Photo by Danny Wicentowski
"Don't read the comments." It is a truism as old as the Internet itself, one built on years of bad experiences and aimed at preserving the sanity of all online society. Just as we know that the Trolls are not to be fed, we have agreed that we must shield ourselves as a culture from the section just below the news article itself, for fear of the rot found within.
And yet, I fail to heed. I read the comments. I bear witness to the bleakest corners of the human mind, filtered through the anonymity of the flickering screen. It is a pointless but obsessive pull that drives me. There is no reward, no hope, no light within. Only suffocating, claustrophobic darkness.
This past Saturday, protesters and activists in support of the Black Lives Matter movement temporarily blocked the westbound lanes of Highway 40 (I-64) for approximately fifteen minutes, starting around 2 p.m. An estimated 200 people were involved in the blockade; police made no arrests.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the incident
. The comment section lit up quickly — at present the article itself has more than 400 comments, with many more populating the P-D
's Facebook page. All of the following posts you see below were posted publicly and were sourced from one of those two places.
Many of the commenters thought nothing of suggesting that inconvenienced drivers should have driven their vehicles through the crowd.
Some were quick to reference the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France, in which a man drove a truck into a crowd, killing 84 people and injuring 303. They seemed to like the cut of that man's jib:
(Please note that the above comment got 51 likes.)
Others reacted to the lead image the P-D
ran with the story, in which a group of protesters held up a sign that read "Our Ancestors Were Sold Here," hearkening to the days of slavery.
And of course, because this is the comment section, some simply spouted off abject, meaningless nonsense.
That last one, in case you missed it, is a joke about Martin Luther King Jr. being assassinated.
And so, as you can see, it remains just as true as ever that the comment sections of news articles should be avoided at all costs. And yet I find myself endlessly drawn back.
Since I so often read the comments, I already know the response this article is going to get. I expect to see the following words and phrases:
Bonus points for anyone that manages to incorporate all ten into one comment. I'll be counting, too — you know I'll be reading them.
Because, as always: I read the comments.