’s Commenters Are More Vile Than You Think

Why the online comments section of the city’s biggest news site is so unbelievably toxic.

There is a lot of offensive commentary on—cranky diatribes, ad hominem attacks on other commenters. But the bulk is racially charged, if not straight-up stone-cold racist. The infamy of’s race-baiting extends far beyond the city limits: Much like Philly sports fans, the comments section at has a well-earned national rep for being among the worst of the worst—which, when you read the bile in the comments sections of other newspapers, is really saying something.

The Daily News’s Will Bunch has weathered his share of abusive comments on Attytood, his popular left-leaning blog. He thinks the endemic racism of so many commenters is merely a 21st-century extension of the fear-based racial animus that’s been dividing, and depleting, the city since the 1950s.

“In Philadelphia, you have this whole city-vs.-suburban thing,” he says. “Over the course of a couple of generations, we’ve gone from a city of two million people and kind of smaller suburbs to white flight and ballooning suburbs populated by a lot of people who used to live in the city and are still rationalizing why they left. You know: ‘We left to get away from those animals, those savages,’ or whatever. It’s hard to believe that 60 years later, it’s still being fought out. It’s not being fought out in the streets anymore. It’s being fought in the comments section.”


The unceasing deluge of septic dialogue—as many as 10 people a day are banned from ever posting again—has taken a psychic toll on staffers. “We were very proud of the journalism that the Inquirer and Daily News were producing,” says one former Philly.commer. “To have that constantly undermined by people being assholes on our website every day, day after day, was soul-crushing.”

More than a hundred years after W.E.B. Du Bois published The Philadelphia Negro, a pioneering sociological study of the city’s African-Americans, race relations here—at least as reflected on the message boards—don’t appear to have come very far. The sad truth is that is merely holding up a mirror. Neither Interstate General Media, which currently owns the Inquirer, the Daily News and, nor Lexie Norcross, the daughter of Interstate co-owner and political kingmaker George Norcross, and the woman who oversees, would agree to be interviewed for this piece—ironic in a story about commenting. Through a spokesperson, the company did offer vague promises that it would be unveiling a new “comments experience” in the coming months that will rid the site of the malignant verbiage catalogued here.

Maybe they’ll pull up the drawbridge—turn off reader commentary altogether. Ironically, this is exactly the course of action that super-commenter Jim Dolan advocates in his darkest hours, when the nattering nabobs of negativity finally break his irrepressible will to comment—something he has done, by his own calculation, more than 400 times over the past dozen years.

“The comments section is a love/hate thing for me, because there are times when it just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth about what Philadelphia is about,” says the 53-year-old Havertown native and IT professional, who now resides in Apopka, Florida. “It could be the happiest story in the world and somebody always has something negative to say. Even though I comment all the time, some days I wish there was no comments section.”

He’s not alone in wishing for that—or for a more constructive dialogue that might actually move the city forward. From last February:


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Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Ms. Lu’s Twin Sista’

    They censor thoughts. That’s not good. That is un-American.

  • Joshua Speed is run by loser 20-something Know Nothings who know next to nothing about journalism. People post horrible things there because they HATE

  • Joshua Speed

    In other words, few people take seriously.

  • Marsha Goldstein

    I agree, is bad journalism, sensationalistic and immature, loser mentality all the way, and the censorship is disgusting.

  • Lester_From_Lester

    I agree with this piece.

    One time a couple months back I posted a comment under a Business story on the topic of leasing in the Inquirer about how I just gotten an awesome deal on a Love Seat at Rent A Center. I got this gorgeous white pleather piece for just $49 a month on a 60 month rental contract, I was thrilled, this thing would have cost me like $825 bucks new, and it looked perfect in my trophy room next to my life sized, #3 Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator” Fathead Decal, the closet shrine to the Greatest of the Polish saints, St Casimir, and my laminated GED.

    Anyway, I checked back the next day and someone had posted under my original post that I was “a moron”. I found that to be totally uncalled for and it really upset me. I mean why me? I replied that if they were so tough they should meet me down at Clank’s Bar in Marcus Hook to settle this matter, and of course they never showed. My Union Shop Steward/Deacon said they were just jealous of my awesome love seat from RAC and it probably was a colored person or a gay. Maybe both.

    • SLUGG0

      Maybe they were busting on you for paying $3000 for a $850 chair?

  • Alvin Verum

    The Reprobate’s Motto – “Be Smug and Silence all” I could have been taking a “D***” but instead wasted my time reading this.