On Monday morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced that it was going to try living the (occasional) dream of everyone whose writing appears online. “For the next two months, we are turning off the comment function on all editorials, columns and letters in the opinion section,” reads an open letter from the paper’s editorial board. “Why? Ferguson.”
“Last Sunday, we challenged our region to have the serious discussion on race that it has been avoiding for decades,” the note continued. “Such difficult discussions are made more challenging when, just to present a thoughtful point of view, you have to endure vile and racist comments, shouting and personal attacks.” Of course, comment sections have a way of filling up with vileness and racism regardless of the topic, but we can see how things could have gotten even worse than usual at a newspaper located just 20 minutes from where Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown.
“To be clear: It’s not that we don’t want to hear from those who disagree with us,” explained the editorial board, which encouraged readers to instead spew their bile and/or insights via the Post-Dispatch’s social media presence, live chats, and old-fashioned letters to the editor. “We believe those venues offer a safer, more civil place to talk about the racial injustice that dominates the Ferguson discussion … Comments might return to the opinion pages. Or we might find that without them, the discussion — through letters, social media conversations and online chats, rises to a higher level.” Anything’s possible! In the meantime, enjoy the silence.