Friday, May 21, 2010

Sheep, goats and trolls: An observation regarding the Houston Chronicle comment section

A blind prisoner with a history of mental illness died after he threw urine on a guard at a TDCJ medical facility and an extraction team removed him from his cell. The news story doesn't describe his injuries or say whether they were caused by the extraction team. But especially notable to me were the rabid, borderline inhuman statements bandied about in the comment section at the Houston Chronicle. Here's a sampling among the "most recommended" comments:
  • "So what your [sic] saying is Estelle Prison Unit has a room available starting today?"
  • "One less inmate to give 3 square meals a day and a bed to."
  • "Our TDCJ gaurds are making $20,000 a year to deal with this scum. May he rest in hell...."
  • "One less criminal to worry about!!!"
  • "Reward the officers who killed him... let's quit giving lawyers public funds to allow scum like him to come back and prey on the innocent"
Some of these folks think they're being humorous, some are just jerks, and of course there's crossover between those categories. For my part I find it embarrassing to even share a species designation with such fools, much less the appellation "Texan." I was raised to believe such statements tell us more about those making them than the target of their ire, and that eventually the sheep will be separated from the goats.

50 comments:

Dave said...

Unfortunately, such comments are the norm for the Chron when it comes to articles involving an inmate or criminal. Call it being desensitized, or whatever else, it's still disturbing.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You know, Dave, when my TYC comment strings got nearly that nasty, with seemingly every comment from some troll writing NastyGrams about one another or their bosses, I just shut them off. Why provide a forum for people who think the state should "Reward the officers who killed" someone anymore than you would for people advocating murder of abortion doctors?

Back in college I ran the editorial page at the Daily Texan, and I miss the quaint practice of editors selecting and publishing letters to the editor. We got all the same crackpots writing in back then, but nobody in their right mind would intentionally choose to publish such drivel.

As they say in the street protests, "This is what democracy looks like."

Anonymous said...

Blood thirst and other signs of savage cruelty among one's fellow citizens is always alarming.

Anonymous said...

It's alarming to sane people, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Jesus H Christ yo're right about that comment string. It's f'in Lord of the Flies over there!!

Anonymous said...

Goes to show that Texas is full of ignorant people. But then again we knew this when they voted Bush into office.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Grits, these kinds of comments are indicative of a broader public frustration with the criminal justice system. Many, if not most, people in our society believe that the "post-Warren" criminal justice system shifted way too far in favor of the criminals to the detriment of victims in particular and society in general. The rulings of the late William Wayne Justice didn't help this perception at all. I know you and many of your readers don't agree with this, but the reality is that most of the hard working, tax paying, PTA supporting "ignorant" people in our society don't want to feel afraid in their homes, are troubled by the plague of drugs in their communities and have very little compassion for those who don't want to follow the rules and just victimize others. Most of these posters probably aren't as harsh as their comments suggest, but in a world of finite tax dollars, high unemployment rates, lack of health insurance and so on; most people, quite frankly, would not have any problem with the return of building tenders, hoe squads, and prisoners growing what they eat and wear. You might be alarmed to hear this, but as Uncle Walter used to say, "that's the way it is."

Anonymous said...

11:20, you are so right. And most of you do not even know it!

Charlie O said...

So glad I abandoned Texas. Though we have our share of repugnant, knuckle draggers in PA. Just not as many, so they are easier to avoid.

Anonymous said...

"I was raised to believe such statements tell us more about those making them than the target of their ire, and that eventually the sheep will be separated from the goats."

That line dedicated to 10:19,
11:20, 11:44 and Charlie O

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Earl Warren left the court 40 years ago, can he still be the cause of all your problems, 11:37? Maybe FDR is to blame? Or if only Lincoln hadn't freed those damn slaves!

These cretins are responsible for their own bilious opinions. Don't try to justify them by blaming the objects of their hatred.

Also, I don't know why you'd suppose that "Most of these posters probably aren't as harsh as their comments suggest." From what I read at the Chron regularly, there's every reason to believe the main offenders are just as big an asshole as it sounds like they are - and most are cowards to boot who would never attach their real name to such opinions. Politicians seeking votes must pander to fools and cowards, but I don't have to.

Anonymous said...

Most Chronicle comments are ignorant, cruel, insensitive, racist, sexist, hateful, and/or worthless. They contribute nothing to public discourse, and it would be nice to think they were harmless, but they give some indication that people in general (or maybe just Chronicle readers and commenters?) are inhumane and lacking in decency when they think they can get away with it.

Think about it too much, and it can be depressing.

Anonymous said...

Damn, Grits, it must be especially satisfying to go to bed every night with the knowledge that you're so morally and intellectually superior to all of us "hicks" and "rubes" who make up the bloodthirsty, unforgiving, ingnorant masses. You know those people politicians "pander to." On the other hand, it must make you feel very "dirty" to come down from your elitist perch and have to rub elbows with us uneducted proletariat.

Anonymous said...

I agree Grits. Have you noticed that those in TYC that supported Ray and defended his abuse of youth, are now quiet that he received prison time. Some in the adult system and TYC feel its OK to abuse/injure/mistreat the folks they supervise.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:11, you don't get it. You don't have to be "morally superior" to think you shouldn't rejoice when a mentally ill person dies in prison after getting into an altercation with guards. To avoid rejoicing shows BASIC, effortless decency. If you think even THAT is too much to manage, you're the one with the problem.

TDCJEX said...

Anon 11:20 makes Grits point that these ignorant and often disturbing rants making people belive Texas is full of ignorant racist wingnuts . While TX has a number of very vocal wingnuts there are many thoughtful and intelligent people in Texas too. If I was so included I could find very similar comets in any citie3smajor internet news paper .

You can see them here the images were taken across the US at Teabagging rallies . Just so people do not think they are specific to Texas The people in the link ar the tyep who post the ignorant hate fueled comments .


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S38VioxnBaI
.

Grits my guess is the Chronicle made a decision to allow that nonsense to attract “readership” and wich equal more advertising revenue . A cynical view I know but why else allow that kind of idiocy instead of thoughtful post even if made in anger .

I would not call it democracy but a bunch of ignorant people who have been manipulate to vote and advocate for policies that are contrary ot their interest if not their freedoms . It is age old tacit to blame a unpopular group for a societies problems when the real problem lie elsewhere usually with those who have cynically manipulated those who fear the changes and civilization goes though and there is no doubt we are a rapidly changing nation right now .

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:11, most people I know in the "uneducated proletariat" don't typically wish ill on others or exhibit overt cowardice.

Also, I didn't say "hicks" or "rubes," I said "fools" and "cowards." Your comments are insulting to actual hicks and rubes, who IMO are several cuts above the folks we're talking about.

Mark # 1 said...

According to the Department of Justice statistics, crime is near historical lows at this time. Thus, anyone who is "afraid in their homes" probably isn't paying attention or gathering their own facts. Of course, mindlessly following the demagogic fear-panderers is so much easier.

TCFC said...

Comments like these are indiscriminate and show up on the boards directed at anyone--juveniles, families trying their best, newborn babies for that matter. They do have an impact. They bring down the quality of our discourse and desensitize people to one another's very humanity. News sites should follow the Texas Tribune's lead and at least require a verifiable email address, so that posters can't hide behind totally anonymity.

Here's a post on the same topic this week: http://txchildren.org/state-of-the-children/have-an-ax-to-grind-leave-kids-out-of-it

Anonymous said...

You think this is bad. I'd love to know what Grits thinks about the level of vitriol over the illegal immegration controversy and new Arizona law.

Anonymous said...

Norm for the Chron? Hell, just go to Murray Newman's blog and see the norm for ADAs.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Many of you miss the point. Consider this: "...he threw urine on a guard..." Throwing urine and feces on guards and correctional officers is such a common act for criminals. This may not bother progressives but it causes a sense of extreme repugnance in many people and it contributes to their writing emotional statements.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's not that it doesn't matter to progressives, conservatives, or anyone else on this string 5:09, it's that most sane folks recognize that it doesn't justify beating to death a mentally ill blind man. Just because one experiences repugnance doesn't justify losing all moral bearing.

Anonymous said...

Convicted the guards already, have we?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No, just explaining to 5:09 why "repugnance" doesn't justify Chron commenters urging harm to a blind, mentally ill inmate.

Anonymous said...

When I read the Chronicle comments following an article about some kind of correctional officer or police misconduct or murder, I can't help but believe many of the worst are put up there by correctional and/or p0olice officers in Houston who probably long for political fascism where they can beat and kill with impunity. Yesterday I was harassed by an HPD officer because I have disabled license plates and had an Obama healthcare bumper sticker on my truck. I'm a woman and was driving alone, it was terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Hebrews 13:3-5 and Matthew 6:14-15 for those that believe
Cathy

ckikerintulia said...

Grits, you should see a lot of the comments in the Amarillo Globe News. The ability to hide behind the cloak of anonymity unleashes the worst. In the good ole days of letters to the editor, anonymous junk would never be published. Almost never anyway.

Anonymous said...

You go Scott. You have my vote. This hick says keep up the good work. Its good to read some one call for common decency among one's fellow man.

TDCJEX said...

Anon troll 5:09 . Do you have independent verifiable proof of this outside of TDCJ says so?
It is clear you do not know what you are talking about It is not a common thing in prison it does happen but it is not something every or even the majority of them do . Perhaps if prisoners were treated more humanely this would never have happened .

So a mentally ill man allegedly throwing feces and urine at bosses deserves to be beaten to death ?
I don't have any sympathy for the bosses in this case they do not have to take the job or can quit .They could have made sure he was sedated before removing him I know that it can be done if . From what I saw most of the bosses who got chunked were provoking and abusing the prisoners in seg to th snapping poiunt . Humans can only take so much abuse before they snap.
I saw bosses who did not get assaulted badly and have boldly waste thrown at them they did a good job and they gave respect and got it it was a two way street.

I doubt most of you loud mouths would last very long in a TDCJ unit or seg on one . Most of you self righteous keyboard warriors would lose control of your bodily functions if you were sent to TDCJ What causes the revulsion is the excusing and cheering the bosses who were “havin fun” as they call extractions . When they gear up in their body armor to beat on a defenseless human who is usually cuffed and shackled and in this case or mentally ill. Ther is not any excuse for their behavior at all If they are professionals they would not beat a blind mentally ill man to death

Your excusing repulsive comments is equally disgusting . You and your ilk are the main reason why we have the problems we do .

No Grits is not convicting the bosses . The is not much doubt what happened . I hope he has family and the push the issue and take TDCJ to court overt his the fall out might save lives and shine some light on the very real problems that are kept secret in the name of ”security” . It is time to clean up TDCJ. .If bosses go to prison maybe they will think twice before they beat a prisoner to death.

I agree with Grits we are losing our moral bearing . Maybe we lost it .and need to go though some difficult times to find it again . While the anonymous strolling is annoying I would rather the anonymous wingnuts and deranged wackos make their comments in public that way we know they exist and to be aware of such disturbed individuals preferable to censoring them and furthering their delusional paranoia

Angee said...

Life has no value unless it hits close to home. It is possible to be anyone behind an anonymous tag or screen name. Unfortunately being tough is the image that far too many want to project. They are mouths with no brains and their posts tell the caliber of cowards behind such messages.
Grits, you have intelligent anonymous posts on your site but you also have some that must lie awake at night to figure out how to disrespect you. Cut them off! As your guests there should be rules of conduct and disagreeing can be done in a mannerly fashion.

Anonymous said...

Free speech. If it's good enough for the government, it's good enough for you. If I speak, you WILL listen. Unfortunately, if you screen the comments, you do exactly what you expect goverment not to do. The angelic standard. But hope is eternal.

sunray's wench said...

Free speech is one thing that I would fight to uphold. Free speech means the ability to say things publicly that few other people want to hear. The only danger with it is that those with less education and less experience, fall into the hands of those who would use them for their own ends, to futher the mis-information peddling and generally using the masses to keep themselves in a position of power.

The only way to combat it is to calmly keep talking. Don't rise to the taunts. Simply give the facts as they are and encourage others to do the same. Expose those who try to manipulate others and those who lie for what they are, without using the same tactics they do.

Never argue with a fool, they only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

Anonymous said...

While the 1st Amendment protects offensive speech it never said it was right or that if you say loud enough and tone down the offensive rhetoric of a leader and put them in a coat and tie its right. There more these persons sick version of support of inhumane treatment is exposed as awful the more those who associate with these nuts will ignore them I would like to see a jury of nuts like 5/21/2010 11:37:00 AM and others and 5/21/2010 01:11:00 PM have the jury pool full of nuts like them deciding what to do with their kids or family members who might get into trouble or did get into trouble. Judge William Wayne Justice saved a system from ruin when he overhauled it and stopped inmates doing dental work on other inmates and many other awful practices after the Ruiz mattter. TDCJ operated under a 30 page agreement some years after the original many page decision. It was nuts like John Culberson, that only for political gain, sought to get himself standing in Congress to overturn the decision. The matter was vacated not because Culberson prevailed, but because he saw how foolish he would look if he pushed this. As an attorney I have walked into a county jail to visit a client at the same time the door to a "padded cell" was visible with my client behind there. At first there was about 4 jailers trying to talk my client into being quiet. I went on to visit another client and could later hear them using a taser on her. She was quiet only for a short while and then started again. Later, after being medicated, since she was bipolar and paranoid schizophrenic, she was fine. The psychiatrist was "shocked" that my client was tasered. He assured me that would not happen again as he said he would speak with the Sheriff about that. So the nuts we are talking about not only are having an emotional pathetic knee jerk reaction, but are really the pathetic arrogant ones on a high horse about how to deal with those who fall short of their version of how everyone should act. They should be listening to TDCJ ex and others about what sensory deprivation does to people and how certain instances should have been handled. People that work in mental institutions put up with far worse and don't over react with extrications that amount to barbaric actions. I will do my job to expose the nuts and the nuts should ask to step up and see the Judge during jury selection and ask to be disqualified b/c they can't be fair if you are afraid to be exposed to others.

Jen said...

I'm so glad someone else is repulsed by the comments sections on the Chron. I was completely shocked when I moved back to Houston from Austin and realized how horrible people are. You can maybe find one decent comment for every 30 horrible ones, then that one decent person is attacked for being compassionate or rational.

susan said...

I, like Jen was appalled when I moved to Houston and read the Chron's comments. After every capital murder verdict, execution, and/or report of brutality and subsequent cover up by TDCJ, the hate mongers come out. If you read these comments for a few times, you will notice they are the same people over and over again. Therefore, I don't think they represent any class of people. They just spew vitriol and compassion or intelligence are not words in their vocabulary.

Sometimes (with my name attached) I answer knowing there can be no dialogue with people like this, but trying to put in a word for common sense and decency.

Anonymous said...

Grits,
Thanks for the confirmation. I always get depreased reading the cretin comments in the Chron, thinking humanity (at least the Houston version) can stoop no lower so I tend to save my Grits perusal until after the morning paper...helps bring me back to a reasonable stasis! :~)

P.S. Shout out to Susan 9:59: Keep up the good work...at least there is one candle lighting the darkness.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the perspective of being an RSO for 12 years, I have seen many people like this. They enjoy throwing poo at others, that is until they themselves are the ones receiving the thrown poo.

Americans in general are mean, disrespectful, rude individuals that will subscribe to the mob mentality at will, only later to recant this stance and beg for mercy when they themselves find out the injustice of the 'justice' system.

I am not a Christian, but I can only hope that there is some sort of 'hell' available for people like this. The criminal element in jail/prison are paying for their crimes, yet the crimes of inhumanity are never paid, regrettably.

zenith15 said...

As a patient advocate for those in recovery from substance abuse, I have seen my share of heinous, judgmental and frankly homicidal comments directed at the addicted in general and specifically at inmates left to die from untreated drug withdrawals--oftentimes, inmates who are taking prescribed substance abuse treatment meds like methadone or Suboxone. People guffaw and hoot and say--as do the jail guards--"If yew don't like it, don't come ta JAIL, haw haw haw!"

There seems to be a certain ilk who believe that incarceration automatically deprives you of ANY rights whatsoever, makes you into subhuman pond scum that deserved to be assaulted, raped, tortured, isolated for no reason, mocked, dehumanized, and even murdered--all at the hands of those brave corrections officers who "just need to blow off a lil steam". This is a very popular opinion in Texas. One has only to listen to former police sergeant Sam Cox on KLBJ-AM in the mornings to hear this type of rhetoric all day long--the police can do no wrong, and every accused inmate is a "punk" who deserves whatever they got and then some. And people EAT this stuff UP! It scares me to live in such a country.

Pirate Rothbard said...

Dang, Grits thinks these people are inhumane, but he is full of hope that God will one day burn law and order conservatives in eternal torment.

I'm not a law and order conservative, but they are human. On average I view them as more normal and more compassionate than most of the people who reside in prison.

These posters are fed up. They are not trying to be trolls, they are just frustrated that they are victimized by the state(stealing tax dollars to pay for prisons) and by the criminals who come out of prison.

The problem is that they haven’t put two and two together to see that some kind of police officer Gestapo system isn’t going to happen, and if it did, the whole thing would one day get out of control.

Gun ownership is a philosophically sound solution to crime, because it doesn't involve taxation.

Those of us in the libertarian movement will continue to reach out to both conservatives and liberals, recognizing their humanity, and working to shrink the size of government.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"he is full of hope that God will one day burn law and order conservatives in eternal torment"

Not at all, PR! I hope they all repent, find grace, and change their wicked ways. ;)

ckikerintulia said...

anon 10:04-- I don't see/hear Scott denying these offensive commenters the right to make their comments. You say, "If I speak, you WILL listen." In your opinion, does the right to free speech compel an audience to listen? As for screening comments, this blog is not a public forum. It's owned/controlled by Grits, and he violates no one's free speech by screening comments.

Anonymous said...

Having once been a Texas prison guard, I would have to guess that most of those knuckle-draggers making the vicious comments are probably current prison guards. TDCJ has never cared to set high standards for their employees.

The Pharisee said...

Just reminding everyone, that when it comes to Bible Totin' and Quotin', the God of the Bible didn't have much use for Prisons, never once creating a punishment of imprisonment or jail.

You can look it up, or rather, you can't, because you won't find the LORD meting out jail time.

You will find him appalled and horrified by prisons and jail. You will find him recommending that prisoners be visited.

You will find prison equated to hell.

That's something I prefer to steer clear of.

Anonymous said...

ckikerintulia, we petition our government to maintain our free speech. We expect that right and we act to preserve it. In a privately controlled/owned forum, if you pose information publicly then it is reasonable to at least hear responses without screening or deleting. Otherwise the forum itself may lose intellectual value or purpose. I realize the vulgarity and inhumane things said (especially in the Houston Chronicle) but they still have some value. I refuse to believe there is mass moral decay in reading these comments. I refuse to believe humans want horror brought to other humans. And when I see these comments I consciously disregard them as conditional rants of frustration and not desires. But to know this we have to know they exist. Blocking them, screening them or ignoring them changes a variable in the life equation. Sometimes we're more focused on rights than humanity itself.
Jeff
DPS

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Jeff, DPS - those folks have free speech - as in they can start their own blog or newspaper if they please - but that doesn't obligate me, or the Chronicle, to provide them a forum. I respect somebody much more who's willing to sign their name to harsh opinions, and for my part I tolerate such tirades more willingly when that's the case. But if you're not willing to be held accountable for what you say, such drivel is neither edifying nor IMO particularly important to respect.

As for "I refuse to believe there is mass moral decay in reading these comments. I refuse to believe humans want horror brought to other humans."

Aren't you the one disrespecting these folks by assuming they don't mean exactly what they say? When Chron commenters express "vulgarity and inhumane things," I assume they mean every word, that they're telling a secret, ugly truth about themselves to which they're typically too cowardly to ever sign their names. Why would you make excuses for them?

It's rather amazing that you close with the line, "Sometimes we're more focused on rights than humanity itself." But you're advocating for the rights of the mob, not the kid beaten up in prison. Where's the concern for his humanity?

The Pharisee said...

Scott,

Don't you realize that on average, the rights of the individual are best served by preserving the rights of the group?

It's social justice, get with the program.

We want gravy, no lumps. :)

TDCJEX said...

Grits I fully agree those who are making the hate filled comments and finding pleasure in the horrors that are routine in TDCJ are telling us a ugly secret about them selves .using the apparent anonymity of the internet . I highly doubt that the majority of those making those remarks will make them at work or in public where any one can hear them and see who they are.

They do not have free speech on another persons blog/site / forum etc if they want they can make their own forum ,blog, etc . Though at least one person will have to make their name public .

They will start caring only when it is them or their loved one on the receiving end of what if other nations do it we call it torture in violations of human rights .

rjnagle said...

I agree that the Chronicle comment section is utterly offensive.

I think some people just aren't used to expressing political opinions in writing and truly have no idea how offensive their jeering language is. Also, I think that conservative people are used to hearing excessive rhetoric on their radio and tv and are only imitating what they hear.

I noticed that there are rarely offensive comments on NYT. If you think about it, that seems strange. After all, both sites allow other readers to recommend posts. But on nyt, this works; on chron.com it rarely works. Even though nyt readers are probably more educated, I suspect that expressed opinions are just as strong. Perhaps nyt doesn't approve some comments, and that keeps the discourse more civilized because readers want to follow communal norms. For some reason, they have a more lenient moderation policy, which only fans the flames of the fire.

Anonymous said...

Report, report, aggressively report insensitive comments.

And if you know people who moderate for the Chronicle, tell them to remove "recommends" of silly posts and to block and ban for making inappropriate posts. They need to editorially control the content and be happy doing so.