When NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert died, too many readers of this web site cheered his death. The same thing happened this past weekend when former Bush Presidential Press Secretary Tony Show succumbed to colon cancer.
Some of what I read in the comments section on Capitol Hill Blue turned my stomach. I vomited my guts out after reading the bile. Readers showed no compassion for a man who fought an insidious disease with bravery and grace. They lacked compassion for someone who left behind a loving wife and children. They cared little for someone who died before his time.
Instead, they used his death to spew hate, aiming their anger over the fact that Tony was a conservative and, for a while, the voice of the Bush Administration in the White House. Their hate spread through this web site like the cancer that killed him.
My anger led me to disable, briefly, the ability of readers to post comments directly to news stories. After conversations with the staff, I decided – reluctantly – to allow comments again but I’m serving notice to everyone that the hate stops or the comments will be history.
The ability to comment directly to stories and columns is not a right that anyone who visits here enjoys. Capitol Hill Blue is not a government or a publicly-owned entity. It is a private web site that I own and comments are a privilege that I alone can grant or take away. It’s my web site and I can do with it whatever I damn well want. It’s not a business so threatening me with loss of readership or revenue is useless. I’ve never cared how many people visit here or read the site. Those of us who work daily to keep the site on the Web do so as a labor of love – nothing more, nothing less.
My various enterprises operate under a single slogan: Determine what sucks, don’t do it. When something becomes a pain in the ass, I simply stop doing it. Right now, the hate I see taking over this web site has put a rash on my butt. If that rash gets worse, I’ll cure it by eliminating the symptom.
Earlier this morning, Carl Nemo posted the following comment on the story about Tony’s death:
Tony Snow was not close to any of us; ie., a family member etc. The Snow editorial and the subsequent postings to CHB are not necessarily to be those expected at his wake.
As my lawyer would say, such a comment is assuming facts not in evidence.
In fact, Tony Snow was someone I knew during my sojourn to the dark side when I worked in politics for both the Republican Party and GOP members of Congress.
Although we did not share the same philosophy, we did share a mutual respect for each other. Tony loved his family. He loved his country. His political beliefs were strongly conservative but they were genuine. I respected him and so did a lot of my fellow journalists – liberal and conservative.
But even if I did not know him, he is due respect for his devotion to family and country. Common decency demands that we honor our dead and political differences must not be turned into justifications for hate.
Sadly, we have lost the ability to have differences in this nation, be them political or philosophical, without hate replacing reason. I disagree strongly with the policies of President George W. Bush but I don’t hate the man. I don’t know him well enough to judge whether or not he believes his policies but I do know a lot of people who work for him and the Republican Party and most of them are true believers in their cause just as many who oppose their cause are true believers in their point of view.
Yet those with different philosophies are too often treated with disrespect and hatred and the usual justification for such actions is the standard childish excuse that the other side "did it first!"
There are people in this country who truly believe that the Iraq war is just and that what others see as excesses in security and loss of freedoms is justified because of the threat of terrorism. I know some who have such views and they love their country just as much as I do. Having such beliefs does not make them criminal, corrupt or stupid. It simply means they have a different point of view.
One of Capitol Hill Blue’s columnists told me over the weekend that my style of writing contributes to the growth of hate on this web site. He may be right. I use strong language. I go over the top. I assumed that readers understood that my positions stemmed from love of country and not from hatred of differing points of view. Like Carl Nemo, I assumed facts not in evidence.
I don’t know if I can change the way I write. I don’t know if I can stem the hate that is consuming this country.
But I can change what happens on this web site. I have told columnists to feel free to moderate comments to their columns when those comments degenerate into hate, racism or bigotry. If the hate continues, I will remove the privilege of posting comments directly to stories, columns and blogs. If I do so, no one will be able to talk me into allowing them ever again.
Those who cannot control their hate should pack up and leave now. Capitol Hill Blue is a non-partisan news site where differing points of view are welcome as long as readers show respect for each other and express those views with a modicum of civility.
There are lots of web sites out there that pander to hate. There are many that pander to partisans.
Capitol Hill Blue is not one of those web sites.