Are technophiles living in J. Edgar Hoover’s closet?

A friend of mine recently pointed me to Newsvine, a news site that aims to give the readers the power to report the news. The site basically aggregates feeds from the AP wire and allows its community of users to rate them and post their own stories. Then everybody comments on them and some users even post their own editorials.

The concept is very utopian in that it lets its users in on the news reporting, rather than having to rely on CNN or even Google News to tell us what’s important.

I’ve been participating in the beta test and I have to admit: I’m sorely disappointed. Given my ideological spin and all, I should be preprogrammed to like this kind of site, which could be like a Digg.com for news. Instead, it’s become a place of reactionary head-in-the-sand politics, where a bunch of technophiles who have trouble relating to anything a little human make political statements that would make J. Edgar Hoover proud.

I recently participated in a comment thread following an AP story about Al Gore’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he criticized the treatment of Arabs in the U.S. post-9/11. I didn’t even think the article was much to write about, though it was about time a major politician mentioned this.

The comment thread started with someone named sonofhob:

“Constructive criticism is one thing, but badmouthing the U.S. government to a foreign audience might be taking it a bit too far.”

Fine. I don’t agree with that, but fine.

A little further down, f1_error wrote:

“I always feel like one of the few when I say this but, I really don’t like Al Gore. Can’t he just learn to shut his yap?”

James Mack:

“I fear the alternate universe where he was in charge during 9/11.”

Full Throttle wrote a rambling post ending with:

“As is the norm for Gore he comes off as the ultimate buffoon, and gives another fine example why he’s best left out of gov, rather than in it.”

Shane:

“Next news article: ‘Al Gore Wins Arab Presidential Election…Changes Name to Allah Gore'”

Kai:

“At what point does one become a traitor to his own country…”

I’m misleading you here. Mixed in throughout this thread was some support for Gore, though not very strong and overshadowed by comments like the above. And I posted a couple of long posts that to me made sense but did nothing to inspire an actual conversation. Instead, they inspired more blind, unthoughtful jingoism.

What surprised me was that here was a democratic news medium that I assumed would be read and used by knowledgeable, socially aware people, yet something a bit left-of-center was being hammered with an almost racist vigor.

I attribute this in part to the demographic that is reading the site. Newsvine isn’t public yet; it’s being tested by techies who are in-the-know (they read the right blogs). In my experiences, many techies tend to be libertarian types who want everyone to be free to do what they want, yet have very underdeveloped senses of social issues or how one might relate to one’s physical neighbor.

Which may explain why, in response to my attempt to describe the unjust systematic roundup of Pakistani immigrants in Brooklyn post-9/11, one mrcg wrote:

“Against the law is against the law. Who is playing the race card now? Worry about your papers not someone elses. They teach that in every school in the world.
Besides, immigration may soon become a more difficult privilege to get. If you don’t like it then you may leave. “

Words of wisdom. It’s nice to see technology bring us closer together.

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