Some might call this suppression of opposing views. The editorial board if the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a far more benevolent for its action. In an editorial titled “No comments. An experiment in elevating the conversation,” the editors write:
For the next two months, we are turning off the comment function on all editorials, columns and letters in the opinion section.
Last Sunday, we challenged our region to have the serious discussion on race that it has been avoiding for decades. Such difficult discussions are made more challenging when, just to present a thoughtful point of view, you have to endure vile and racist comments, shouting and personal attacks.
If you’ve watched many of the talking heads on cable television try to discuss the shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, you know what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, sometimes comments on newspaper stories and columns have a similar effect.
In fact, it has a name: “The nasty effect.”
They go on to take refuge behind a study cited by the New York Times that “concluded that ‘Much in the same way that watching uncivil politicians argue on television causes polarization among individuals, impolite and incensed blog comments can polarize online users.'”
On the one hand, suppressing unhealthy debate sounds like a positive goal. On the other, you find yourself asking, “Who gets to be the arbiter of what is healthy?”
There is also a danger in not allowing for an open marketplace of ideas, even when they fail to conform to a news organization’s ideological outlook or may seem offensive to some. Blogger Ami Horowitz created a video that demonstrates the danger in wrong-headed ideas that go unchallenged. [Caution: Extremely strong language used.]
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