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Get your guns: the politics of voting on the comment cesspool

Last summer, Forum Communications, which owns several Minnesota daily papers, instituted a new comment system that “allow[s] the online community to better police itself through the rating of comments.” Today offers a good illustration of this appro

Last summer, Forum Communications, which owns several Minnesota daily papers, instituted a new comment system that “allow[s] the online community to better police itself through the rating of comments.” Today offers a good illustration of this approach’s weakness.

The Duluth News Tribune story involves a Republican campaign brochure for Paul Jacobson, a special election candidate to replace State Rep. Tony Sertich. Titled “Take Your Best Shot,” the lit piece shows a guy looking down a rifle barrel; criticism of DFLer Carly Melin appears on the next page.

The GOP says it’s a run-of-the-mill gun rights piece, the DFL says it’s unconscionable after the Gabby Giffords shooting — especially since Melin’s positions are criticized as “full of holes.”

Guaranteed commenter chum, right?

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As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, there are 55 comments. Fifteen are hidden “due to low comment rating,” linked to more people voting “thumbs down” than “thumbs up.” Reading a “thumbs down” comment requires one extra click for every comment.

Guess what? All the hidden comments criticized the lit piece (or the piece’s defenders).

The political types call it the “tyranny of the majority,” when the minority gets whitewashed. It’s why fundamental rights are guaranteed by courts and Constitutions.

Forum appears to employ a super-majority system for hiding comments, but that’s clearly overwhelmed by the majority’s intensity. Personally, I see little difference in tone between hidden and non-hidden comments in the lit-piece story — only a difference of opinion. That only one side shows through is a hole in this system.