Friday, January 14, 2005

Can't figure why she called 

The St. Cloud Times article I mentioned yesterday is more about the Times' own chat area than about blogs. As often happens, I talk for about 25 minutes and get two innocuous quotes. (That's another reason you have a blog -- ed.) But there is a juicy tidbit in here. The chat area, you will recall, was part of a debate on campus surrounding the Homecoming Queen controversy.

Comments made online about St. Cloud State's male homecoming queen is why one
sociology professor asked the Times to prohibit anonymous postings.

"There were hateful things said about people of color, immigrants and gay and lesbian people," assistant professor Tracy Ore said. "They wouldn't normally express (that) if they had to reveal who they were. ... It's clear we have bigotry. I don't think we need to provide anonymity to express that. ... It doesn't make me want to live here."

Such perceptions of online communities are common, Hillygus said. In some cases, a free-for-all discussion doesn't necessarily teach anyone anything.

"The only people who are really going to be listening and absorbing is a very select portion. ... Some people just look online for postings that reinforce their own opinions."

But for every hateful posting, there's a recourse available, Yenne said.

"If you find it objectionable, then why aren't you on there stating your case?" he said. "You can ask someone, 'Why do you say that?' "

Yes, a newspaper person says the only answer to hateful speech is more speech. Cuppa coffee for Mr. Yenne, the Times online news director. But Ore seems to have this ass-backwards. Rather than finding people who hold hateful thoughts and let them express them, bring them in the open and address them, she would prefer to have those people keep their thoughts sub rosa. Which then allows her, I suppose, to believe everyone is racist/sexist/homophobic, and maybe that's her goal.

The other comment, by a Harvard professor named Sunshine Hillygus, that we're only looking for comments that support our own opinions? What does she think is happening on this campus?