The Billings Gazette, a Montana newspaper, has decided to remove the comments section from its online edition.
Darrell Ehrlick, the editor of the paper, triumphantly declared that “beginning Tuesday, we’re turning off comments,” allowing the commenters “two days to talk about how stupid this column is… as a parting gift.”
Ehrlick described the comments section in his paper as akin to “a barfight [full of] insults about nothing” and a “graffiti wall… [just] a place for people to write offensive things for others to see later.”
“For every good, thoughtful, insightful comment there were dozens of them trying to identify a victim of sexual assault,” Erhlick continued. “Our comment filter set to catch obscenities and epithets was set at 421, with new permutations added almost every day. It was a testament to human ingenuity, and a horrible use of the symbols @ and $.”
Erhlick was adamant in maintaining that “we want to talk with our readers. We want community conversations. We need honesty, if not pointed feedback. That’s what makes democracy and the Fourth Estate run.”
However, Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos has warned in the past about the shut down of comment sections online, pointing out that “journalists are pretending their readers are abusers and harassers and trolls, when actually their readers are just mocking them and picking up on their factual errors and calling them out for their terrible politics.”
This seemed to be the case with the examples of the “venomous” comments that Ehrlick provided in his piece. There was no “abuse” to be seen, only jibes at Democrats “who are really socialists… [but who don’t] admit it,” and calling Ehrlick an “idiot with a podium,” among others.
In response to the editorial, Milo told Breitbart Tech, “At precisely the time the media should be examining why the public holds journalism in contempt, these smug wankers are retreating into their ivory towers, mischaracterising ridicule and criticism as ‘abuse’ and ‘harassment’ and refusing to learn any lessons from the last ten years. The media has been lying to and about people for decades. Now we have the power to hold them to account — and they don’t like it one bit!”
Jack Hadfield is a student at the University of Warwick and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @ToryBastard_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.