onto one or two tangential arguments and focusing on those instead. If you can’t win an argument, yell louder.
- Everything is black and white. Commenters make it sound like the answers are just sitting there, waiting to be scooped up like snow after a Nor’easter. And they’ll happily say the other side is foolish for not recognizing how simple it is.
So I just don’t bother. That doesn’t mean I don’t read them now and then. But for these school budget comments, at least, it typically devolves into a bunch of No voters hooting “Just vote no!” over and over, with the same tired arguments trotted out as if they were scintillating analysis, spouted by anonymous names or sock puppets of the same individual, for all I know.
Please come to the meeting tonight. I’ll be the one toward the back, looking like I’d rather be anywhere else in the world.