Daniel Libit of The Politico warns of the escalating horror of blog commenters — they're a full-blown -ocracy now — and because he's no fool he leads with the following nasty threat of violence from those virtual pogromists at Daily Kos. Erick Erickson, editor of conservative blog RedState.com called Cindy Sheehan a "left-wing media whore," and next thing he knew, his his home and work number were posted by commenters at on the popular lefty blog. "Site moderators removed his information, but not before Erickson received a number of ominous phone calls and e-mail messages, including one from a writer who threatened to 'rape my wife and unborn child.'" In fairness, his wife and unborn child were taking indefensible positions on hipster gentrification in Brooklyn. But all is not chaos and bile in cyberspace. Savvy commenters get hired now, too.
Bill Harnsberger, who writes the Cheers & Jeers column for the site, started off as a commenter. Encouraged by other commenters' responses to his missives, he began occasionally writing diaries for the site, which does not pay contributors or limit who can contribute. He attracted a following so large that when he lost his job as a copy writer at a marketing company last September, readers got together and within one week collected enough money to pay him to write for Kos full time.
Good on him, but he's the exception on which scores of pseudononymous hopes depend. With the proliferation of comments comes the inattention the average reader of blogs can afford to pay to them. Huffington Post has 30 people on staff to weed through racist and conspiratorial lunacy around-the-clock. What happens when more are needed and it becomes a real budgetary issue? Commenters never police each other well (except you guys down below, you're like Athenians), and some bloggers like Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic have done away with feedback altogether because they're tetchy about "censoring" anyone. One of the more interesting things to happen in the great Future of the Web debate is at Andrew Sullivan's place. He asked his readers a while back whether or not they wanted comments. The majority said n'uh-uh, too distracting. Know hope, Erick Erickson. [Politico]