Commenters Are Still Kind of Awful

There are some improvements, but new system doesn’t put an end to extreme comments.

Well, it’s been awhile since adopted its new, troll-crushing commenting system. How’s that working out?

Uh-oh. Well, how bad could the comments on a story about new high schools be?



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So. Pretty bad. Does that mean the new Disqus commenting system is a failure?

Not necessarily. Yes, it sure seems that the comments at still feature some of the trolling racism for which the site became so justifiably hated. But anecdotally, at least, the joint seems a little bit more sedate than it did in the bad old days.

When Jonathan Valania wrote about’s comments last year in Philly Mag, he lamented that the site was dominated by “a small band of all-purpose haters, bigots and trolls who routinely inject into the public sphere the type of shocking invective long banished from mass media in this country.” It often felt like the only comments you could find on the site were the horrific ones.

That’s not quite the case anymore. There are still strongly held opinions and even the occasional invective on the site — and the commenters can still hide behind a veil of anonymity, for the most part — but go take a look at the comments in the story mentioned above. There were 42 as of Tuesday evening — some of them angry, some informative, most of them skeptical. Very few were all that enlightening, to be sure, but with the exception of the comments featured here, most were just … banal.

Wander around the site, and you’ll find more of the same. The occasional deleted comment. (Somebody’s paying attention!) Crime stories with comments turned off entirely, so as to avoid the usual riff-raff. And political stories where the comments are angry and arch and insufferable — but not much more than when people are when talking politics anyway.

Banality, it turns out, is a bit of  an improvement. It’s almost normal.

Yeah, the jerks are still there, clearly. But Philly’s Philly — to expect more improvement yet might require the comments section to become better than the city it serves. “The Algonquin Round Table this ain’t,” Valania wrote last year. He’s right. But Internet comments rarely are. comments aren’t great. But they’re not quite the embarrassment to the city that they once were, either. We’ll take what we can.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.


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  • Northeaster

    I personally have been reporting pretty much any post that looks or sounds racist, and Disqus is better at looking through those reported comments than was on its own. Hopefully the trolls and the actual dyed in the wool racists who post there will get that they are not welcome.

    • DTurner

      Agreed, the first week of Disqus was best, but even when the old trolls managed to figure out how to register for Disqus that quality of comments has dramatically improved, especially with the down vote and reporting options. It was also a smart idea on their part to shut off commenting on any of the troll beacons, like the crime stories.

      Frankly, I think the discussions have elevated significantly on the site, as people who were scared to comment on the site before are feeling a little more welcome.

      • Northeaster

        Absolutely with the no comments on the crime stories. I have no idea why they ever allowed comments there to begin with. At least wants a productive comments board. Apparently I comment too much for the taste of Philebrity.

  • TimX

    Liberals cant stand free speech. Remember when they bravely co-opted Voltaire defiantly told us they may not agree with the speech, but will defend to the death your right to it? to it is another old liberal canard to be tossed out when they use it to their advantage. They dont believe in prohibition unless it comes to guns or speech they dont like. Ask Bob Huber, they shouted him down just like they smear everyone who exposes things they dont like. This week ask

    Some of the comments are definitely over the line, but so what, it’s only words?

    There clearly is major dissatisfaction with the results we’re getting with our “urban programs” and black violent crime, but no dissent from our current path is tolerated. By liberals.

    That is far more offensive and damaging than any blog comment I’ve read.

    Perhaps if the media would try to shed some light on it instead of covering it up, we might be able to have a little bit more of an enlightened discussion.

    • Northeaster

      Eh, when you have the people calling their countrymen apes and subhumans, I think that is worse than any of the hysterical whining directed at political opponents.

      • TimX

        Some people are idiots. So what? They make themselves look bad. I dont give them a second look no matter who they come from. That does not mean the issue doesnt merit more scrutiny.

        Isnt the incredible cost of our urban policy failures, fiscal and moral, a critical issue? Why is it never discussed critically by the media, or academia or the entrenched political power, especially in this city without major repercussions. We can only have a teachable moment or a dialog on race when the defenders of the status quo can use it to deflect from their failures. We never have one that criticizes it.The Bob Huber blow back demonstrates how far those entrenched in defending the failed status quo will go to suppress even the whiff of dissent.

        • Northeaster

          It is a critical issue, but another critical issue is how embarrassing it is to be known as the city with the racist newspaper commenters.

          • TimX

            Nobody gets killed because of newspaper comments.

    • Danielzinho

      You’re an idiot. I encourage you to continue to comment…it only supports the fact that you’re an idiot. I’m a progressive who loves free speech. Imagine….if you hadn’t been free to express yourself….I may have mistaken you for a person who wasn’t brainwashed.

      • Feudi Pandola

        Very well thought out, rational, and reasonable response Daniel. Good work. You are a jewel of progressivism.

        • Danielzinho

          You act as if in order to be an intelligent person, you must engage in rational discussion with idiots who will surely misconstrue and misunderstand anything factual that I would say to them. I assure you that isn’t the case. If you haven’t figured that out by now, then I can’t imagine that you’re too bright either.

          • Feudi Pandola

            Well, I’m obviously not as erudite or witty as you are Daniel.

  • Jonathan Mandoza

    I’ll will pray for them.

  • Feudi Pandola

    I would comment but with the NSA and stuff, well, you know…

  • Fascinating.

  • Christina

    Political bosses are recklessly using social media to destroy

  • EyemNotFree

    Take the freedom hatings editors and torture them to death on TV. Blow up the National Constitution center with Jeb Bush shackled inside.
    We do not trust in god. Violently overthrow the US government

  • Terd Berfell