THE COMMENTS: Heart & mind

When I first came to the MyNews24 opinion section I was warned that the platform is known for being a cesspool of bigotry and that the place is overrun by trolls, I nevertheless felt that it was a great opportunity to share my views and engage with a broad cross section of South African citizens and I wanted to fight against anti-secular and LGBT discrimination and promote positive atheism, that still hasn't changed and I still hope to be a positive voice for secular and Humanist values.

I have listened to what you've said and I cannot fault you for making this decision.

EWN columnist, Mandy Wiener writes: "The comments section on News24 had become a public joke. It was a mockery. It was widely accepted that a reference to the platform was a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that it was a festering pit for right wing, racist, narrow-minded bigots."

And I agree, this is indeed the case and I agree with Andrew Trench's position to want to become better and the need to provide quality content rather than being known for being a platform for bigots and trolls to reign free.

It is true, I cannot deny the fact that the MyNews24 platform has become a platform for racists, homophobes, anti-securists and anti-theists to throw spew vile unadulterated hatred against those that differ from them.

I agree that the decision to take more control over what is presented for public consumption is not a freedom of speech issue as trolls and bigots still have the freedom to say hateful things elsewhere on social media, the platform doesn't have to be a pulpit to preach hate.

Regular contributor Fox writes: "In South Africa we need to be encouraging open and constructive discussion between all racial groups towards our mutually-inclusive future..."

Intellectually, I agree, it's the only logical decision to take as effective moderation control is almost impossible, it's an ethically sound decision and one that should have been taken a long time ago.

But emotionally, it doesn't feel right, although my head tells me it is right, my heart is telling me that something is being taken away from me, and I fear losing the ability to engage with people on the issues I care about, so this makes me resistant to change, atheist contributor Colleen's article on the comments issue speaks to a lot of how I feel.

The comment section was a good place to debate with people and build friendships and change perspectives, but as noted - the problem with bigotry and trolling is very real, but not only that, the comment section has another flaw: It encourages reactionary and emotive responses and enables people to say things without thinking things through, which is the key difference between making quick comments and writing a thought out article.

So if you will still have me, if I can still offer my contribution in article form, I won't go anywhere, I still want to be, or try to be a positive voice for free thought, I still want to change people's minds in how they perceive non-religious people and the LGBT and I still  want to speak out against discrimination of all kinds.

I can recognize the fact the comment section has been counterproductive in many ways and instead of changing people's perceptions, it often just entrenched people in the prejudices they already hold.

Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in hit classic Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, famously said: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

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