My goodness, there’s a lot of shite talked on the Internet!
Of course, there are websites where important information and clever discourse are shared, but alas, they are few and far between. Most of what the Internet shares is neither big nor clever, but rather the kind of bollocks that comes out of the mouth of Jonny Chav after a night of drinking Special Brew and kicking the shit out of someone’s granny.
There’s no better place to see this ignorance in action than in the Comments section of pretty much every site on the web, regardless of the publisher’s own purpose. If you don’t believe me, spend a quarter of an hour browsing a few. Take the bullets out of your gun before you do, though, because you’re likely to have lost the will to live within minutes of reading.
I was really hoping when President Obama came into office promising to change our world for the better that he’d be able to clean up the Internet. However, I appreciate that he’s got to have priorities, which explains why he’s not gotten to it just yet (but not why he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay). Until it’s all sorted, I propose some basic rules about making comments on the web. I, of course, do not control the world (yet), so at this point, please consider them suggestions rather than requirements. I suppose I am appealing to people’s common sense, which I know is problematic as not all people possess common sense (I need look no further than my publisher’s recent edit suggestions to know this—absolutely outrageous!), but we’ve got to start somewhere.
1. If you feel a strong reaction to the piece you’ve just read, consider who wrote it. If they are a twat, do not write a comment. Twats will never learn, no matter how reasoned your argument may be. Instead of trying to right the wrong through an Internet thread, go out and actually try to right the wrong. You probably won’t accomplish any real progress, but you might meet some new people and/or get some sun on that pasty face of yours.
2. If you feel a strong reaction to the comments about a piece you’ve just read, do not write a comment. Firstly, there apparently exist some people who say upsetting things on comment threads just to rile or hurt others. In a civilised society, these people would either be locked up or employed as pastors in Florida. Don’t engage with them. If you think a person genuinely believes the upsetting things they’ve written in their comment, they are most likely a twat (see #1).
3. If you do not already possess some knowledge of the topic being discussed, do not write a comment. Instead go learn more about the topic. There are laws (or if there aren’t, there should be) which prevent two-year-olds from walking into an oncology conference and taking the podium to make claims about the latest bone marrow transplant breakthroughs—offering up an uninformed opinion on a comment thread is equally useless (and will confirm to others that you still make poo poo in your diaper). If you think you already possess some knowledge of the topic being discussed, be pretty damn sure before you write anything. If you feel compelled to use phrases like “My mate told me. . .” or “I think I read somewhere that . . . ” you probably don’t know enough about the topic to contribute to a worthwhile discussion. This isn’t a criticism (well, it kind of is); but seriously, it just makes sense.
4. Godwin’s Law proposes that all Internet debates will eventually lead to someone making a comparison involving Nazis and therefore the debate becomes null and void. Sadly, this is likely and not restricted to Internet-only disagreements. The new protocol is that unless a person can appropriately and critically explain all of Hitler’s political ideology (and no, being able to recite Mein Kampf word-for-word is not the same thing), they are prohibited from references to Nazism.
5. In the same vein, do not include any word or phrase in your comment that you cannot properly define. Particularly tricky terms include (but aren’t limited to) socialism, political correctness, middle class, immigrant, right, wrong, freedom and your.
If you’ve followed these guidelines and still really want to make a comment, go ahead and write one. Write the best, most brilliant comment ever written. But don’t hit submit. Instead consider how much time you’ve just spent at the computer. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Don’t waste what’s left of your life making a mockery of the art of intelligent conversation on a global stage. Use your time more wisely.
And if you still want your comment to appear on the Internet, I can’t stop you. But realise it probably means you are a twat. Or a Nazi. Or both.