Friday, January 20, 2006

Nasty Liberal Posts Cause Washington Post to Shut Down Blog Comments

When Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote a column where she pointed out that corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff directed money to both the Democratic and the Republican parties, readers didn’t like that.

As she explains, in a blog post that is still visible:
I’ve heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff “directed” contributions to both parties.

Lobbyists, seeking influence in Congress, often advise clients on campaign contributions. While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.

So what was so terrible about her saying that? Apparently, she didn’t direct the blame exclusively at Republicans.

According to an Associated Press dispatch:

The Washington Post shut down one of its blogs Thursday after the newspaper’s ombudsman raised the ire of readers by writing that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to the Democrats as well as to Republicans.

At the center of a congressional bribery investigation, Abramoff gave money to Republicans while he had his clients donate to both parties, though mostly to Republicans.

In her Sunday column, ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote that Abramoff “had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties,” prompting a wave of nasty reader postings on post.blog.

There were so many personal attacks that the newspaper’s staff could not “keep the board clean, there was some pretty filthy stuff,” and so the Post shut down comments on the blog, or Web log, said Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com.

“We’re not giving up on the concept of having a healthy public dialogue with our readers, but this experience shows that we need to think more carefully about how we do it,” Brady wrote on the newspaper’s Web site. “There are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech.”
Some of the comments are archived here, and here.

Brady gave more detail in a post on the paper’s blog:
I think it goes to basic human decency. You may not like Deborah Howell or her column from Sunday, but like you, she’s a human being. She shouldn’t have to read people publicly calling her a “b****” or a “wh***,” and we’re certainly not going to allow that on our site. Does anyone out there really think that adds anything to the discussion? If you need to use that language to make your point, I’m sorry, you don’t have one. You want to critique the column, go ahead. You want to say we we wrong, fire away. You want to call one of employees a “b****” and a “wh***,” you should go somewhere else.
This reminds us of the hate mail we are used to getting after appearances on Wisconsin Public Radio. The liberal callers always insist that “Bush lied” about weapons of mass destruction, and we always insist that Bush did not lie at all.

So the hate mail comes. It’s where liberalism is these days.

It’s not all liberals, of course, and it’s not even a majority of liberals. But it’s too many, and the more “moderate” Democrats are too willing to accept it.

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