19 February 2012 | Comments Not Needed

If I ever needed a reminder of how much people are just jerks, all I have to do is read online comments.

Like someone unable to tear his eyes from the aftermath of a train wreck, I troubled myself to read some comments on the LA Times website on one of the stories covering Whitney Houston’s death. God, what kind of assholes do we have in this country? So many people were leaving their unwarranted and despicable comments about Houston’s drug problems, I felt I had wandered into a forum of the Westboro Baptist Church.

It doesn't matter that many sites I visit have moved from the Disqus commenting system to Facebook, ostensibly to “force” people to use real names rather than bogus accounts. The ugly, stupid vitriol is still there, lending credence to the notion that the Internet allows people to say stupid and ugly things that they wouldn't normally say in public. But even then, I'm not sure if that societal constraint is going to be around much longer. I don't think it’s a question of bad manners but rather just a deep streak of assholeness that seems to be asserting itself in the national character. We live in a society where vilifying people on camera is considered something to achieve, and not to be spurned. And if what you have to say is ever more cruel and stupid, the better. What’s worse is that there is no check on any of this at all. You can have someone, *anyone* utter something that is a lie on national television and he won't be called on the carpet for it. Nobody corrects falsehood anymore. It just merely goes viral.

I have to tear myself away from reading comments now, because they’re all so petty and unnecessary. I used to get a kick out of reading them, but it’s all gotten too ugly, too stupid and just plain mean that there’s no entertainment value anymore, but a bunch of chimps flinging crap at one another.