June 17, 2015

"Clicking a 'View All Comments' button is a mild manifestation, I suspect, of the Freudian death instinct."

"And yet there is something narrow, and basically anachronistic, about this view of 'the comments' as a phenomenon restricted to the unconsecrated ground below the line. Because it is possible to think of the Internet itself, in all its incomprehensible vastness, as an exponentially ramifying network of commentary and metacommentary. It’s comments all the way down. Social media, at any rate, and Twitter in particular, are a continually metastasizing accretion of marginalia..... The mind blanks at this sheer volume of commentary generated with every elapsing second, this unreckonable tonnage of weigh-ins...."

Much more at the link in a New Yorker article titled "It’s Comments All the Way Down," written by Slate’s books columnist Mark O’Connell. The underlying book in question is "Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web," by Joseph M. Reagle, Jr. The book might not tell you anything you don't already know. As O'Connell puts it: "Reagle too often seems happy to wrap up his discussion of a given topic with a tepid valedictory pronouncement. 'We all have opinions,' he writes at the end of one section, 'and many do not hesitate to express them at the bottom of the Web—even when they are less than informed.'"

49 comments:

MayBee said...

The problem is how many people feel free to write blog posts, articles, and UC memos even when they are less than informed.

rhhardin said...

Goffman, in his lecture on lectures, said that the point of a lecture format is to affirm that the speaker knows something and that that something can be taught to the attendees.

Both the left and the right need to affirm this.

Commenters are the corrective. The lecturer doesn't know something.

The New Yorker guy has this article that seems slightly anti-commenter.

Ann Althouse said...

I have a problem with NYT articles that DON'T have the comments function turned on. I feel like they're trying to get away with something.

lgv said...

I have a problem with NYT articles that DON'T have the comments function turned on. I feel like they're trying to get away with something.

No comments=

1) Don't point out errors of fact
2) Don't point out errors in logic
3) I'm not interested in the other side of the argument because people might think it is better than mine
4) I'm done with this article. I don't want to have to think about it any more.

Gabriel said...

Problem with the NYT comments section is the signal-to-noise ratio.

Louis said...

Comments reveal human nature and human nature is so ugly. Yet. God has us here for something. Why not try to push on the margins?

Plus it is surreal to be a commenter after so many years of reading.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

No comment.

MayBee said...

Althouse- exactly!

Michael K said...

Comments follow the line of the source of the article. The WaPo comments are 90% left winger. The LA Times are about 50%. Since I am already tat the limits of my "free" articles on the NY Times site they will just have to soldier on without me.

Let wing blogs ban comments that disagree. Some right wing sites, like National Review, are clogged with left wing trolls.

There are a few that seem balanced, this blog being one. Chicagoboyz is a small group but very well informed. Cathy Seipp's blog was great but Cathy has been gone for years.

HuffPo is ridiculous but at least they quit deleting my comments, few as I bother to make.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I have a problem with NYT articles that DON'T have the comments function turned on. I feel like they're trying to get away with something.

What were you trying to get away with* when you turned comments off?


* I'm well aware of what you were trying to get away from, and I fully support your right to make that decision however you see fit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Louis said...

God has us here for something.

Based on the quality of your comments, I'd have to guess punching bag.


I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

Mostly.

Donald Douglas said...

Politico's Dylan Byers tweeted this piece, and I'm not surprised Althouse blogged it, lol

rhhardin said...

I often turn off the sound on Rush when a caller starts, but that's mostly because of how bad Rush is with callers.

tim in vermont said...

I can see why a writer for the New Yorker, a magazine whose entire worldview depends on things unsaid, would dread a comment section where those things are said, and brought to the surface for open discussion as much as Hillary must dread an unexpected mirror.

tim in vermont said...

I often turn off the sound on Rush when a caller starts,

Yeah, I think the callers are what drove me away from that show.

clint said...

Comments are "the bottom of the internet"?

Oh, dear.

Please will someone forward him a stack of cat memes, or rickrolling, or obscure incomprehensible porn?

Louis said...

Ignorance, are you stupid?

EDH said...

a continually metastasizing accretion of marginalia.....

He should have a doctor take a look at that.

Fernandinande said...

New Yorker article

For them, the NYT, Slate, etc, if I read anything at all, I generally skim/skip the articles and just read the comments.

traditionalguy said...

As iron sharpens iron, Man Sharpens Man.

But reading comments can be like kissing frogs to find a prince.

And where is Garage this morning?

tim in vermont said...

For them, the NYT, Slate, etc, if I read anything at all, I generally skim/skip the articles and just read the comments.

Exactly. The articles are almost completely predictable.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Louis said...

Ignorance, are you stupid?

Not that I'm aware of. Why, did I say something stupid?

Jim in St Louis said...

I like watching quality tennis between evenly matched players. I don’t like watching one player just getting hammered, and I don’t like watching two uncoordinated spaz cases flop all over the court swinging at anything that comes near them.

I pass on any comment thread with too many comments. I know that bloggers can see 100 comments as a success- wow people are really engaged—but it is just noise at that point. The difference between a table of people having spirited after dinner conversation and a street corner mob all yelling at once.

Terry said...

Writers seem to have much more faith in Freud than mental health professionals. I suspect that this tells us something important about both Freud and writers.

traditionalguy said...

It's not for nothing we pronounce Freud as fraud. He was a great fraud that stole ideas that sounded like precision description when the were a complete fantasy. Enjoy your dreams.

Gabriel said...

@Terry:Writers seem to have much more faith in Freud than mental health professionals.

Freudianism was never science, and criticisms of Freudianism on that ground are nearly a century old.

Moose said...

If Sully was still publishing stuff - this would go under his pretentious award category - whatever that was (forgotten).

Carol said...


BTW - why does Blogger send me to the bottom of comments (when all the BS is done loading)? As if I only wanted to pop off and not read others' comments first? Happens with different browsers.

Comments make life worth living.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"Louis said...
Ignorance, are you stupid?"

It wasn't a bad Pun of Opportunity. For a comments section...

Paddy O said...

Interesting, you're highlighting this book. I just chose in from my Amazon Vine list, and it should be coming over the next day or so.

Lem said...

Rh said...
"I often turn off the sound on Rush when a caller starts, but that's mostly because of how bad Rush is with callers."

He is bad with callers.

Gabriel said...

A journalist complaining about people broadcasting uninformed opinions. Hear now the pot blackguarding the kettle.

Fen said...

I have a problem with NYT articles that DON'T have the comments function turned on. I feel like they're trying to get away with something.

They usually are. I've seen it. Some writer makes ridiculous talking points that are easily refuted, I go to correct him and discover he is hiding.

It's a tell to identify propaganda. If an article doesn't allow comments, quite often its because the OP knows his article is bs and doesn't want to get savaged publicly.

Fen said...

A journalist complaining about people broadcasting uninformed opinions

The "experts" can't survive venues that provide direct feedback.

Quaestor said...

Sheer publicity. Nothing helps to make a trivial book into a money maker more than a trivial article in the mostly trivial Nooyawkah. That's my uninformed opinion.

rhhardin said...

Freud was a careful thinker thinking about how the mind works.

The writing is valuable because of the care.

Say you're studying what ruts you wind up in that are not stupid ruts.

Michael K said...

"I pass on any comment thread with too many comments. "

I don't read Ace's comments for that reason while I do read the posts.

Some very long comment threads are worth reading and they are usually at conservative tree house. Their thread on Trayvon Martin was journalism at its best. I spent all of one day reading them.

tim in vermont said...

I blame the screeners for Rush's bad calls. They let through some pretty dull blades.

Terry said...

"Freud was a careful thinker thinking about how the mind works."
Freud was a careful thinker thinking about how Sigmund Freud's mind works.

rhhardin said...

Freud's grandson was playing with a spool on a string.

He throws the spool and says "away" and pulls it back and says "here."

What is he doing, Freud wonders.

Freud writes out this reason, and rejects it; then writes out another reason, and rejects it too. The essay goes on like that, reason and rejection.

What Freud did not see, but responded to, was his own duplication of the game his grandson was playing.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Certainly "bottom" of the web is used appropriately, suchlike "Buckley got to the bottom of the issues and kicked the Hell out of stupid Republicans like Lowell Weicker Junior whilst in the doing of said so."

That said, comments are wasteful unless they make me feel superior somehow, such as when "Lazlo" denies his/her lowly "lass" insider-status and talks about sex or women or pills.

But profoundly, comments allowed at Althouse allow peeks into souls, including incredible beauty and then <MH_)*&(^*(^% Thomas too, and that is only within thyself.

You start thinking about other folks, that's when all Heaven breaks loose.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Freud introduced ways of thinking about the mind.

Words with definitions totally obscure he made popular. He made wordstuff up too (cool!).

Since most folks can only judge others' against themselves in the judger's exact own circumstances (at some exact time, which changes without introspection or deduction), most people can never comprehend what Freud did.

At the very least minimum his introduction to the masses of the theories on penis envy explained women to men the best as has ever been done yet, to this very day.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

In England, blog comments are subject to criminal prosecution I hear. I'm sure American progressives are taking notes jealously.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Most critiques of Freud rest in the inverse of argument from ignorance camp.

If everything wasn't 100% proven accurate every day and every agenda after the initial academic disruption Freud produced, then none of it can be un-ignorant.

Think of what terms such as "ego defense mechanism" have done to the brain. It influenced mine in ways I can comprehend slightly, and of course in ways I can't, not to mention the influences on society itself.

This leads back to circles per Chris Langan.

Sammy Finkelman said...

What's comments all the way down is the Talmud - everything after the Mishnah and some of the Mishnah is comments or additional notes.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Gabriel said... 6/17/15, 12:15 PM

Problem with the NYT comments section is the signal-to-noise ratio

That's true at all major publications.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Comments will often have all kinds of information.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Ya know, maybe Freud treated people like Jobs treated people.

In that case I hate him.*

*Doc Holliday as portrayed by Val Kilmer in "Tombstone" (the film) when discussing "educated" men.

Aussie Pundit said...

I usually read the comments, lots of people do. If there are a thousand comments or more - quite common on major sites, you don't read them all. You dive in and read as much as you feel like. Because the comments are constantly evolving, different readers will dive in at different points, and read different discussions.

A site of this size (ie Althouse) you can usually get through the whole discussion. But for big threads there's a knack of filtering, skimming, zooming in, etc.

The New Yorker article is just an elitist journo sneering at the plebs "down there" in the comments "hell", talking to each other. Screw him.