COMMENT has changed dramatically over the years – especially over the last few years.
When people sent Letters to the Editor, they usually commented on something that had already been in the newspaper. They were often vociferous, sometimes defamatory but usually within the bounds of reason.
Today, comment is out of control.
Thanks to social media and its anonymity, it feels like the nation has been freed from the shackles of decency and articulate speech. Now, anything goes.
Go on the website of any newspaper or magazine and expect to find badly-written, nasty and often amazingly rude posts by presumably all kinds of people. “Presumably” because they happily hide behind pen-names so they can rant and criticise as they never would if you met them face-to-face in the street.
These trolls seldom make a valid point, preferring to immediately get personal with a string of unpleasant words and usually finish with a threat.
Sometimes, unnervingly, they are very articulate and knowledgeable – but can’t resist ending in a threat or nasty personal comment. It’s as if the floodgates to comment of all kinds have finally opened and everyone who ever had a vile thought feels free to express it.
While I suppose it’s unhealthy to bottle up such intense, negative feelings, surely venting them regularly as some people do is equally bad for them?
It’s easy to imagine them sitting in front of their computers or iPads frothing at the mouth, eyes wild as they form vitriolic sentences. Do they feel better afterwards, now that they’ve vilified someone else for no reason?
Famous Guardian editor C P Scott once famously said that “Comment is free, facts are sacred”. Although fake news may make a mockery of the latter element of this quote, today’s faceless keyboard warriors make you seriously question the former.