Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Busy Signal

I've been ridiculously busy the past few weeks, growing plants in my basement (no, not THAT kind — organic tomatoes and basil), putting in my new, second vegetable garden bed (and battling sewer beavers) and supporting women's rights in Afghanistan and opposing torture and asking the government to help parents stay home with their sick kids if they catch swine flu and putting on an SEO webinar with Parent Bloggers Network and taking on three brand new SEO clients and, you know, generally plotting to take over the world.

But I haven't forgotten this little blog. My first little blog that could. I have lots of things I'd like to write here, things that don't fit very well in the other, more heavily-trafficked places on the internet I've lately moved into. Things about parenting, about philosophy, about life.

I hope I'll have more time, soon, to write them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Racist Comments in St. Louis Post-Dispatch Get National Attention

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a post about how the racist comments regularly posted to and occasionally left unmoderated on the St. Louis Post Dispatch website are hurting St. Louis?

I wrote that post even before the Post-Dispatch featured an image of a bi-racial couple kissing on both the front page of the website and its weekend print entertainment magazine, Go, to promote an article titled "The 7 Best Places to Smooch," all about the best romantic places in the area for couples to visit for some inexpensive fun. The resident STLtoday race trolls responded with a veritable torrent of lovely, insightful comments like this one (from the locally infamous regular STLtoday comments section poster Taxpayer, who to me seems like the sort of person the ban feature was invented for, but hey, I don't work at the Post):
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Libs take every opportunity they can to shove miscegnation in our faces. Now that TV has to show blacks in every commercial, notice that they are always posed beside a blonde woman. Not a brunette, a blonde. Its done for shock value. Sickening that a once proud newspaper would resort ot this. Joe Pulitzer is turning over in his grave in shame.
(Apparently "Taxpayer" was born in or before 1905. That's the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for why he still uses antiquated terms like "miscegenation" in ordinary conversation without irony. That, or perhaps he lives a very lonely, isolated life in a cave.)

The flood of racist comments in response to the image prompted the Post-Dispatch to post about the reaction to the photo on their blog about racial issues, A Conversation About Race.

Several local bloggers have responded to the flap over the photo with criticism of the Post-Dispatch comment moderation policies. Shark-Fu of Shakesville and Angry Black Bitch has weighed in on the situation; Show Me Progress has also recently featured several posts on the subject.

ArchPundit has started a feature on Blog St. Louis called "Post-Dispatch Racist Comment of the Day" to highlight some of the most extreme and ridiculous violations of morality, common sense and good taste that appear on the site.

Post-Dispatch Director of Social Media Kurt Greenbaum has responded on his personal blog to local blogger reaction over the racist comments. In a post rather euphemistically titled,
"In further defense of uncomfortable comments," Greenbaum explains:
[Post-Dispatch] guidelines ask readers to be civil, to avoid personal attacks, profanity and racist language. We ask readers to be on topic. That leaves a lot of wiggle room. It also means that we have to make some hard decisions about whether a comment actually crosses the line. We don’t delete a comment just because we disagree with it. Or because it’s angry. Or even if it expresses a point of view that makes us uncomfortable. That means ideas that some might consider racist may be allowed.
I've a quibble with Greenbaums' phrase, "ideas that some might consider racist may be allowed." Some? May? I would argue that ideas that most people would consider racist have been and continue to be allowed on the site.

Unlike Greenbaum, who is a transplant to the region, I have lived in the St. Louis area my whole life; I grew up here; I've gone to different schools here, I've worked in many different neighborhoods here, and in the course of a lifetime, I've met many, many other St. Louisans from all walks of life. So I know a bit about what people around here are likely to think.

And as a life-long resident of the region, though I am aware that we have a serious, deep-rooted problem with race relations in this community, I am pretty certain that most (not some) people in the St. Louis region would find comments like Taxpayer's above-quoted treatise racist.

I'm pretty sure that many people here find such extreme comments not only racist, but offensive.

And I would wager that the vast majority of educated, thoughtful St. Louisans — those most likely to want to regularly read, or maybe even subscribe to, a newspaper — would consider comments like these inappropriate, distracting from intellectual conversation about real issues (including and especially issues related to race), and not worthy of being given a national platform on a newspaper website that, by virtue of its very name, represents our community to the country at large.

In fact, as I predicted in my previous post, the presence of so many over-the-top racist comments in the online version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch really is distorting our city's image on the national stage. The popular New-York-based gossip and news blog Gawker recently published a post titled "Five Arguments Against Interracial Dating, From Missouri Rednecks." And tagged the post "Too Easy." From Gawker:
What's this, the weekend magazine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has pictured miscegenation in action, and the locals are outraged! Imagine this photo, where your kids could see.
Imagine, indeed. Imagine, a diverse, cosmopolitan, metropolitan area of more than two million people, caricatured in the national (new) media on the basis of the comments of a few racist internet trolls. Imagine, thousands upon thousands of people who have never even visited, let alone lived in, St. Louis forming their opinions of our community based on the comments of people like Taxpayer.

Imagine that.