HAVING been placed, rather hastily I might add, into the esteemed position of QT online editor this week, I have also had the job of moderating the comments that come into the website from all manner of paranoia-crazed individuals.
In this instance, "moderate" is a word designed to soften the blow - a kind of weasel word to replace the word "sift", because being the "moderator" of comments on a news website is more like being a lowly stable hand, whose job it is to shovel up the huge piles of waste left behind by some useless, disobedient, pig-rooting stallion that is just ticking off the days until it ends up in the knackery.
It is true that, to some people in the online newspaper business, the comments section is seen as a fantastic tool by which you, the informed and highly literate reader, can intelligently interact with those who claim to deliver your daily injection of information and truth.
In theory it should work - an open forum in which readers can contribute their opinions on the events of the day in a way which, in turn, provides additional information, suggests new ideas or possibilities for a follow-up, even correct errors in the story - but the reality is far less Utopian I'm afraid.
Far be it from me to criticise Joe Public for not using something on the Internet for its intended purpose either - this is hardly a big crime.
My complaint is with the content of the comments that are arriving in the moderation queue, day after day, from the same self-righteous pseudonyms.
It seems there is a toxic group of about four or five keyboard warriors who have become locked into a perpetual political slanging match which, sadly, is doing nothing to promote intelligent debate in and around this newspaper's internet content.
With abysmal spelling, grossly misguided grammar and non-existent punctuation, this otherwise insignificant, dark pocket of society is succeeding in taking over the reins of our comments sections on a daily basis, reducing the level of conversation to that of a Jerry Springer special on pregnant teenage crack whores.
Ok so maybe I exaggerate a little. What I am really talking about is the constant argument and counter-argument that goes on between two individuals who invariably reduce a story down to a meaningless Labor versus Liberal debate - often one that has little actual bearing on the original story.
Among all the waste there are the odd moments of sanity, humour, and gold - exceptions that prove the rule maybe.
I just wonder whether it is still worth the hassle of providing the opportunity for comments if a fair cross-section of the readership isn't bothering to take part.
After all, the whole premise of the internet was meant to be that it was a democracy.
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