Don’t Read “Don’t Read the Comments” Comments

“Don’t Read Comments” (@AvoidComments) says:

Yes, sometimes comment sections contain insight and reasoned discussion. But do you really want to take that chance?

The tweet was originally submitted on September 9, and re-tweeted yesterday, September 20, by Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63, an interesting writer and excellent “follow”). The more I look at it, the less well I understand it.

My initial impression was that @AvoidComments meant that the occasional encounter with “insight” cannot compensate for dealing with all the rest of the typical internet comment section, but I now wonder if the more obvious or simply correct reading is the perverse one, something like “yet another reason to ‘avoid comments’ is the danger of encounters with insight and reason.” This warning would serve, I guess, for those people who do not find the usual pathologies of “the comments” repellent, who prefer to remain insulated from insight and reason, yet who might, in the general interest of the campaign against comments sections, be dissuaded from participation on this narrow basis. If the idea is to improve comments sections rather than simply to attack all who participate in them, then, if taken in this last sense, the tweet might be seen as a satirical gesture, uttered as though to discourage the determinedly dim and the committedly unreasonable from showing up – “Warning: Thoughtful and Friendly Exchanges” – but really meant to mock them, from the point of view of “responsible commenters.” If so, the tweet would be the first sign I’ve seen anywhere of a positive intention or idea from the “DRC”-ists.

Another possibility would be that the tweet was tweeted or re-tweeted as an interestingly complicated absurdity – the last part of the tweet merely to be absorbed as reversal of expectations and dispensed with, no harm done, nothing else either sought or achieved. Or maybe the tweet was just garbled, or not intended to be read very attentively, and my initial reading was correct or close enough.

Any ideas? I promise to read your comments, if any, as I always do. Also, to be clear, though I understand that DRCers have mostly “big” sites in mind, not blogs that take their comment threads and commenters seriously, I’m still not a fan of the DRC theme, as I’ve indicated before both on this blog and on Twitter.


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3 comments on “Don’t Read “Don’t Read the Comments” Comments

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  1. I think the intended meaning is the first one you mentioned: the chance of encountering insight and reasoned discussion is too small to make the comments sections worth the while.

    • Hi, CY – hadn’t thought about this one in a while! I now think the mysterious tweet means, and always meant or was meant to mean “comment threads bad, either way you look at it, since even if you get involved and it’s reasonable and interesting, you’re still involved in a comment thread.”

      I could still accept as an explanation a mixture of garbled an intentionally absurd, offered with the knowledge that the main implication – comment threads: bad – is clear, but I’m still not sure, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the author of the tweet was never sure, and still couldn’t say.

      FYI, the “updated” tweet of this post was sent out accidentally after I adjusted a setting on the post – I’m investigating some glitches involving the generally really nifty FactLink browser add-on and WordPress plug-in.


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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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