«The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….»
«The Common Good» by Noam Chomsky
Over time, many news sites have removed their comment sections. Completely or selectively for specific topics (in Europe, frequently when it comes to mass migration, crimes, or terrorism).
Frankly, I think that’s a very dangerous development and another way the media has failed the citizens of democracies. Public discussions of issues, especially of controversial issues, is needed. If only as a temporary safety valve. But mostly to gauge the temperature and to prevent … explosive reactions.
Unfortunately, the current attitude seems to be that democracy is great if it weren’t for the voters. That you cannot trust citizens and have to protect them from making the wrong decisions, to be influenced or swayed by demagogues. It’s a trend in many areas. People should be free, but only if they make the right decisions. Or you can “share your voice” but only “as long as you aren’t a bigot”.
Really? Who decides? Who sets the standards, especially in an absence of public discussion? Or when any questioning is seen as immoral. Not faulty, not wrong, but bad and evil, thus closing any rational for an open and fair discussion.
In this climate, Gab has brought in a new site (and browser plugin) that creatively solves the problem of removed comment sections: Dissenter. It allows you to comment on practically any website (including tweets, blogs, news stories, etc.).
Granted, the idea isn’t new. I have seen similar plugins years ago. And there are Reddits dedicated to commenting specific articles. But Gab might actually have the power to make it a success.
Or not, Gab is a target of many people who “know best” what other people can handle. And yeah, it’s reputation has suffered and you’ll see a lot of stuff on Gab that you won’t see, e.g., on Twitter (but which is still legal). But at least, it’s free communication, which practically implies that you’ll see stuff you wont like.
(Only negative comment I have so far — why “dissenter”? What about “I’d like to share a perspective that isn’t covered so far” without “dissenting”? Not a native speaker, but while “dissent” can mean “I have a differing opinion”, I think its connotations are too strong, to strongly in the direction of “I reject it”. But I might be wrong and others might … dissent here.)
So, it will be interesting to see how their idea/realization turns out. Currently, I’ll see it as a silver lining, but who knows, the storm might just be beginning.