Writer, blogger, nerd… also, bored.
A few weeks ago, speaking at South by Southwest, Gawker Media owner Nick Denton discussed the comments section on websites, specifically on his Gawker network. “The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership — that’s a joke,” he quipped, blaming his readership, and those willing to comment on his websites, as the problem. Is that really the case though? Is it a ‘joke’ to try to capture the intelligence of the readership, or does the content of his own sites have something to do with his comment woes?
Probably the most infamous of the Gawker Media websites is Gawker.com itself. Posting about popular culture and all the drama that happens between the rich and famous, Gawker used to be the go-to website for gossip (if you care about such nonsense). Nowadays it is plagued with articles teaching you how to do whip-its like Demi Moore or (literally) one sentence updates about Zooey Deschanel. Yes, one of the most popular websites on the internet can’t help but obsess over Zooey, and thinks that we are just as interested or obsessed with her too. You know that you’re definitely going to receive high-quality, intelligent comments on a website that runs such high-quality, intelligent articles explaining (for education purposes, of course!) how to use drugs like your favorite celebrities. Going to rehab for a drug problem is something that we all wish to emulate. Keep up the good work, Gawker.
The amazing content doesn’t stop with Gawker though. Gizmodo.com, part of the same media network, loves to post bashing pieces on anything and everything related to Apple products. Everyone loves an unbiased review of new technology, but this is not the case with Gizmodo. They were banned from all Apple related events after they bought an iPhone lost by an Apple employee and refused to give it back. Although Gizmodo’s editor was not formally charged, emails recovered by San Mateo’s District Attorney were quite revealing. “We expected to see a certain amount of professionalism – this is like 15-year-old children talking,” Wagstaffe said, referring to said emails.
“There was so much animosity, and they were very critical of Apple. They talked about having Apple right where they wanted them and they were really going to show them.” Emails showed that Gizmodo had a list of demands for Apple before they were even going to consider returning the prototype to them. One of these demands included special early access to future Apple products. Apple did not give in, and they should not have either, as Gizmodo had illegally acquired stolen goods. Not only did Gizmodo act childish during the whole ordeal, they now smear every Apple product released on their site as retaliation. How admirable and honest of them.
Gizmodo’s immature antics does not stop there. They are also banned for life from the Consumer Electronic Show too, and apparently they ”love it.” Their crime: they used universal remotes to turn off displays of companies mid-presentation, leading to interruptions and stalling the presentations themselves. Gizmodo blamed everyone but themselves: the booths at CES selling the universal remotes on the floor and the presenters for not covering their IR Receptors on their own displays. They also threw out questionable aspects of the relationship some journalists have with companies, apparently hoping to justify bad behavior with more bad behavior.
“You earn your respect by fact-finding, reporting, having untouchable integrity, provocative coverage and gaining readers through your reputation for those things,” their article defending the prank claims. Integrity? Tons! Respect? Yes of course! Apparently interrupting presentations at CES merits the highest integrity and respect. The prank was indeed provocative, but I doubt it really falls under the ‘coverage’ or ‘fact-finding’ heading. Decide for yourself though.
They certainly have a reputation now; a reputation for being immature and childish. Along with Gawker’s reputation for high-integrity posts, it isn’t very surprising to me that they both have problems with their comment sections. Following Gizmodo’s lead by blaming everyone else for their own actions, Denton does the same by blaming his readership. Classy.
Being completely honest with everyone, I was originally planning on only writing about Gawker, Gizmodo, and Denton’s recent comments. I had this post planned for a couple of weeks now, when just last Friday, March 30th, I had my own run-in with the comments section on another Gawker Media website: io9. Interestingly enough, this came well before I wrote and posted my previous entry about io9’s awesome critique of how Hawkeye holds his prop bow in the upcoming Avengers movie.
Being new to the writing scene, I decided that I should perhaps take my first dive into the community and post in the comments section of a website that I have been a fan of for a very long time: io9.com. Yes, it is apart of the aforementioned Axis-of-Douches that is the Gawker Media network, but I always felt that they were a little bit different, posting about nerd-related items and showcasing great science articles. Recently, however, I felt like there had been a series of low-quality and rather boring pieces on their site. I used to read multiple articles daily from io9, but nowadays I find myself lucky to read even one every couple of days. After reading a review of Wrath of the Titans, I decided to post my first ever comment. It was also my last comment, too.
Here is a screenshot of my comment exactly as it was submitted on io9’s piece about Wrath of the Titans:
This comment was just my opinion and what popped into my head after just seeing the movie myself and reading her review late Friday night on my iPhone. I didn’t say anything mean-spirited, profane, or even remotely trolling. I just did not agree with the review at all. Well, come to find out, the article was written by none other than io9’s editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz. I posted the comment Friday night, went to bed, and then found Saturday morning that I had been banned from commenting on all Gawker sites by the very same person, Annalee Newitz. Oh boy, here we go.
Feeling that this ban was an act of censorship, along with the fact that I knew I was going to add this event to my article, I decided to contact some Gawker Media officials via email to see if I could get a comment on the matter. Annalee herself emailed me back in a brief one-off, saying that my comment “personally attacked [her] the author and was intentionally trolling.” You heard it right: disagreeing with someone is now considered a personal attack. You would think that the editor-in-chief of a website that already suffers from problems with their comment section would be a little thick-skinned and not so upset to criticism. Gawker Media Help Desk representative Steve Climaco told me via email that my comment about low quality articles should have been sent to their firstname.lastname@example.org email instead of posted in their comments, disregarding the fact that I said more than just that and was referring to that specific article as low quality. He went on to say that my comment was “mostly off-topic”, and claiming that my comment on how the author might not have seen the movie or went into the viewing with an anti-fun attitude was “inflammatory.”
I guess Ms. Newitz also personally attacked and made inflammatory comments about Sam Worthington in the very review I was commenting on; she questioned his mental health after claiming he was lackluster and didn’t really even act in the movie. My words exactly about her viewing the movie, but in my case, it’s a terrible crime worthy of censorship.
In all honesty, I don’t really care that I was banned from posting comments on their sites. If I really wanted to continue posting, I would just make a new account. If on-topic comments that present a dissenting opinion is all you have to do to be banned from ever posting again, then that’s not a community I wish to be apart of. Why wasn’t my comment simply deleted or moderated instead? Probably because they wish to censor people entirely. A quick Google search shows that many people have had problems with being censored and banned on Gawker Media websites simply for posting dissenting views in the comment section towards their sites or articles.
I find it interesting though that Denton remarks on how his readership lacks intelligence and his comment sections are plagued by terrible posts, yet he never considers the content of his websites as a factor, or blaming the people that run them either. When asked about implementing an up vote system for comments, which is exactly what the website Reddit utilizes, Denton answered that he did not wish to bring democracy to his comment sections. What would he be afraid of? I have been a long time Reddit user, and the up vote feature for comments works pretty well in my opinion. The community decides what comments are worth viewing and which are not. Perhaps Denton wishes to keep the power of censorship in the hands of his editors, where they can maintain their squeaky-clean image of high-integrity, high-quality, and high-intelligent writers (bazinga).
Gawker just posted a piece just on Monday asking its viewers to defeat Reddit on the TIME’s Most Influential Person of the Year and to up vote Zooey Deschanel, their current Hollywood obsession. I thought we were against any form of democracy on the Internet, eh Denton? The article starts off by saying, “The current leader [of the poll] is an employee of [the] insufferable geek fortress Reddit, propelled there by the hugely popular message board’s mindless horde. Fuck that.” They go on to call Erik Martin “Reddit’s chief babysitter.” What more should we expect though from a media network who seems to be run by a bunch of children itself though.
Is there anyone who really takes any of these sites seriously anymore? Of course not. In reality, the problem that Denton claims comment sections on the internet suffer from happens to be the exact same problem that his websites do: lack of intelligence.