Paul Craig Roberts
RINF Alternative News
Most Americans live in their myths, and these myths are immune to facts. Some Americans become angry when confronted with information inconsistent with their preconceptions. I began learning this back in the newsprint era from letters, and the lesson has continued from emails and comment sections on websites.
Postal letters and emails are outlets that permit a reader to let off steam by lambasting a writer, but comment sections permit readers to share their outrage with all the website’s readers in addition to the writer and to gang up on and slander a writer.
Websites, such as OpEdNews and Information Clearing House, that I permit to repost my columns return the favor by having comment sections in which government trolls, assorted kooks, Reagan haters, and uninformed individuals can slander me, assault my reputation, misrepresent what I write, and do their worst to counteract the information that I supply to readers. Trolls and their ilk do the same thing to any number of writers who try to compensate for the absence of an honest Western media. Look at who is under attack. It is not the presstitutes at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News; it is Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, for example. One is said to be a rapist, and the other an accessory to the theft of documents.
I have never understood the point of comment sections. Invariably comments either praise or slander writers or consist of disputes between readers in which they come to verbal blows over subjects about which they are poorly informed.
I have heard the claim that sites have comment sections in order to attract readers and to increase visits or “hits” that raise the site’s salability to advertisers. However, Information Clearing House, for example, does not take ads, and the comments on articles posted on OpEdNews are a tiny percentage, a small fraction of one percent, of the readers who visit the article. Therefore, I conclude that these reasons for having comment sections are irrational.
Some say that comments sections are like letters to the editor of newspapers that let readers have their say. But newsprint editors reviewed the letters and only printed those few that had some merit. This is not the case in website comment sections where every fool and troll has access to the writer’s audience.
I am not saying that the solution of newsprint editors was perfect, and the intent of these remarks is not blanket condemnation of all who comment on articles. The point is that comment sections demand more knowledge, more discipline, and more open minds than are often present. It takes time and thought to produce a readable article offering new information and an analysis or perspective different from prevailing opinion, but it takes only a moment to cover it in mud and misrepresentation.
Trolls often hide their identities behind fake or pen names. The usual approach is to attack what a writer has to say by attacking the writer personally. For example, trolls “unmask” me on progressive and left-leaning sites as someone who served in the evil Reagan administration and, therefore, is untrustworthy. On conservative-leaning sites, I am “exposed” as a left-winger who publishes on CounterPunch. These unmaskings of writers help those who don’t want to hear information in conflict with their preconceptions to ignore the information.
Some sites open themselves to attack as well as their writers. That RT has a comment section is inexplicable, as it opens the site’s reporting to contradiction by government trolls. What is the point of a site canceling itself out? Sites with comment sections are in fact permitting organized political interests to undercut their own reporting and their own writers. Other sites permit anonymous readers whose merits are unknown to rate the site. As only a few readers participate, the site’s rating can be determined by a handful of unknown people.
Just as I hold the dishonesty of presidents, government officials, presstitutes, police, and banksters to account, I hold the dishonesty of trolls and their ilk to account.
In several columns this year I have pointed out that Washington’s consistent and aggressive lies about Russia and Putin’s intentions, Washington’s coup in overthrowing the elected Ukrainian government and installing Washington’s puppets, and Washington’s whipping up NATO into a military frenzy against Russia are reckless and dangerous actions that could lead to nuclear war.
Trolls portrayed this concern as the ravings of an unbalanced person who had fallen victim to forebodings of doom and distrust of his government. Nuclear war, they said, is irrational and therefore could not happen, and doomsayers should be ignored. This despite the facts that neoconservatives are advocates for nuclear weapons and their use, a majority of Americans have been convinced by propaganda that Putin is a “thug” and “worse than Hitler,” and the New York Times reports that “US Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/us/us-ramping-up-major-renewal-in-nuclear-arms.html?_r=1
I am pleased that Norm Chomsky, an intelligent and perceptive person who long has served as America’s moral conscience, has joined me in the ranks of doomsayers who perceive that Washington is driving the world toward nuclear war.
Here is what Chomsky has to say: http://rt.com/news/203055-us-russia-war-chomsky/
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.