Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not Available For Comment

If you didn't catch the rabidly bad taste comments on HuffPost regarding the lame but fatal Taliban assassination attempt on the VEEP, you won't find them there now.

(You can find a good representative sampling still at Amy Proctor's blog. Don't worry, Amy's purged the ****-load of mindlessly obscene leftyspeak.)

There's terrifying significance to the fact that so many Americans feel comfortable saying, and believing, comments like this:
You can never find a competent suicide bomber when you need one.
You can never find a competent suicide bomber when you need one.
But you know that, so let's talk instead about blog ethics. Was it right for HuffPost to do this:
Over the last few hours, the more than 400 comments appended to the Huffington Post’s news item on the attack in Afghanistan on a base being visited by Vice-President Dick Cheney have been expunged from the site. At first the comments were closed, then gradually shrunken and for a short time completely expunged from The Huffington Post as the heat on the Cheney hate fest built up over the day. (Pajamas Media)
I would certainly have deleted the obscene ones myself, and edited some others, but HuffPost did something entirely different, deleting comments like "Cheney's spokeswoman said he was fine. F***" and keeping comments like "glad the vp is ok." PajamasMedia says:

The comments now visible are evidently cherry-picked out of the original thread to give some sort of “tone” to the thread that it did not originally possess. It is really amazing what you can do to history with just a few strokes of the keyboard.

Now it is one thing to close comments, another thing to erase them, but something else altogether different to actually “edit” the thread to give a false impression.
A conscious decision was made at HuffPost to allow comments to be posted without monitoring, then another conscious decision was made to delete offending comments only after the sickest of them had spread through the blogosphere and conservative radio.

Disgusting posts were going up as early as 8:15 a.m., but the comments weren't deleted until around 2:50 p.m. -- so the posts were there for about five and a half hours, and OK with HuffPost for at least four hours, assuming it would take the Huffies 90 minutes to hash out what they'd do and do it.

Their decision was a terrible one. First, it will really, really tick off HuffPost's readers and will do longterm damage to the blog's credibility among its primary readers.

It was hypocritical. You can't blast the Bush admin day after day -- right up to the original headline of the post, “Cheney ‘Targeted’ Deadly Afghan Blast,” -- then purge the overly critical comments, creating a false impression of the blog and its readers.

And for that reason, HuffPost's decision was terribly unethical.

As the PajamaMedia writer nicely pointed out, you can't ask the 400 commenters what they think of being deleted: They're not available for comment.

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