One of the places on the internet where I spend some time is in the comment threads on the Salt Lake Tribune website.
Most users choose screen names which give readers absolutely no clue as to who they really are. Anonymity emboldens many. They feel that the threads are a place where they can be free to behave in a rude manner with no social consequences, to blow off steam and make rash statements that would cause their family, friends, neighbors and associates to lose respect, if they were to openly act in such a way.
Personally, I question the premise that there is therapeutic value in throwing a tantrum.
If you have ever been a part of the Utah community, you already know this, but for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the predominant local culture, there is a very deeply ingrained sentiment that "contention is of the devil", and therefore must be avoided. As a result, by their silence and refusal to participate, those in the mainstream of Utah society have effectively handed this forum over to a small but unified, disgruntled minority, whose views are so extreme that they will never get anyone representing their ideas elected into public office. Thus these people feel disenfranchised, angry, and in need of a means to communicate their grievances to the world.
At first glance, those who dominate the Trib comments may sound like liberal Democrats. Keep reading. Liberal Democrats are uneasy about being labeled Socialists, these people openly embrace the term and rail against capitalism, rejecting it in it's entirety. Liberal Democrats have a wide diversity of views on matters of faith, these people are unified behind a position that religion is harmful to humanity and that God does not exist. Liberal Democrats pride themselves on their compassion, these people scream just as loudly as the worst right-wing reactionary for criminals to be severely punished, often advocating dispensing with trial and adopting the cruel and unusual practices of foreign countries. Liberal Democrats stand for personal freedom, these people want the public closely watched, especially while driving on the road, to make sure that we're not doing anything unsafe. The fact that any story about traffic safety will always prompt a flood of complaints that the Utah Vehicle Code is not tough enough, nor enforced enough, demonstrates that as long as the nannystate isn't pushing morality, these people are all for it. After following the comments a short while, it should be clear what those who dominate them actually represent: far left-wing radicalism.
When I comment, I use my real first and last name. My goal in posting, giving thumbs up, and giving thumbs down, is to play what small part I can in offsetting the dominance this fringe element currently holds over that forum. Hopefully others will do likewise, and as our numbers grow, eventually we can make that forum more representative of the views of this state's mainstream.
Make no mistake about it, these people hurt Utah. Their nasty remarks are being read outside of the state, and conclusions about Utah are being drawn from them. Most of us want tourism, want families to move here, and want business owners to relocate or expand their companies here. Our biggest obstacle is the horrible reputation Utah has nationally. I've lived here since 1993, and I can attest to the fact that the rumors I have heard being passed around out of state, perpetuating this negative image, are largely inaccurate. Those on the left would like you to believe that life in a conservative community is repressive. As I continue this blog, I will set the record straight on claims that Utah is a place of stifling morality.
I may occasionally use links to this blog, rather than cutting and pasting large excerpts from it, so dear reader, if the opinions I have shared so far have intrigued you, and you plan to come back, you may find some heated exchanges.
I have one thing to say to those who come here from the Trib to challenge me, bring it! I'm up for the fight, and I will not enable comment moderation. If people try to flood me with cut-and-pasted material that they did not author, I will disregard and delete it, but any cursing and insults will be left up, as a testament to the mentality of those responsible for them.
Added 23 Feb 2011 - Since I wrote this entry, the Tribune has changed the system for leaving comments twice. The present only displays 10 at a time (this is fixed and there is no option to select display other than 10 at a time), and it shows reply trees in a way that is not easy to follow. The good news is that since it is tedious to read, the filth that pervades that forum is less likely to be read. The bad news is that with fewer people trying to participate, the old diehards committed to using the comments as a weapon to disparage and undermine The State of Utah, The LDS Church, and anything/anyone on the political right, hold an even stronger position of dominance.
The bitter, nasty tone of the comments is at an all time low, to the point where I'm questioning whether challenging it is even still necessary. Sometimes the hateful motives and faulty reasoning of those with malicious intentions needs to be exposed, sometimes it is readily apparent to any reasonable person.