Online comment: revenge of the idiots?

online comments, Georgia Straight, Vancouver theatre, Ronnie Burkett, Virtual Stage, the Arts Club, The Daisy Theatre

Toronto mayor Rob Ford is an idiot, but many of the people who comment on straight.com aren’t.

I was all prepared to write a rant about the sorry state of online commenting. I was going to tie it into Rob Ford and the general decline in public discourse. But—you know what?—in the theatre section of straight.com, the state on online commentary ain’t so bad. 

Occasionally, somebody leaves a remark that gets right up my nose. When I enthusiastically reviewed Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre in December, for instance, an individual who goes by the name Patina commented: “Every year and another Ronnie Burkett show gets another rave from Colin Thomas. I wonder who’s pulling his strings.”

That comment is misinformed as well as insulting. Reviewing Burkett’s Penny Plain, his previous offering here, I said that he is a genius maker and manipulator of marionettes, but I also said, “his story fails”, and spent most of the review examining that failure. If you’re going to insult me, at least have something to back it up.

Patina’s comment pissed me off. But 27 out of 31 folks gave that comment a thumbs down. So somebody is paying attention. And other commenters came to my defence.

I appreciate it very much when astute commenters take others to task. Someone who calls him- or herself Hazlit just can’t stop chiming in about my reviews on straight.com. I find Hazlit’s postings condescending—and not just to me. When Hazlit used my slam of It’s Snowing on Saltspring to moan about Vancouver theatre in general and the Arts Club in particular, commenters Shawn, Kaye, and TRUTH Bomb all mounted succinct arguments, correcting Hazlit’s facts and inviting him or her to adopt a more adventuresome and less arrogant stance.

I also appreciate it when commenters challenge me with respectful and well-reasoned arguments. Because of persuasive online response to my review of Virtual Stage’s Broken Sex Doll, I changed my review and got that change made in time to make it into the hard copy.

I still wish that online comments weren’t anonymous, and I wish that they were more carefully selected. (On straight.com, a threat to physically injure me made it online, although it was removed as soon as I complained.) But I’ve got to admit that the general state of online commentary isn’t nearly as bad as I think it is when somebody like Patina or Hazlit yanks my chain.

 

 

 

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Comments

  1. In my experience, the comments section of the internet generally displays the worst of humanity and often leaves me feeling incredibly distraught and depressed with the state of the world. However, I also read and contribute to comments sections on sites where comments are monitored and where trollers are banned, and I find these sites to be insightful and often uplifting. There will always be cowards who want to hurt and destroy others while hiding behind their online personas. But if we can find a way to get rid of these comments without censoring peoples’ genuine opinions and stopping good discourse, I am all for it. I am glad that the comments sections of the Georgia Straight’s art reviews encourage readers to discuss art. And I am even glad that you, Colin, allow yourself see different perspectives about a piece and allow it to influence your first impressions. However, I wish that you had allowed more discourse when it came to Broken Sex Doll before changing your opinion. As a woman, I found the piece incredibly sexist and offensive, and I could have given you a whole list of reasons why, but I didn’t have the chance before you had your piece published.

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