To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce.
— Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
Since we're coming up on the month of July, and that reminds me of revolutions, I want to think particularly about the events leading up to the American Revolution. There were people taking the freedom that they believed to be theirs by right and they were using that freedom to write pamphlets.
Today, we are witnessing the largest experiment in democracy that the world has ever seen—the internet. People can comment on just about every news item and if they can’t comment directly, they can save the article on any number of social bookmarking sites. This, is in effect saying to everyone else that this is the news that I think is worth reading.
The problem I have with the democratic, free speech of comments is that many of the comments are irrelevant, degrading to others, disrespectful and some are simply a waste of cyber-ink. But, to take the right to comment away would be worse than if it had never been granted in the first place. So, what is the solution?
Comments are not the only thing. Blogs, “tweets” and status updates on Facebook all share the same pros and cons. It is important to some people to be able to tell the entire world that they just relieved their bowels and are now going out for a night of wild partying. And the next day we get to hear about the hangover!
I know! I don’t have to read these things, but they are there. This is why comments are especially bothersome; one has to read through all the garbage to find one useful or even meaningful comment. People cannot refrain from replying to the first idiot commenter and so the stupidity soon begins to fly and before you know it there are pages and pages of worthless bantering about which President is to be blamed for the color of toilet paper in the bathroom of some backwater gas station. It is asinine and annoying and democratic!
1. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th Anniversary Ed. (New York: Continuum, 2000). 87