That childhood saying still holds true, and while my arms and legs may be intact, I have learned that even if words cannot harm me they can certainly annoy me. Perhaps I am more sensitive to this because I work with words every day. I am working with them right now, and I have always considered myself somewhat talented when it comes to stringing words together. I don’t know how I acquired this ability. I certainly don’t remember anyone teaching it to me. Neither of my parents write for a living, though after I read the obituary my mother wrote for her mother I became fairly certain that the ability is somewhere in the genes. I have never read anything my dad has written and he doesn’t talk a whole lot, so I have no evidence regarding his communication abilities. But he’s a smart guy, so I am quite sure that the DNA is on my side in this area.
A couple of things annoy me when it comes to other people’s attempts to use words. At the bottom of the list is when people use the wrong word. For example, I once knew a woman who repeatedly used the word “faucet” (the thing you turn on to get water in your sink) when she meant “facet” (meaning aspect or phase). This is the least of my quibbles, however, because it at least shows an attempt to use the language. My own vocabulary is not enormous, so I have a little sympathy for people who try to use words correctly but just have a hard time doing so.
Another thing that annoys me is when people use the wrong version of a word. Such as when people mix up “their” and “there.” Elementary school should have taken care of that one. E-speak is another one, though I have fallen a bit into that since The Girlfriend is an ardent text messenger. I cringe every time I use “u” in place of the word “you,” but for the sake of my thumb and extra seconds shaved off my life I have succumbed to the temptation. And then there is plain, old-fashioned spelling. I never understood people who go their whole lives misspelling common words. We see words all the time in books, yet many people can’t get them right when they put their own pen to paper.
But my biggest complaint is about people who do all of the above and then just say dumb things. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of that on this newspaper’s Web site in the comments section. It’s not everyone who comments on the site, but a very loud group that seems to care a lot about the Sparks City Attorney’s race between incumbent Chet Adams and attorney Neil Grad, who went to law school with and formerly worked for Adams. To put it mildly, there is some bad blood between these two men and this contest has produced some very personal accusations.
Since the comments on the Sparks Tribune Web site are anonymous in as much as users create “handles” (more e-speak) instead of using their real names, none of the comments are attributable to a specific person. There are several handles involved in various conversations on different articles posted on the site, and most of the debate between them focuses on alleged misdeeds by each man (beating up a girlfriend, sexual misconduct at work, arrests for driving under the influence, etc.). I know politics at every level, especially the local level, often gets down and dirty with the mudslinging but I am truly impressed — and by impressed I mean disappointed — at the lows to which some of these conversations have sunk. A few excerpts are below:
THE TRUTH wrote on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 3:53 p.m. (about Chet Adams): “You are scum and incompetent. You lie through your teeth.”
BirdBrain wrote on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 11:34 a.m.: “Grad is scum.”
marinaguy wrote on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 6:18 a.m.: “No wonder Grad cant hold a job, he has no perception of reality and simply makes up his own evil empire as he muddles along.”
marinaguy wrote on Friday, Sept. 12 at 3:57 p.m.: “Neil, sitting in front of one of your secretarys and sniffing a pen left in your office by one of your female clients... ???? My my Neil, you really are quite the litle perv. arent you.”
no joke wrote on Friday, Sept 12 at 8:16 p.m. (in response to the comment above): “As for the smut just published below yours, I guess it takes a pervert to know a pervert. marinaguy is getting a little out of hand...”
These are just what I could find in a few minutes. If you look for any articles at www.dailysparkstribune.com about candidates for local office you will usually find a string of comments between the individuals using these and other handles making all kinds of accusations.
Not everyone getting involved in these conversations is interested in getting down in the muck. See below.
Get-A-life wrote on Thursday, Sept 18 at 10:26 p.m.: “These personal attacks are just devisive and do little for me. I’m interested in issues, not who did what to who. Can they do the job and what have they done for me, a Sparks taxpayer to warrant my vote? Please take the annimosity back to the playground where it belongs.”
ConcernedTaxpayer wrote on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 9:29 p.m.: “I’m attempting to get as much information as I can and weighing all options in order to make an informed decision prior to voting.”
The comments section of any newspaper is, in theory supposed to be a useful forum to discuss topics covered in the news. “We consider the comments section of www.dailysparkstribune.com to be a key part of a constructive community dialog.” That sentence is the first part of the disclaimer at the bottom of the comments section of our Web site.
Those of us on this side of the printing press, however, know that many people will choose to engage in the type of commentary we are seeing regarding the Sparks City Attorney’s race. Hence, we also put this in our disclaimer: “Your comments will appear as you type them. The Daily Sparks Tribune does not pre-screen contributions to the comments section. Individuals posting libelous statements may be held responsible.” This part was added to help the paper protect itself in the event that a user says something that might get us sued — such as calling someone a scum or a pervert.
While scrutiny of candidates’ personal activities is common practice in modern politics, there can still be a modicum of dignity. If the people who made the comments you see above would have stopped typing just prior to putting those words on the Web, that shred of dignity might have been retained. Instead, they chose to shrink to petty insults. We in the newsroom have had our theories that these “multiple” users are Adams and Grad themselves, though Adams denied it to one of my reporters this week and we have not asked Grad about it. The level of detail about each candidate’s personal activities makes me think it might just be the two men changing handles, but I have no proof of that.
Besides, it’s hard to imagine anyone else caring enough to waste all the time it obviously took to participate in the drawn-out, pointless e-drivel. I feel bad for readers like Get-A-Life and ConcernedTaxpayer who are trying to make an informed decision. On behalf of such voters, I should petition the Legislature for a new law that any candidate for office or their supporters who say things that are below the maturity level of a second-grader will be eliminated from the election and must submit to having his or her mouth washed out with soap on live television.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to clean up the mud that has been slung all over my computer.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.