Way back when — that would be just a few years ago — someone or several someones came up with the idea of instant communications related to established print and electronic media. Thus the virtual blackboard was created. No longer did Letters to the Editor have to go up a chain of command from mail clerk to managing editor, and thence to print. Online readers, with a couple of clicks, could post comments about whatever they had just read.
What a great idea, a virtual Socratic seminar in real time featuring intelligent, engaged, thoughtful, collegial discourse by folks who would collaborate on or dispute the articles or opinions published by the media outlet — topics of practical relevance, art, culture, philosophy, religion or politics, gardening or child-rearing. It was expected to be kind of like a book club. Everyone would read the same article or opinion piece, meet in a cyberspace forum and talk about what they had read or heard. For example, reporter Ben Blake might write about the budget hearings at the local school board meeting, and anyone interested in the topic or whose interest may have been piqued by the story would post a comment:
John Brown: “Mr. Blake’s article was generally complete but would have been improved by interviews with a couple of teachers and parents.”
Missy Martin: “Ben Blake is a %^&$ing has-been who couldn’t make it in the big world so now he’s doing school stories nobody cares about. Great job! Not!”
While there was no formal format required, it was assumed that the responders would respond to the article, its points, value, significance, quality of the writing relative to the topic or add facts and data not covered in the story. And typically, the first responder does indeed contribute something to the issue. After that, it has commonly become a free-for-all of blather.
Jay Jacobs: “Missy, everyone knows you never got over it when Ben dumped you for Andrea Adams in the middle of the Junior Prom.”
Missy Martin: “Hey Jay, how’s that rehab program working for ya? Still get tingly when you see those long-haired goats?” LOL
June Bugg: “Check out these Links. wwwxyzschoobudgetsinslovakia/com; wwwreporterswhonevermadeit; httpwhatthe&*&%%$#? You’ll be amazed.”
D-wayne: “June, are you still coming to the BBQ at the park on Sat? Bring your fabulous p-salad. Say ‘hey’ to Marco. Hope he’s doing OK.”
June Bugg: “Thanks D-wayne. Marco says ‘farm life sucks.’ Good behavior should get him out in the spring. Pray for him. Potato salad it is.”
Skip: “If they’d just let Jesus back in school, they wouldn’t need a budget. Everything they need or desire is right there in the Bible.”
Pat Gomez: “Way to go, Skip. You really cleared that school budget problem up. Better check the old Constitution though.”
Mary Mott: “June, I tried those links but I couldn’t get in. Is that hot brother of yours still doing the EMT? I feel a tad faint. Ha, ha LMAO.”
Sometimes a story about the local traffic situation garners dozens of comments and posts:
Ralph Reyes: “I got stuck between Hilldale and RiverRun for 20 minutes on Sunday. What’s the city going to do about those stop lights?”
Mimi Reyes: “I told you not to take Main to Hilldale. But ‘no.’ Ralph knows better. Has to do it his way. Jerk!”
Pauline: “Look at wwwthisisthebestwebsiteever. It’s about those illegals selling fake tortillas made out of soy and cardboard. Gross.”
Skip: “Wasn’t that where Jesus’s face was on every third tortilla? BTW, Ralph, if you’d been in church Sunday, you’d have missed all that traffic.”
Tom Tom: “Yeah, depending on which church. If he’d been at synagogue, he’d have gone on Saturday. Ha, ha, ha. Putz.”
Mert Goss: “What about that school budget? Isn’t there something in there about all the traffic speeding by the high school?”
ClarkMarks: “Pot, beer, sex right in the school parking lot. But traffic’s a problem? Get a grip Mert. Throw ‘em all in juvie for a year or so.”
Skip: “Get them to Sunday school and Wednesday Prayer Meetings, Clark. Get some religion in the heathens. Philistines 2:9-13.”
Missy Martin: “Pauline. I tried that link but it took me to some weird place like ‘Cooking With Live Tofu’ or something.”
Cal Pipes: “Anybody tried the new dining patio down at the Burger Depot? The flies take whatever the meat bees leave. It’s just nasty.”
Annie#1: “Hey Clark. Got any idea what it would cost to put them all in juvie for a year? Your taxes too low these days? I doubt it?”
Annie#2: “Hey Annie. When did you even pay taxes last, 1986 when you worked that two weeks at the Five-n-Dime? Welfare s@#t.”
Annie#1: “Hey Annie yourself. What about that Facebook pic of you nekkid with the Fire Marshall’s Youth Group? Real classy, B*^@h.”
Craig Berg: (What follows is a 6,000-word diatribe on what’s wrong with this town, county, nation, world, universe, especially the GOBerment.)
Paul Lunkes: “You go craig. right on Dude. I here you. Soon’s I’m out of this pysche ward, let’s hook up and party down. Piece brother.”
Sometimes the comments actually relate to the published article.
“Your a drunk.” “Your a pothead.” “So’s your old man.” “It’s all part of the commie, pinko, fascist, Nazi, gay, illegal immigrant agenda.”
But mostly they don’t.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.