Howard Kurtz writes about comment-board mayhem in Online, Churls Gone Wild, citing the extremes of ugly, hateful and racist speech from the left and right. This apparently includes calling New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin a racist.
Kurtz quotes comments from Little Green Footballs and Huffington Post, then turns to comboxes on Washington Post stories:
A recent report about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who said the slow recovery of his city was part of a plan to change its racial makeup and leadership, led to a number of offensive or inflammatory remarks:
"Some Black politicians are [expletive] idiots." "IF a white MAN were to speak as you do, you'd look for a lynching party."
Other than deleting foul language, which I do all the time here at PostWatch, I don't quite follow the alleged outrageousness. I can be dense, but isn't Mr. Anonymous saying that if a white man said there was a conspiracy to make, oh, Salt Lake City, Utah black, that Nagin would lead a "lynching party" against Mr. White Guy? That does not pass the PostWatch ugly, racist and violent test. Kurtz continues:
One person described Nagin as a racist and a women's sanitary product.
The latter is disgusting, of course. But how crazy is it to describe Nagin as racist? Let's revisit his oeuvre, which Kurtz really does not. From the Jan. 16, 2006 New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Speaking to a fraction of the crowd typically drawn to a holiday parade honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday predicted that displaced African-American residents will return to the rebuilt city and it "will be chocolate at the end of the day."
"This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be," Nagin said. "You can't have it no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans....
Nagin also said that last year's devastating hurricanes were signs of God's wrath.
"Surely God is mad at America," he said.
In the same story:
"Everybody's jaws are dropping right now," said City Councilman Oliver Thomas, who is black. "Even if you believe some of that crazy stuff, that is not the type of image we need to present to the nation."
Watch that ugly, hateful or racist speech, city councilman! And how about Nagin's more recent comment. Kurtz says Nagin said the slow recovery of his city was part of a plan to change its racial makeup and leadership. That's taken from the lede of Nagin Suspects a Plot To Keep Blacks Away, by the Post's Hamil Harris on March 17. Later in that story:
"Ladies and gentlemen, what happened in New Orleans could happen anywhere," Nagin said at a dinner sponsored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group for newspapers that target black readers. "They are studying this model of natural disasters, dispersing the community and changing the electoral process in that community."...
Nagin, who won reelection last May over Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, referred obliquely to the "chocolate city" comment at the dinner and suggested that his assertion that New Orleans would once again be a majority-black city had made him a political target.
"Everybody in America started to wake up and say: 'Wait a minute. What is he doing? What is he saying? We have to make sure that this man doesn't go any further,' " Nagin told a room full of black newspaper publishers and editors at the Capital Hilton.
Referring to Landrieu, who is white, as "the golden boy," Nagin suggested his chance at reelection in the mayoral race had seemed slim because "they dispersed all of our people across 44 states with one-way tickets."
You know. They. The Post editorial page arched an eyebrow over this in Notes from the Knoll:
NEW ORLEANS Mayor Ray Nagin is at it again. The glib crusader who said Hurricane Katrina was God's wrath being visited upon the Crescent City (and later apologized for it) and who said God wanted it to be a "chocolate city" again (and later apologized for it) took a stroll on the grassy knoll of conspiracy theories when he suggested there was a plot to alter the racial makeup and politics of New Orleans and other cities.
The strange thing about Kurtz's column is that there are plenty of truly ugly and disgusting comments out there to choose from. But attacking Nagin for invoking race conspiracy theories isn't one of them.
Kurtz quotes a Postie who calls for prior restraint. Better to shut up all non-reporters than risk offending anyone:
But Post reporter Darryl Fears is among those in the newsroom who believe the comments should be junked if offensive postings can't be filtered out in advance. "If you're an African American and you read about someone being called a porch monkey, that overrides any positive thing that you would read in the comments," he says. "You're starting to see some of the language you see on neo-Nazi sites, and that's not good for The Washington Post or for the subjects in those stories."
After Post reporter Darragh Johnson wrote in February about a Northeast Washington teenager who was fatally shot while being chased by police, some readers posted comments, including racist comments, criticizing the boy. Johnson says the 17-year-old's father cited the comments in declining to answer most questions about his son.
Washingtonpost.com chief Jim Brady talks about adding more staff to delete ugly comments. That would be the more traditional editing approach. Anyway, Dean Barnett covered this kind of thing on Saturday, including the fact that a reckless commenter responded to my pleas and become a constructive contrarian voice. Now that's news.