Comments of the Week: Moderating the Madness

By the Moderators

A WSR commenter asked, “Who screens these comments? What criteria do you have given some of the incendiary nonsense that gets through while other comments are censored? Some are well over 100 words but they get through while others do not. What is your criteria besides personal taste?”

It’s easier to show than tell.

Take the following comment, which is headed for the trash. Other than revealing the mean spiritedness and schadenfreude of the writer, what purpose does it serve? Regarding people experiencing homelessness in hotels on the Upper West Side, So Long wrote:

“Former UWS resident. Can’t help but watch this all in amusement from the beautiful leafy suburb I moved to with my family. No need for my 2 year old to walk by deranged drug addicts on a morning stroll. To all those who want them at the Lucerne, you are doing a great service – have fun!!”

Why inflict that on our readership? Why give it air time? Good riddance, So Long!

But a comment from UWS Mom made it, despite pushing the envelope on word count. That is not an invitation for you to exceed it! From now on, the limit will be more strictly enforced (give or take 25 words.) Please adhere to it; it’s hard to trash wise and well-delivered words when they are so desperately needed these days.

To sum up, we do our best to post an array of comments espousing different viewpoints. Still, you’ll need to accept that a thought you consider brilliant may not make it through. Lay off the personal attacks and name-calling, cut the dehumanizing language. If you feel yourself gearing up for an angry rant, take a breath and reconsider.

Proofreading wouldn’t hurt either (the world is reading). And listen to your mother.

UWS Mom wrote:

“While I applaud the city for finding shelter for the homeless during the pandemic, I think the mayor and his staff could’ve done a better job than placing them in the middle of a residential neighborhood, regardless of what borough it would be in. We live in a city full of hotels for God’s sake! Why couldn’t they arrange a shelter, say for example, in the financial district, where most offices were closed because of the pandemic? It’s utterly absurd to even have this conversation – the city should’ve done a better job.

“I see so many more people around the Lucerne who are doing/saying things that are scary for the kids of the neighborhood. The homeless need care and help. That is a fact. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in a heavy residential part of the city. You cannot change overnight how secure or comfortable families and children feel in their neighborhood. This has nothing to do with privilege. Resident families of any neighborhood would feel the same way when faced with such a change. It’s simply a bad execution of a good idea. Get it fixed without decreasing the level of service and care for the homeless. And get them real help please! They need more than just a shelter.”

Here are some more comments representative of last week:

re: City Will Move Homeless Out of The Lucerne Hotel Starting This Weekend

Rob G. says:
A rare victory for the UWS! Congratulations to all who fought so hard against this asinine scheme. Now let’s turn our attention to the Belnord, Belleclaire, and numerous other shelters that have wrecked the northern end of the neighborhood. Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Gregory Goldstein says:
We should be embarrassed! We can no longer claim to be an inclusive community. Rather than take the occasion to bring our city together and help the less fortunate, we showed we were more interested in protecting our privileged selves.

A Radical Idea says:
Here’s a RADICAL THOUGHT for those who are outraged that many UWS residents have concerns about housing 283 men (virtually all with substance abuse or mental health disorders) at The Lucerne: It is possible, and common, to be compassionate, tolerant, and respectful, and supportive of all efforts to help these men recover, and ALSO have legitimate concerns about the safety and well-being of the neighborhood. It is alarming that so many people are incapable of seeing this for what it is — a complex, thorny issue with few clear-cut solutions. It isn’t entitled, heartless, spoiled hypocrites on one side and open-minded, virtuous do-gooders on the other. Let’s have a nuanced and balanced dialogue. Shrill name-calling and extremism don’t accomplish anything — for ANYONE.

Ian Alterman says:
It will be interesting to see how all of the people who are “relieved” by this will react when they find out that it was never the “hotel homeless” at all, when the problems continue after they are all gone. It was always the street homeless. Will there be any apologies? Will there even be any realization? Nope. Because some people simply WANT or even NEED a scapegoat, and all of you who are “relieved” have successfully scapegoated a group of people less fortunate than you for things they were never responsible for. I would rather have all of them than all of you…

jg says:
…enough of the LATTE POLITICS!! What are you going to say next: every uws’er is an a**hole with a home in Palm Beach?? This is not the UES! I’m black and have plenty of other black neighbors who live and OWN in the UWS! I’m sorry we may be invisible to you–look around–we’re not just nannies to your kids!!! And btw–the two homeless men who threated to stab me on Amsterdam and W73 (by the Apple bank) were WHITE–what say you to that?? STOP making this a RACIAL issue! These people need HELP and holing them up in a 5 STAR hotel is NOT the answer.

Steven says:
Per the lyrics from Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin… “It goes on and on and on and on”; Something tells me this will be a never-ending saga.

re: Sign of the Times: Watching the Big Game from the Outside In

charlieWeMissYou
says:
IF we ever needed an excuse to set up giant screens in Central Park for Giants, Jets and (gasp) Bills games, this is it. Just like we used to have for the Philharmonic! Food trucks! Beer trucks! Socially distant football toss and catch!

re: Century 21 Plans to Close All Its Stores After 60 Years; ‘Insurers Turned Their Backs On Us,’ They Claim

Debbie Ditanna says:
September 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm
…I actually cried last night. I first shopped at C21 in the 80’s when I worked at the Trade Center…I moved to lower Manhattan in ‘91 till 2014 and it was the neighborhood Saturday shopping experience every week. Since moving uptown, it is still my go-to store for nearly everything. Life will go on of course, but just a little less sweet. Another thing to miss…the list gets longer.

COLUMNS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. SG says:

      Thank you so much for this, Carol. Thank you for your sincere commitment to local journalism at a time when we need it more than ever. Your civic efforts are valued by many. You’ve done hard work to try to represent and capture the many voices of the UWS on a range of issues. Is there a way that your readers can help you? Donate to West Side Rag? Other concrete acts of gratitude (besides and including following the comment guidelines!)?

    2. blacklikeu says:

      Except for your comment on publish – not publish, do we really need to read these comments again?

      • Charly says:

        This isn’t school. If you don’t want to read the articles or comments, then don’t. There’s no need to be unnecessarily negative, especially in these times. Thank you Carol for all your hard work writing these articles and marshaling the comments, even if people disagree with each other! After all, we live in a democracy.

    3. your_neighbor says:

      Censorship of any kind, with the exception of removing spam, is unacceptable. Might also include removal of hate speech but sometimes there is a thin line there too.

      I’m sure that WSR thinks it is the voice of the west side and is trying to protect its readers but there are other viewpoints outside of the editorial staff’s limited bubble and in effect WSR is quashing the ability of of its readers to participate in online debate of issues.

      While I respect WSR for being a good provider of local news I believe that there is still work to be done to make the site truly participatory.

      • Charly says:

        Seems to me all sorts of opinions are published, many of which I find personally odious. But if you are so dissatisfied, why don’t you create your own blog where you can post any comment you like, especially ones that are “outside the [WSR] editorial staff’s limited bubble?” (The lack of appreciation of the effort that goes into the making of this free blog by people who are not compensated is disturbing. )

      • Sarah says:

        WSR is a private blog and they can keep or delete any comments that suit them. That may produce an environment you don’t find is worth your time (me, I’m kind of appalled at what does get through), and that’s totally your right, but running what they choose to run is not censorship.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        The editor(s) will bend over backwards to permit hateful comments, as long as it is from a leftist or POC perspective. About half of my posts, some of which respond to said comments, are not allowed through.

        • Leon says:

          I agree. I am a moderate Democrat, to the left of UWSHebrew but to the right of a lot of people here. And I feel like I am censored more than I should be. And there is no logic to it – some of my more risque posts get through while comments that are completely innocuous get held out.

          The commenters here who seem right wing here are pretty moderate by the standards of our nation. People here need to be exposed to it. I don’t like a lot of it but there are tens of millions of Americans who feel this way, and the fact that we are so ignorant of their beliefs and patronizing towards them just energizes them.

          • GG says:

            Leon, I have been reading your comments here for the last few months and you don’t seem like a moderate anything to me.

            Has Trump moved the Overton Window so far to the Right that this (not being an overt racist) is what passes for being a moderate in 2020. I don’t think so.

            Being “left” of UWSHebrew is hardly proof of anything. He is MAGA to the core and isn’t shy about telling us all about it.

            Lucky us.:)

            • Boris says:

              I totally disagree. Leon is the epitome of a moderate whose posts I enjoy reading and I’m definitely to his right. Your characterization of him as being to the right just shows how far left the left has drifted.

    4. Carlos says:

      I think that first post you censored is a critical part of the conversation. There are a lot of people leaving the city. There are also a lot of people who deny that this is happening. Publishing posts of people who are leaving gives that side a voice. The tone could have been a little nicer but it wasn’t egregious.

      I think you need to do a better job of limiting the posters who come through and reply to virtually every post on a thread, which seems like an effort to drown others out. This does not add to the conversation. If someone responds to them, they should be entitled to respond back, but that is different.

      • UWSDrew says:

        I agree that the first post is complete valid. If anyone has lived in UWS and supported the businesses and paid taxes they have a right to be heard and talk about why they left. This source seems to only want to give a voice to people that only have nice things to say about UWS. That’s not fair. There is a lot wrong here and cherry picking only supportive comments just takes away from this being a valid news source.

    5. Jeff Berger says:

      I want to thank Carol for creating such a wonderful community resource. Local media is often not local enough and this blog gives the UWS information and a voice. While I often felt alone as the only right wing, fox news watching, NRA member, Trump supporter, it is always insightful to be able to hear the views of the community. I especially wish to commend Carol for letting Trump voters explain their vote. That was truly a liberal thing to do.

      I moved to Nashville because,well see above :), but I still like to see what is going on in my former hood. Thanks WSR for all the great work.

    6. Dom says:

      Seems to be a lax policy here on calling Upper West Siders racist for wanting a decent quality of life yet there’s zero tolerance here for posters calling out the violence, filth, drug use, and lewd behavior that came to the neighborhood. Not exactly the even-handed moderation that you seem to be patting yourself on the back for.

      • Juan says:

        I agree. The word “racist” is tossed around very casually here to describe someone who doesn’t agree with you, usually when that person is slightly to the right of the very liberal consensus. “Racist” is a very meaningful term and needs to be used carefully. Just because one criticizes an African-American person doesn’t make them a racist. And before calling someone a racist, consider the fact that the poster might be a minority – no one is identified here.

        I frankly find it to be extremely lazy the way the term is used and it takes away from the frequent times when racism really does unfortunately happen.

    7. NotToday222 says:

      Thank you to the moderators and Carol for making the WSR a great local news outlet. While sometimes the comments can get a bit zany, the articles are always excellent.

      However, I must disagree with your decision to not post certain comments (outside of spam and the profane). I agree that the comment from “So Long” served no purpose, but its important for every voice to be heard, whether we like them or not. Otherwise, I fear it gives credence to people like our President who are looking to prove that independent news sources are biased. Let WSR be a beacon of democracy.

    8. EdNY says:

      How about a moratorium on complaints?

      • Yeahhhhh says:

        LOL yeah great idea. Oh actually that already exists… head on over to the Xinhua News. Everything is always great there! You will feel right at home.

    9. data_guy says:

      Human moderators suffer from confirmation bias (I seek evidence and rationals that support only my views) and superiority bias (I’m more rational and ethical than others). It’s simple human nature, and not a criticism. *winking at you, moderators*

      UWS rag should take a look at an algorithmic NLP approach. Perspective is one I’ve tested. Simple API. Should be easy to integrate w/wordpress and askismet. https://www.perspectiveapi.com/

    10. Marcia francis says:

      The street homeless are the problem. I am in my seventies and I am not safe. Not a day goes by when a homeless person asks me for money in an aggressive manner. Whether these are shelter people or transients I don’t know but it is not safe!

    11. Steevie says:

      Does anyone have an estimate of how many beggars are begging in Manhattan? Is it hundreds or is it thousands?

    12. Ital dia says:

      Why dont UWS form a group to help find a better place for them if the mayor cant.Just like when you have comuinity meeting when a new unhealthy restaraunt is coming.

    13. Steevie says:

      Back in the early 90’s there was a story about something called, “The New York City School of Begging” where a beggar could receive training for a fee so that he could increase his daily take. Was this real or just a story? For newcomers to the city, there were so many beggars around then that sometimes a beggar would enter your subway car by the sliding door at the front of your subway car and another from the back. They would meet in the middle of the car, give each other dirty looks and continue on their way.