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Eric Zorn: No Comment

By Prescott Carlson in Miscellaneous on Nov 2, 2008 6:53PM

zorn.jpgA little over five years ago Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn launched his "weblog" as an extension of his print column, and given how botched the online entity of the Trib was (and still is), we're assuming it took a lot of persuasion on Zorn's part. His persistence paid off -- the site now hosts quite a number of blogs from various writers that followed his lead. But being an innovator must also take its toll -- Zorn has grown tired of the "cesspool of spam, vitriol, bigotry, misinformation and spite" and has turned off comments on his blog:

Readers of my comments areas have come to expect that I’ll not only keep out most of the filth via editing or deleting offensive posts , but that I’ll respond to every reasonable challenge that’s issued to me, no matter how small the audience might be for an answer.

I no longer want to try to meet those expectations. I'm finding, among other things, that it brings out the worst in me.

So what did he expect? For months now Zorn has abandoned posts about the banjo or Rob Sherman's antics and is making "Obamaist" look like a shill for the Christian Coalition. A typical day at his "Change of Subject" blog includes:
  • Why Obama is awesome
  • McCain supporters are idiots
  • Sarah Palin is an idiot
  • Why Obama is super awesome
  • "McCain spokesworm" said something stupid
  • "Far right radio blowhard" said something stupid
  • Obama = new hotness

Which, don't get us wrong, if that's OK with his editors then it's more than OK with us. But in an election year that has cultivated an "us vs. them" climate even more than in 2004, it's bound to bring out the worst in everybody. And if, as he says, many commenters are "smart, funny reasonable people [that] have sparred with [him], located common ground and opened [his] eyes to new points of view," why direct those people to the even more toxic waste dump of Topix if they wish to share, as Zorn is prescribing? Why not instead just scale back the egotism and don't personally respond as often (or at all) any more? Why not relegate the filtering of spam and offensive nonsense to an intern? Turning off comments completely seems like a step backwards for someone self-described as having "been promoting the idea that interacting in public forums with readers would be good" for 15 years. The well-worn phrase "throwing the baby out with the bath water" comes to mind