Today in Minneapolis, The Huffington Post hosted a panel discussion about the rise of new media with a host of leading traditional media personalities. Conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham applauded the rise of the online journalism. “Look, the old media blew it; the free market does work,” she said. But many of her conservative co-panelists lamented the perils of this free market.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said the flip side of the emergence of the blogopshere is that “it’s so ugly now in some parts of the internet” that good people are being dissuaded from running for office. Scarborough explained that he thought about running for Senate in 2005, but when word leaked out online and commenters began “trashing” him, he said, “screw this, I’m going to get paid for talking on TV.”
His fellow conservative media elites chimed in with similar criticisms:
Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan: The commenters “are much like what you would have gotten in 1880 if you walked into a bedlam with a megaphone and said, ‘I’d like to say a few words.’ It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s awful, and it’s often quite vicious.”
Conservative pundit Tucker Carlson: People are “really underestimating the vitriolic dumbness” that’s out there. “I don’t think there’s any way to understate it. … It’s mostly on the left,” he said, and it’s “totally intolerant.” It’s “the least liberal thing I have ever seen — the default position is ‘I don’t agree with you; you are either stupid or corrupt,'” he said. “I think it’s actually hurting the country.”
Conservative pollster Frank Luntz: “You’re right,” he said to Tucker. “Mean would not describe it. It is as humanly vicious as it possibly can be,” he said, adding that it is “deliberately insulting.”
Even liberal columnist Margaret Carlson echoed the views of her conservative peers. “The left is as vicious, if not more so [than the right used to be] and cruel,” she said. “There’s an element of ‘they’re mad and they’re not gonna take it anymore.'”
Scarborough then proposed a solution. “Why don’t internet sites that want to be respected make people [commenters] put their names and their phone numbers”:
If you are going to accuse me of being responsible for starting the Holocaust in 1939 or 1940, then you can put your name, and you can put your telephone number on there so I can pick up the phone and say, “Brother, my lawyer’s going to be calling you in about 10 minutes.”
Arianna Huffington agreed with him about the need to keep commenters from “hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.” Watch it:
More coverage from the New York Observer.