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Another reason to police comments

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013

* A recent study of 1,183 Americans looked at what happened to their viewpoints when they were exposed to rude online comments

Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a $91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.”

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn’t a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.

* Why this happens

Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the “rational” thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one’s emotions, the “thinking” process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one’s identity and preexisting beliefs.

* The consequences

In the golden oldie days of media, newspaper articles were consumed in the context of…other newspaper articles. But now, adds Scheufele, it’s like “reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it.”

And some newspaper owners wonder why they should spend the time to police their online comment sections. Sheesh.

By the way, I think the same sort of thing applies to cable TV screamers. But unlike random reader comments, the cable TV people do this in a calculated way to reinforce the mindsets of their targeted audiences by getting people to stop thinking. Cable TV “news” rots your brain. And so, apparently, do rude blog comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


48 Comments
  1. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 12:50 pm:

    I was going to post a link to that study yesterday Rich, but it was behind a pay wall.

    Policing comments is very hard work. You have to take the time to read all them, all of the time, without fail. That’s why so few blogs bother with policing, and yet as we see here everyday, it’s so worth the effort.

    Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Thanks again Rich for keeping an open comment section and policing it with consistent standards of behavior.


  2. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 12:54 pm:

    That’s why I read and blog here. It’s also why my news/talk listening has become almost exclusively NPR. No shouting, just calm discussions with multiple points of view and critical questioning.


  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 12:58 pm:

    I believe it’s known in some circles as the “Duffy Effect”.


  4. - Kerfuffle - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:00 pm:

    There is so much name calling going on in posts and in the media. The pundits on Fox News, MSN, and MSNBC should all take this poll to heart as it certainly applies to them as well. Name calling is for people who can’t express their thoughts in a meaningful way.


  5. - John A Logan - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:02 pm:

    Passions are inflamed because the issues are important. Just because a discussion is “calm” does not mean its superior.


  6. - Richard Afflis - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:07 pm:

    Absolutely agree with comments above. When I look at comments on newspaper websites, all too often, the level of venom, stupidity and spam is unacceptable. I would like to see other other news outlets police their comment sections more.
    I truly appreciate not only the level of dialogue. on Capitol. Fax, but also the monitoring of the comments to provide a quality product.
    Thank you Rich!


  7. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:08 pm:

    I hereby second 47th Ward & Pot calling Kettle. Hear, hear!

    btw, my favorite new game is watching Rich play “spot the Schock sock puppet” on CapFax.

    It’s crazy how Rich wins every time.


  8. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:17 pm:

    This is why I come back here. It’s the only place I know of where I can read comments from people I may not agree with, but I can see their point.


  9. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:17 pm:

    Oh, and I forgot to say all tv news rots your brain, not just cable news.


  10. - Paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:19 pm:

    Comments are never worth reading with 2 exceptions: (1) Capitol Fax and (2) the Onion AV Club.


  11. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:24 pm:

    From the quote,

    “Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second.”

    This ain’t just limited to blogs. I think this is sums up the very heart of effective political communication, which is a meme Frank Luntz always talks about.


  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:26 pm:

    Howard Beale would be shocked by cable TV news.


  13. - wizard - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    Although their comments are usually well thought out, Wordslinger and Small Town Liberal seem to use personal and degrading attacks on those that disagree (not saying those that disagree are correct though).


  14. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 1:53 pm:

    Wizard, with all due respect, I disagree. There is a big difference between challenging someone’s assertions and launching a “personal and degrading” attack. I’ve seen the former from Word, STL and many others here, but I don’t often see the latter, especially coming from them.

    Those who comment here regularly expect to be challenged from time to time. In most cases, they defend their points. That’s a normal and appropriate part of the give and take. If you leave a comment here, especially one that is provocative, expect it to be challenged.

    Remember, there is a difference between attacking what some says vs. attacking them for who they are.


  15. - Irish - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    I agree with most above comments. Rich runs a top notch blog and the commenters that frequent this blog are for the most part the best I’ve read. I learn a lot from Rich, but I also learn just as much from the commenters. Even those who I disagree with. I don’t read any other blogs. I’ve tried, can’t do it.
    I would go a step further and say that there are very few people who I will listen to on any TV news report, News show, political news show, or even most sports shows. I have found the best way for me to regulate my blood pressure is to avoid any news commentary, shut the debates off immediately when the candidates are done, listen to only what is reported and then to turn down the volume when the “heads” start telling me what to think, and to keep the TV on mute whenever I watch a sporting event.

    I don’t take these measures because I don’t want to listen to opposing views. I do it because I abhor people who insinuate that I have the intelligence of a gnat. Mindless drivel has no point.


  16. - BMAN - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    it is unfortunate when a person makes rude online comments. Doing so effectivly mitigates any valid point made. Still a person took time respond; if only an inane comment - ignore it. otherwise separate the wheat from the chaff find out what the message is really about.


  17. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    You can be passionate about your position without being rude, insulting or cruel. I learn more from those who challenge and disagree with me, so I appreciate when they are polite and patient with me. The commenters here excel at these goals.


  18. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:10 pm:

    Rich does a great job watching comments. I wish someone would tell newspapers to do the same.

    As a resident of Springfield, I cringe to think someone considering locating to the area would ever read the comments the SJR allows people to post. Reading them would convince most people Springfield residents are the most uninformed, small minded, right wing nuts on the planet.

    Seems every comment on the SJR will at some point blame anything and everything on Obama, Quinn, the City of Chicago or Democrats.


  19. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:22 pm:

    I admit to reading Facebook (a lot), but during this past election, my opinion of a LOT of local people has gone down a BUNCH. If you don’t agree with them, you are @#$%^, and they don’t hesitate to tell you so, even if you have known them all of your life. Capfax is usually pretty civil, but Rich does allow some lee way (I’ve been deleted, but not banned, thank you); this is the only blog I read…


  20. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:22 pm:

    A casual comparison of this blog and others at the Trib or Sun-Times highlights the reality. There is no constant presence on those other sites. It is clear from the postings that many feel free to be degrading and highly crude in their attacks. In addition, very little intellectual rigor is involved. Boring.

    I have been called on my comments from time to time. I may not agree with Rich’s view but appreciate the challenge nonetheless.


  21. - Duh - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:27 pm:

    But now, adds Scheufele, it’s like “reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it.”

    So don’t read the comments then. Duh.


  22. - zatoichi - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:30 pm:

    My brother lives for Fox and Rush. For him, they are the one true way. Cap Fax has consistently been place to see reasonable arguements for/against some idea that you may have never considered before. Along with really nice, thought-out snark. Over all a good place for some fun education.


  23. - Anon - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:31 pm:

    That’s right …no one here would call someone they disagreed with “uninformed, small minded, right wing nuts” … right?


  24. - Caveman - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:35 pm:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with most of the comments about this blog. As a conservative, I never have felt my input was useful because the majority of commenters are opposing (liberal)views. Occasionally, responses are rude. But I keep returning because there is valuable information on state government/politics on this site which cannot be found elsewhere. And Rich has my thanks for that. But I also think his policing is very subjective. Just for fun I looked at yesterday’s “The Failure List” and comments. Rich told one commenter “don’t be an idiot”, and another to “Bite us”. Just saying…..


  25. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:39 pm:

    Anyone who believes this research is stupid, and the comments are just ignorant.

    Just kidding.

    Really Rich, just kidding.


  26. - Shemp - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:44 pm:

    The results don’t surprise me, but I am glad to see someone looked into them. That said, this blog has a generally good reputation, but I do think there are a few “regulars” here that seem to let their opinions turn into condescending attacks when dissenting opinions arise.

    I get that this is a more educated crowd than most when it comes to Illinois politics, but being a local level technocrat, I get a bit tired of seeing the defense of the indefensible here myself. I don’t feel I need to be an expert in back room dealings to call a spade a spade when it comes to dealing with the results.


  27. - SirLankselot - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 2:45 pm:

    This blog is the only one which I read the comments because the posts are heated yet well argued, and after two years of reading, I decided to jump in.


  28. - capncrunch - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:04 pm:

    -anon- @ 2:31 Very astute observation.

    I also think a computer screen and a keyboard can make some meek and mild mannered folks sound aggressive and bellicose.


  29. - IrishPirate - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:04 pm:

    Thppppt!

    There I feel better.

    The only blogs or newspaper type sites that have successful comments sections are the ones that “moderate” them. If they’re not moderated the supertrolls soon take over and make the whole comments section worthless.

    That’s a lesson that the Chicago Reader is finally learning after years of having their comments sections dominated by eejits.

    On a national level The Atlantic and some of their columnists have great moderated comments sections.

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/


  30. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:06 pm:

    Two things

    One, Rich can tell you that even the most balanced blogger goes off the rails. He is a key reason anyone here sounds sane-he edits out our insanity.

    Two, blogging bullies rob all of us of an opportunity to here real honest emotional responses. There is no reason to comment on any posting with which you disagree to the point of insulting their intelligence. Bad opinions are ignorable. Really bad opinions are Mr. Miller’s to handle.

    There have been a few too blogger-equivalents of Simon Cowell here, relishing chances to insult folks whose only apparent crime was supporting a political position unfashionable to the self annointing CapFax judges.

    I tired of them a year ago, and dropped out. It hard to add to a discussion honestly when there is a small group of hecklers twisting your every intended comment.

    I like you people. I like entertaining you. But I’m sure that I am not the only person tired of ducking rotten tomatoes by bloggers who only seem to use you as target practice for their new latest spew insults.

    Remember the poor geeks who used their wit and debating skills only to express their frustrations at being seen by their peers as dweebs and losers?

    Don’t be them. Be nice.


  31. - Crime Fighter - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:30 pm:

    =”I get a bit tired of seeing the defense of the indefensible here myself.”=

    Take it easy Shemp - Somebody has to be a voice for the administration and the repugnant “Illinois Way”. :)


  32. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:31 pm:

    I have to agree with Give Me a Break’s post about the SJR online comments, but that doesn’t trouble me as much as how far the newspaper’s letters-to-the editor section has sunk in recent months. Just about every week or so, the paper will print a letter that ends up calling some political group or official a “communist.” This isn’t the end of the world, but it doesn’t do much to promote civic discourse and just reinforces the political polarization in this country.


  33. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 3:50 pm:

    Some of you are a bit unclear on the concept.

    We don’t have to sing kumbaya here. And if you are an uninformed, loudmouthed extremist you’re gonna be called out by somebody. That’s the way it goes.

    This is a blog for the big boys and girls. Those who don’t understand the topics beyond sloganeering usually get what they deserve. But that’s usually done with some panache. A Wordslinger takedown is really something to behold.

    And yes I advised somebody yesterday not to be an idiot. But the guy was being an idiot and needed to stop. And I defended the honor of my commenters by telling someone to “bite us.”

    There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy, informed aggression here. There’s a line though and if u don’t know where it is u shouldn’t try to cross it.


  34. - Crime Fighter - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 4:15 pm:

    =”informed aggression=”
    A possibility for a new blogger name.


  35. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 4:30 pm:

    - Crime Fighter - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 4:15 pm:

    “=”informed aggression=”
    A possibility for a new blogger name.”

    Or a rock band. (h/t Dave Barry)


  36. - Bemused - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 4:42 pm:

    So Cable “News” rots your brain. Who knew? All this time I blamed Recreational Pharmaceuticals!
    Cable News sounds better.
    Wait a minute, I don’t watch that crap.
    Never mind.


  37. - Soccer tease - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 4:58 pm:

    Listened to Jamey Johnson’s music long before Rich made him cool. No relation to Soccer Mom.


  38. - Rod - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 5:00 pm:

    Clearly Rich has been required to do much more watching of comments with how intense the gun control issues have become. I agree that people who openly threaten governments based on their perception of violation of 2nd amendment rights have probably crossed the line.

    I also think that open slander of politicans should not be allowed. There is a difference between slander and harsh criticism that has some basis in reality. I have rarely seen this happen on this blog, generally comments are restrained.

    I can’t say that for the blasting that is going on right now in relation to President Obama’s gun control proposals on many news blogs. It is going like this - you are an f-ing gun nut - no Obama is an SOB that will invade my home to search for guns. These are very good and informed discussions indeed.


  39. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 5:10 pm:

    Agreed that Rich has made this blog something quite unique.

    Another good place for civil, thoughtful dialogue is POTUS (124) on SiriusXM.


  40. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 5:21 pm:

    ===Bad opinions are ignorable.===

    VM, I’m glad you’re back. One of the reasons I often feel compelled to respond to your comments is that we’re writing here, not speaking. The comments we leave in pixelated form endure in the archives for ages. It is hard to ignore that. Some young minds read this blog for information and if there is some outrageous statement in the comments that goes unchallenged, it’s as if we all agree with it.

    Sorry, but I find it hard to resist the urge to present a counter-argument. Someday historians will be combing through Rich’s archives, writing the definitive story of Illinois politics at the dawn of the new millennium. I want to be sure they get it right.


  41. - amalia - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 5:30 pm:

    wow, I wonder if the many super sexist creeps I face on another blog understand the truth of that study.

    my experience elsewhere in the blog world makes me add my “name” to the list of those who appreciate the CapFax forum. policing the site may be quite difficult at times….witness your yesterday, Rich….but it is much appreciated. I’ve tried describing CapFax to those who denigrate blogs, and those who post, as a challenging “room” in which to share thoughts. an intellectual forum. it’s a very good kind of challenging.


  42. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 5:54 pm:

    As someone not “in the politics business” I would miss a lot of nuance about what is really going on in Illinois without this terrific blog. I certainly would not know much from reading either of the big papers in Chicago or watching pathetic local TV news pretty much anywhere in the state. Of particular interest to me are the side bar headers and topic headlines and links which often send me off scurrying for additional info.

    Most of the comments I read here are good, insightful, and often funny due to Rich’s challenging and eagle eye posts. My impression (FWIW) is that Rich does typically give long time commenters, buddies, and those he philosophically agrees with, more and greater latitude with respect to their language, mocking and insulting/rude pushback than he generally abides with others –and that may discourage some people newer to the blog from commenting. But it’s his blog!

    Really my only two big pet peeves with commenters here are those who are so obviously paid PR shills with tired talking points, that even 12 year olds could notice and roll their eyes. There’s a lot of that here, even though Rich does attempt to police it. Try to up your game, people! I also detest the attitudes of the ugly partisan commenters on both left and right who unfortunately do go out of their way to insult and ridicule those they disagree with. An especially noxious example is when a commenter says something like, “you really should get someone besides Rush Limbaugh leading the Republican Party and telling you how to think and what to do” — or– “maybe if you didn’t get all your “news” from cable hatemongers like Schultz and Al Sharpton you could understand the issue better.” I’m not saying these exact quotes ever appeared on Cap Fax, but long time readers will certainly recognize that quite similar contemptuous ad homs have been put out as zingers when the commenter apparently has nothing of value to contribute or any real argument to make. The problem with this approach is, of course, that probably the vast majority of serious people who use this blog never even listen to Limbaugh, or watch Schultz or Sharpton or MSNBC. But they reinforce stereotypes of the opposition that can tamp down rather than aid discourse.

    Sorry to be so long winded so late in the day. I really like this blog and most of the commenters, Rich. You perform a valuable service. Thanks.


  43. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 6:26 pm:

    ===This is a blog for the big boys and girls. Those who don’t understand the topics beyond sloganeering usually get what they deserve. But that’s usually done with some panache. A Wordslinger takedown is really something to behold.===

    Amen! That is what is so great, and I hope this never ever changes.


  44. - park - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 6:44 pm:

    I agree with VM


  45. - iThink - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 8:25 pm:

    ===Rich does a great job watching comments. I wish someone would tell newspapers to do the same. ===

    I agree one-thousand percent. The commenters found at the Trib can be down right vile at times, to say nothing about the general lack of empathy. You would think they would have someone clean it up.

    Just an observation - when the Herald had free on-line content, the commenters were amongst the most hateful I have ever read (along with the spam). When they went paid access, it cleaned a lot of it out; says something about those folks I suppose.


  46. - RNUG - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 8:53 pm:

    I would add one thing to Responda’s comments. You can push the line a bit further with Rich if you are funny while doing so …


  47. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Jan 16, 13 @ 9:23 pm:

    The comment sections of the Trib, Sun-Times, etc. are like a bad car accident — they are horrendous but sometimes you can’t stop yourself from looking.


  48. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jan 17, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    47th,
    When we post, we present our opinions. When we counter argue, we may choose to either clarify our position or directly address it’s perceived weakness as suggested by another blogger. Your opinion is not enhanced with personal insults. Name calling is something our best debater throughout history did not employ daily. Insulting other indicates an inferior argument. Name calling weakens counter arguments.

    Dialogue suggests speaking and listening. Too often I and others have been bullied by some regulars who think that they know both, the right position to take, and the wrong way to take it - hence they DO NOT LISTEN.

    You do not know the number of times I have been attacked for posting I DID NOT MAKE or assumptions I DO NOT HAVE because you guys are not listening or reading counter arguments. Where is the good in those wasted postings.

    I don’t know how history will read these postings, but as a guy who often reads primary source materials, I can assure you that good ones will enjoy an ignorant rant, but will not enjoy an uninformed bullying in response to it.

    It is more fun to hear a sincere blurt from a naive mind, than a rude “shut up”, or “insult to humanity” I read just this past week from blogger feeling am obligation to set a record “right” as they so perceived it.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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* Daily fantasy sports betting bill shelved amid lobbying accusation
* Rep. Butler: Should have been in session Saturday, too
* Madigan polling House members to determine support for Rauner's 'turnaround agenda'
* Butler: Should have been in session Saturday, too
* Automatic voter registration measure delayed for changes
* Election-year politics dim hopes of Illinois budget deal
* Illinois legislature meets in rare Sunday session
* Our View: CWLP should focus on stability, not minor rebate
* Bernard Schoenburg: Rauner stresses state's problems, but there is some good news


* Video: Where Am I? May 30, 2016
* Where Am I? May 30, 2016
* No one injured in Champaign house fire
* Cubbie Conversation: May 30, 2016
* Podcast: Ann Rhoton 05/30/16
* Those Who Served: UI student who spent 2 tours in Afghanistan would 'do it all over again'
* State trooper performs taps out of sense of service, honor
* Top of the morning, May 30, 2016
* Chuck's Classics: "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944)
* IDOT planning upgrade for I-57/I-74 interchange


* Switzerland picks 3 teenagers in final Euro 2016 squad
* For Memorial Day, new stamps showing Service Cross Medals
* Mexican soccer player Alan Pulido rescued after kidnapping
* Saudi human rights activist sentenced to 8 years in prison
* 22-year-old central Illinois man dies in dirt bike accident

* House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
* Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
* The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
* Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
* Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
* CBD Oil, and politics
* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Senator Durbin Statement on TSA Security D......

* Defence sales: US Senate may vote to bring......

* Happy Memorial Day
* 11 states sue over federal transgender bathrooms. Illinois not one of them.
* Ronald Reagan Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery 1986
* What is a supermajority for?
* Friday’s school funding and special education legislative update. Five days to go.
* Halabi looks at the UFT numbers. “Didn’t show up” won.
* Live From The Drive
* Biking The Drive This Morning
* The Claypool rule.
* “The high school win is a crack in the glass ceiling that keeps Unity caucus in power.”


* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact




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