I completely agree with Mark Morford on this subject.
Anonymity tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, the meanest and nastiest and least considerate. Something about not having to reveal who you really are caters to the basest, most unkind instincts of the human animal. Go figure.
Thoughtful discourse? Humorous insight? Sometimes. But mostly it’s a tactless spectator sport. It’s about being seen, about out-snarking the previous poster, about trying to top one another in the quest for… I’m not sure what. A tiny shot of notoriety? The feeling of being “published”… It is far from all bad, and many intelligent, eloquent, hilarious people still add their voices to comment boards across the Interwebs… But the coherent voices are, by and large, increasingly drowned out by the nasty, the puerile, the inane, to the point where, unless you’re in the mood to have your positive mood ruined and your belief in the inherent goodness of humanity stomped like a rainbow flag in the Mormon church, there’s almost no point in trying to sift through it anymore. The relentless nastiness is, quite literally, sickening.
I have never seen a blog/online news story discussion improved by allowing a hate-filled free-for-all in the comment section. Except in very rare cases, people really ought to put up or shut up. This is not a free speech issue; this is about condoning rudeness and idiocy. Why the abjection of personal responsibility is so accepted online, I do not understand.
A recent thread at the NCJ Blogthing reminded me of this.