The Commentariat

Oh for the days when people had to sit down and write a letter on paper with a pen (or crayon for some morons) and put it into an envelope with a stamp, mail it off to the newspaper–where it may or may not have been published.

Did this method result in thoughtful commentary? Not always–but it wasn’t the complete drivel and blowhard-ery that we see exhibited on the comments that accompany news stories on–the online home of the Syracuse Post-Standard. Anyone with an internet connection can comment immediately on anything. The resulting free-for-all hasn’t brought out the best in our community.

Recently I helped to organize a press event for the neighborhood organization I work for as a community organizer. We went down to the main offices of Bank of America to demand copies of their lending record for the past two years. We are concerned that the bank (along with the other major lenders in town) is redlining our neighborhoods, in violation of the spirit of the Community Reinvestment Act. This lending data is public information and banks have to furnish it upon to demand under the strictures of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

We invited the press along for this first “fishing trip” as we called it, in order to draw publicity to the issue and to emphasize to our leaders that the banking crisis isn’t some abstract thing being played out in Washington, DC–that it has had real consequences for people in our neighborhoods and neighborhoods like ours across the country.

The Post Standard wrote a nice article and took photographs on our event and it was posted on For the next three days it drew comments and was featured on the site’s Most Comments section, topping out at 62 comments.

42 separate folks made the comments, these are the most popular general themes that the comments fell into:

1) Conservative take on the cause of bank crisis. (23 comments)
To these folks, the key to the bank’s problems wasn’t bank greed or lack of regulation, it was the bank’s lazy, greedy, poor customers who should have known better than to ask for a loan. These problems were also exacerbated by Democratic Party schemes to impoverish banks by forcing them to make bad loans under CRA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

2) Racist taunts (13 comments)

“we’re moving to a Somalia and Haiti style society”

“get me that information after all i don’t work and I have all day. I want my OMAMA MONEY!!!!”

“LOL at the people leaving when the cops got called…’im on probation, I cant be getting arrested’…”

“How many of them actually go to banks? Most cash their monthly checks at mini marts scattered around their fine upstanding neighborhoods.”

My “favorite” example in this category is the person who gave themselves the screen name Barack Obama and used a photo of Buckwheat from “Our Gang” as his profile picture.

3) Ad hominem attacks on SUN and our leaders (13 comments)
the attacks varied:

The general: “SUN is full of crap”

The new all purpose slur against community groups: “this is an ACORN activity,”

Relatively thoughtful objections to our tactics: “the SUN group should have went through proper channels to obtain this information. Forming a protest in front of the bank and then going into the bank with protest signs was the wrong way to go,”

The truly strange: critiquing the color of one of our leader’s pants.

4) Ad hominem attacks on other people making comments (13 comments)
As mean as people were to SUN and racial minorities, the group that most people commenting on hate are OTHER people commenting on

“You have been told what you wanted to hear, and that is all you are going to believe,”

“You are so full of it.”

“You’re such a blowhard pita, now shut the hell up!”

“Even a person as limited as you are, pita, should be able to see the truth.”

“Limited? You’re too nice, I prefer braindead effin twit.”

“And when anyone reads your Posts all they can think about is an upset child throwing a temper tantrum.”

Of course, even amongst all the crap, there was one person who seemed to understand what we do–so to BigScaryMonster–thank you:

Syracuse United Neighbors has a long history of advocacy for minorities facing unjust lending practices. In fact, their investigation of red lining for people of color in Syracuse was written up in the Wall Street Journal many years ago. For those of you that don’t understand this practice, banks have a history of NOT lending to black and hispanic persons and/or charging them higher interest rates AS COMPARED TO white people with the same job and credit history. Institutional racisim. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing sweatpants or a suit, you shouldn’t be discriminated against because you are black. Right? Or would you like only white people to get to buy cars and houses and boats and rvs…


2 thoughts on “The Commentariat

  1. Very nicely written, and I’m glad you’ve helped highlight just how useless these comments are to the majority of people. We know that the newspapers put this stuff up thinking they were going to get thoughtful commentary; nope, nada, zip.


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