Living with Online Snipers

What can be done about the hostile commentary that has infected online media?

Picture the Jerry Springer show with it’s live audience, jeering and booing at guests. It’s the modern-day lion pit. Of course, anyone who is stupid enough to go onto Springer, knows what to expect, but they do it anyway. Is the attention really worth it?

The sport of online sniping seems to be the high-tech version of the Springer audience. This antagonistic mentality has become a common form of aggression currently trashing up online media. Honestly, it's a form of bullying.

Just to be clear, sniper is my own term. To me, it describes people hiding behind the safety of their computer, picking people off one-by-one with the sole intention of humiliating, offending or belittling them. What was meant to be an open forum, has become a platform for snipers. 

The technical terms flaming and bashing are described as “hostile and insulting interaction between internet users”. In fact, a flaming culture has developed with distinct characters. The flamers incite flaming by focusing on precise points. Their counterparts are known as trolls who use blunt and obvious comments to fuel flame wars. 

Back in the day of newspapers, one could write a letter to the editor about a particular topic. Letters were usually thoughtful commentary from articulate readers, worthy of publication and approved by editors.

Thanks to today’s technology, anyone can instantly comment on any story, article or blog with the speed and accuracy of an automatic weapon. Some snipers comment on everything and anything, often with offensive, negative or irrelevant comments, even if they have no knowledge or interest in the topic. 

Snipers seem to thrive on the attention and agitation they create. To me, it’s the same kind of thrill that kids get from smacking a bee hive with a stick. Is this simply a cry for attention, like toddlers who throw tantrums? As a mom I recognize this kind of shrill noise. As a human, I find it simply annoying. 

As a journalist however, I am torn. I am all for free speech and I appreciate contrasting perspectives, but that’s not what we usually get from snipers. Like with junk mail and spam, we have to weed through the endless assaults, to get to constructive bits of information, both positive and negative.

One might say that career snipers simply have too much time on their hands, but I think it’s more complicated. Excess time can be used to help community, family and ourselves. I suspect it’s a need for attention, or perhaps the desire to share unhappiness with the world. Misery loves company, right?

So how do we inject integrity, respect and etiquette into the public commentary arena? Like dealing with bullies, taking the bait and responding just encourages them... so that won’t work. 

Do we try to empathize or reason with snipers? Do we give them the online hugs or develop support groups for them? 

In this case, is moderating and censorship wrong, or is it the solution? Should a moderator decide what comments are acceptable comment? How do you get a moderator thats totally impartial? Imagine this... a moderator flags inappropriate comments with a warning. After three strikes, the flamer is given a free membership to a Flame War website, which is basically a crying room (like you find in churches) where snipers can scream at each other.

Ooh... why not embrace it and make it a competitive cyber-blood sport with beer sponsors and bikini models? It’s just a thought. What are your thoughts? Okay snipers, flamers and trolls (and you know who you are)... go ahead and open fire. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jeff bridges November 26, 2012 at 11:29 PM
@Robert Livesay How do you know that I'm liberal/socialist? I never said I was, nor am I. You assume that everyone on the patch is a hippie liberal, so you're always on the defensive. I'm only giving you a hard time because its you are always acting like the victim. Get over it, we all know you're a hardline conservative. We aren't all out to get you, ya kno.
Judi Morales Gibson November 26, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Robert, just to clarify: 1. I am the author of this blog, not Clarisa. We are not the same person. 2. Blogs such as this are not a paid gigs, so in this case, nobody here is being paid, myself included. 3. Since I am not a professional journalist in this case, might I dare to say, the fact that you admit that you "love" the hostile comments, simply makes my point. Can't you find another avenue for your hostility and leave online news alone? Maybe a verbal Fight Club is what you need.
Kenny November 27, 2012 at 12:37 AM
I have an idea, lets just discuss poetry, gardening and bridge instead of crime, city budgets etc. Simple but don't you think there is a forum just for that also?
Judi Morales Gibson November 27, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Dear Robert, In a world full of hostility, in Benicia we are lucky. I assume you like your community... where you can safely walk to the pub without threat of being mugged, threatened or attacked verbally. Ask any Benician why they like it here... they’ll say it’s the friendly community. In this time of a struggling economy, unemployment, hunger and homelessness, couldn’t we stand less hostility? Friendliness and hostility are both contagious. If somebody yells out an offensive remark, it’s offensive to everyone who hears it. In turn, it puts everyone in a bad mood and the feeling spreads. Be it conservative or liberal views, we need mutual respect. How does your hostility benefit your community? Aside from yourself, who else enjoys your rants? Does this sound like selfishness? I believe communities should debate all issues, but it’s possible to do it civilly. Your opinions would be more appreciated if they were respectful instead of trying to "smoke” somebody? I appreciate that you enjoy being the Grinch (the term used with affection). Could your perception be working against you? I notice you sometimes misunderstand things, like who wrote this blog, which commented on. Maybe your naturally conservative perspective causes you to feel attacked? Why are you so ready for a fight? In the spirit of the holiday season, perhaps you could try a alternative way to communicate your views. In the end, even the Grinch was embraced by his community. Wishing you the best.
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Judi do not lecture me. You are out of your league. You make comments about me and my understanding things. You are the person that is out of touch. Do lay off your negative comments about me. I do know you and who you are. Nice person with a very left leaning Liberal view. So be it. I can handle all that miss guided hostile talk. I am am very friendly person and not at all what you think. I will continue to be Bob Livesay. It has served me well for many years. Maybe when you get my age you will have a better understanding of life and what it means. I have seen a lot that only you can talk about from someone elses mouth to your ears. Learn to communicate better.
Babaloo November 27, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Another cyber bully in the making ? don't we have enough with our resident "racist" and bully on the patch. ? why must we have another ? babaloo. go ahead, make fun of my name...because i am different you will try to bully me too.
Clarisa Morales Roberts November 27, 2012 at 09:20 AM
So is that a "no" to "Good Will Towards Men, (and women for that matter)? Just asking.
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 02:19 PM
No Clarissa it is a hope that others that comment should understand how others feel. This understanding thing is not a one way street. I make a comment and do not expect nasty hate filled comments back. I can come back just as nasty. But someone else will have to start it.
RJ Stewart November 27, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Dear Judi, what's even worse than a plain ol' online sniper . . is a sniper that thinks nearly every Patch article or comment is somehow aimed at him and therefore has an obsessive need to retaliate.
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 02:50 PM
RJ only when it is directly aimed at me. I comment and guess what even RJ comes back with a negative comment. RJ try being positive once in a while. I have no hard feelings toward anyone. Comment as you like but at the same time so will I.
Judi Morales Gibson November 27, 2012 at 04:34 PM
RJ, you're right. That's what I meant about perception and misunderstandings. It wasn't an negative comment about Robert, but he took it that way. I'm just trying to understand his motivation. I hadn't thought about it being an obsession, but you're probably right. Thanks for your insight.
chooch November 27, 2012 at 06:56 PM
RL, you fell for my initial comment, just like I knew you would... I could have written your response for you. Completely predictable. Smoke me? What a childish thing to say. But also predictable.
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Please Cho Cho all you are doing is being a copy cat. You know that is my comment originally. All you do is make me look good. Love every minute of all you non creative folks.
chooch November 27, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Lets ask the others... how many people think I am making RL "look good"?
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Cho Cho who cares
Karen LaRiviere November 27, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I have nothing to add to this conversation other than, chooch - I laughed so hard when I saw your "name" because I hadn't heard that word for years but remember my Italian dad saying it quite a bit when I was a kid but it was usually in place of calling someone a "dummy," "idiot" or "dipsh#*". - I don't suspect you are referring to yourself that way, but it did make me laugh to think of my dad calling one of us kids that!
Robert Livesay November 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Maybe he meant momaluke
Clarisa Morales Roberts November 27, 2012 at 10:35 PM
So then, it's no to "turning the other cheek"? I don't ask this as a religious question, but as a practice in social interactions.
Robert Livesay November 28, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Judi that is correct you do not think. You let someone else guide your thoughts. How original. State your own thoughts. m
Judi Morales Gibson November 28, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Wow Robert, I can see you're having fun, again proving my point that this is a sport for you. I know this will fall on deaf ears, but... what the hell. I authored this blog all by myself, it was not an assignment and nobody guided my thoughts. I was hoping to better understand where hostility comes from and dare suggest that it's not needed. Yes, I am nice, open-minded and amazingly, still able to think on my own. I am guessing you think you know everything, so I understand why open-mindedness would scare you. That would rock the world of Bob Livesay, thats worked for you for so long. It's too bad nobody appreciates you. I don't recall seeing in support for you, and no, nobody makes you look good. You're right about one thing. I am not in your league... the league of hostile flamers, nor do I want to be. When faced with conflict, I prefer to try kindness first. I've tried giving you the benefit of the doubt, but you keep proving that you enjoy being mean. I did learn something. It’s impossible to reason with angry bees. I’m not afraid of getting stung, but empathizing with the bees, won’t make them any less hostile. We can’t change mean bees... or people. The only logical choice is to avoid them. I've wasted enough time on you, so Robert... I am breaking up with you. Fly away Bob... fly, fly. And yes, that was my own thought.
Robert Livesay November 28, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Talk about mean and name calling. You just set the record Judi. Yes Judi I am having fun and do not take this Left Wing blog to seriously. I love the comments back and forth. All the name calling. The articles in the Patch are just good for commenting on. There is no reason for most of them to even be there. Except for JB the rest of the writers are just fill in the space writers. So why not have some serious fun with it. Just think about it. What would Bobbie R do without the patch. Judi I have no personal bones to pick with any writer or someone who comments. The one thing I have learned is there sure are a lot of thin skinned and hateful folks in Benicia. Right here on the Patch. Judi I hope you are not one of them.
chooch November 28, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Congratulations to Judi for trying, but also for realizing that time is wasted on empathizing with 'angry bees' (great metaphor, by the way). Some people just love to throw rocks for the sake of throwing rocks. Not very productive, but I guess you could call it 'an activity'... if you have a double digit IQ and no actual friends. Also, RL, for a guy who spends a lot of time writing in the comments sections of articles online, your punctuation and syntax are atrocious.
Robert Livesay November 28, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I do believe you got the point. By the way what is your IG?
Riley Willerson November 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
And Robert, on another note, you never honestly written about your prized Mr Romney loosing the race. Comment after comment,and your editorial in early November regarding him winning the nomination, how about you blog " my prediction was wrong" Can you you do that? Please step up to the plate slugger.
Robert Livesay November 29, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I do believe Riley I have said my prediction was wrong. But I also said I was right on three out of five. House, Govs and state houses. Thats 600%. Buts me right in the Hall of Fame. I have only been wrong on two Presidential elections since 1952. 1960 and 2012. All the rest I was right. I am going to write a LTTE and explain the there is no demise of the Republican party and it also was not such a big win for the Liberals. Pay attention it is coming soon. I also appreciate that you are a fan of mine. Thank you. Side note. In 1940 I sat with my father and listened to the election results. He was hoping for a Republican win also. But the Democrat won that election.
Robert Livesay November 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Puts not buts,that not the,
Harry Spider II November 29, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Livesay, the conservative victim... yaaaaaaawwwnnnn... I've read about 4 comment series' here, and this clown is on every one, pointing fingers at people, telling them that THEY are liberals, while saying "you don't know me" Projection, is what Freud called it. Some like this name-calling fest, I admit it's amusing, I even just told him to "grow up" on another thread, hey it's fun! for a about 3 minutes... After realizing that one of these "sniper" types has really nothing to actually contribute to the discussion, probably best to ignore them. I really would like to hear, in general, what conservatives or libertarians or socialists or even actual communists (are there any left?) have to say, with logic and reason and evidence presented to support their positions. But that's not what I've been reading from Livesay, so far. Prove me wrong, I'd enjoy it... xoxoxo
Robert Livesay November 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Same old stuff from Liberal/Socialist. Name calling. Spiderman you take a lot of space to say nothing. Just smart remarks that mean nothing. Maybe you should trying watching Fox News it could sooth your fragile nerves and maybe even make you feel a lot better. But I guess MSNBC and CNN get you all the one sided news you need. I do believe Spiderman we just heard from the top Socialist in town. You seem to have al the answers. We are waiting for more of your Socialist views.
Riley Willerson November 30, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Good response Robert, sorry for pushing the issue a little (a lot) to hear what you had to say. Can't rebut what you wrote.
Hedley Lammar December 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
There's way more filth and hatred in the so-called "stories" than in the comments.


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