Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mean Spirits

A few months ago, during the lead-up to the Super Bowl (and for a brief time thereafter), I talked some trash on this blog about the Steelers, mainly because I'm not much of a football fan and I got pretty sick of hearing about football 24-7. Actually, I criticized the fans rather than the players. But at no time do I recall wishing death, dismemberment, or other serious misfortune on anyone.

In the wake of Ben Roethlisberger's terrible accident the other day, people all around Pittsburgh and the world beyond felt bad about the quarterback's physical injuries. Others -- mostly fans of rival football teams, which kind of illustrates the point that I was trying to make earlier this year about football fans -- celebrated. The Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette spoke to a professional about the anger, hatred and glee expressed by the anti-Roethlisberger community:

Dr. Paul Friday, the director of clinical psychology at UPMC Shady Side, said the posters of these comments are people with psychological problems whose brains never fully developed.
So the newspaper needs an expert to tell us, in a clinical manner, that these people are idiots. Lovely.

"The people who are blogging in Cincinnati, they're the ones whose brains never fully develop," Friday said. "They don't perspectivize human tragedy. They don't learn to think effectively. These people are not normal. We're talking about a fringe element. We're dealing with the screaming people who are venting. These are elements that are not representative of their communities. They are representatives of their own minds."
And, if you are a psychologist, they are good for business. But it's not just the people in Cincinnati who have problems.

Friday said posters on Internet message boards hide behind their keyboards and write things they would never have the courage to say aloud in public. He said posters who write tasteless messages use football and the rivalries between teams as a way of getting out their aggression in a non-violent manner. It's not necessarily a new phenomenon, just one that is more evident because of the instant communication that is available via the Internet.
Suddenly this is not just about football rivalries; it's about anonymous blogging in general. You can substitute, for instance, "politics" for "football" in the above excerpt and the message comes across just as clearly. Saying things in public that we normally reserve for blogging would be obnoxious. Blogs aren't right there, in your face, yelling at you. No one is forcing you to read them. People need to seek them on the internet to read what's on them. The psychologist gives much more credit to anonybloggers than we deserve.

One may well wonder what he must make of the Federalist Papers and that nut case with the pseudonym "Publius".

And, in an unrelated topic, elsewhere in this morning's Moist-Towelette, an editorial on legislative shenanigans in Harrisburg includes this delightful gem:

There's criticism from Common Cause Pennsylvania in a three-page list that shows how the Perzel bill copies two others already awaiting action in the House. Except his bill has lost more teeth than Big Ben Roethlisberger.
It's not spiteful, but it is tasteless and insensitive. I thought these editorial writers held themselves to higher standards than bloggers. On the other hand, these editorials are anonymous, available on the internet, and often express spite and anger -- just like us. The only substantial difference between an internet blogger and a newspaper editorialist is that they get paid for what they write, and we don't.

I'm in the wrong line of work.

1 comment:

jipzeecab said...

Mainstream media and blogger alike all go for the cheap laugh!
I don't remember the PG complaining about the tasteless commenting which appeared on Western PA sports blogs when the Bengals QB Carson Palmer was injured in the playoff game last January..