BLOG RAGE | By Jim Brady
I am a twit without a functioning brain.
I also do not have any [ censored ].
Despite 10 years spent in online media, I really don't understand the Internet.
I am a dangerous ideologue , an enemy of
At least, that's what I've been told -- in much stronger language -- by dozens of people who have never met me.
My career as a nitwitted, emasculated fascist began the afternoon of Jan. 19 when, as executive editor of the Post's Web site, washingtonpost.com, I closed down the comments area of one of our many blogs, one called post.blog. Created primarily to announce new features on the Web site, the blog had become ground zero for angry readers complaining about a column by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell on the newspaper's coverage of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. If I had let them, they would have obliterated any semblance of civil, genuine discussion.
As it was, things got pretty ugly, and it's worth figuring out why. In her Jan. 15 column, Howell erred in saying that Abramoff gave campaign donations to Democrats as well as Republicans. In fact, Abramoff directed clients to give to members of both parties, but he had donated his own personal funds only to Republicans.
Howell's inadvertent error prompted a handful of bloggers to urge their readers to go to post.blog to vent their discontent, and in the subsequent four days we received more than a thousand comments in our public forum. Only, the word "comments" doesn't convey the obscene, vituperative tone of a lot of the postings, which were the sort of things you might find carved on the door of a public toilet stall. About a hundred of them had to be removed for violating the Post site's standards, which don't allow profanity or personal attacks.
To my dismay, matters only got worse on Jan. 19 after Howell posted a clarification on washingtonpost.com. Instead of mollifying angry readers, the clarification prompted more than 400 additional comments over the next five hours, many of them so crude as to be unprintable in a family newspaper. Soon the number of comments that violated our standards of Web civility overwhelmed our ability to get rid of them; only then did we decide to shut down comments on the blog.
So was I suppressing free speech? Protecting the Bush administration? That's what you'd think, judging by the swift and acid reaction to my move. They couldn't get to post.blog, but they sure let me have it elsewhere in the blogosphere. I was honored as "Wanker of the Day" on one left-wing blog. Another site dissected my biography in order to prove that I was part of The Post's vast right-wing conspiracy.
Out in the Web woodshed, a handful of bloggers called me gutless or a puppet; some of them compared me to assorted body parts and characterized me as the worst person to come along since, well, Deborah Howell. And any nasty posts I didn't see myself, my friends gleefully provided to me via e-mail. A few friends said they came close to jumping online to defend me, but chose not to for fear they'd be next in line for a public flogging.