Is David Sher a nincompoop?

Nincompoor t-shirt
Nincompoop t-shirt–zazzle.com

I don’t know if I was prepared for what was in store for me when I began publishing ComebackTown 2 1/2 years ago.  I had a simple goal to provide a forum to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham.

Who could possibly be against a better Birmingham?

And why would strangers personally attack me and my guest bloggers for trying to make things better?   It’s perfectly fine to disagree–but why the personal attacks?

I’ve had more than one guest blogger beg me to remove their blog because they were embarrassed by the comments posted on al.com. As I told them, you could find a cure for cancer and some folks on al.com would still call you the devil.

It’s easy to lose perspective.  There are thousands of ComebackTown readers, but only a few negative commenters.  One may be left with the impression many readers are upset when it’s mostly the same few who make negative comments all over al.com.

If only al.com required commenters to make remarks in their own name.

Assume you were invited to a party. You dress in your regular street clothes, but the other guests wear costumes and masks.  They know who you are, but you can’t see who they are.  Within minutes, they start attacking you with impunity.

That’s what it can feel like writing for al.com.  Pretty unsettling.

A nincompoop

A few months ago I wrote a piece about lack of opportunities for blacks titled “Is Steven Hoyt evil?”  It was a blog about Steven Hoyt, a City Councilman from Birmingham’s District 8, who stands up for his African-American constituents.  Instead of commenting on the subject matter, one of the al.com commenters attacked me personally picking up on the “Is Steven Hoyt evil” title by writing, “Is David Sher a Nincompoop?  Then others jumped on.

I’ve been called worse–but that’s the only name I will share.  (There is a method to flag comments to remove them–but this is after the fact)

I strongly feel it would be best for Birmingham and for al.com  if commenters were required to use real names.  Then we could actually have an adult conversation.

What do you think–or are you afraid to make a comment for fear of being attacked by nameless strangers?

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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15 thoughts on “Is David Sher a nincompoop?”

  1. *The comments on AL.com are ridiculous and simply another example of how the anonymity provided by the “internet” continues to degrade social discourse.  When newspapers existed and there was a semblance of journalistic integrity, you could read the “Letters to the Editor” page and gain some insights into certain issues.  You may not have shared the view of the letter writer but you respected his opinion and admired their courage in signing their name to their opinion. 

    The exchanges that you read in the comments section of any AL.com article are reminiscent of adolescent arguments on the playground.  At best the comments are banal and predictable and at their worst they are simply offensive.  

    There is a place for constructive criticism and genuine debate – that’s really the best way to move issues forward.  But the vindictive hyperbole that is found in these forums is counter productive. 

  2. I’ve often wondered why it was mandatory in the “Letters to the Editor” of the newspaper to not only require a first and last name, but the editorial page folks would actually call to be sure you were the person who wrote the letter. Now, people are allowed to hide behind anonymity, which masks stupidity as bravery. I would welcome al.com making it mandatory for people to only post with their first and last name, along with their email address. Quit allowing people to hide behind their mask!*

  3. I’m amazed that they allow anonymous comments.  If you’re a nincompoop, then I want to find out how I can become one too.  Is it a degree, certification, or intern program?  Thanks David, and all you guest bloggers, for caring enough about Birmingham to put up with our less polished residents!

  4. David, I am so sorry that you are being unfairly criticized for being such a wonderful champion for our city and state. Few people have been as selflessly dedicated to seeing Birmingham thrive and prosper, as you have been. I applaud the hard work you have done and am personally grateful for your tireless efforts on our behalf. Keep up the great work! I’m standing with you, brother!

    Warren Smedlety

    *

  5. Another way to look at the comments section is as a barometer. 

    If you get zero comments, the majority of the community is in complete agreement, the matter isn’t contentious and most people understand what is going on in that given situation. 
    If you get many comments, then the matter being addressed is a sore point and a problem which needs to be solved. 

    Get lots of comments, and you know you have found one of the problem motherlodes. Gold!
    🙂

    Keep up the good work, David. And the same for those who agree to post on the Comeback Town blog. The region (and the entire South) has choices to make which will affect the region for generations to come. If the different regional groups can work together, recognize the resident challenges and help solve them, the region moves forward faster, stronger and in better shape, If not, then the first region outside the area (whether inside or outside the US) moves forward past the region and grabs the cheese. That simple. The better off and well to do ignore those who have more challenges at their own peril.

  6. *David,

    Thank you for what you have done and are doing to improve life in the Birmingham metro area.  Your blog has been a catalyst to get people talking and working together accross the region.  I am proud to know you.

    Billy

     

     

  7. *David, I’m surprised you were not prepared for the kinds of (anonymous) comments you would get on AL.COM or any other public forum.  Heck, I was on the Best Buy web site looking at TVs and clicked on the user reviews.  Gracious!  I had no idea people took so personally the number of HDMI inputs on a flat-screen!

    We all come with opinions, prejudices, and biases, and we develop more as we go.  Unfortunately, through laziness, dumbness, or meanness, many of those bad ones get more deeply ingrained in us.  And now, with the ability to share them anonymously, people can’t resist doing so, no matter how uninformed they are or how poorly developed their arguments might be.  That’s when it gets personal because they can’t, as I once heard in a Monty Python skit, “run rings around you logically.”

    Some people are just looking for a fight.  Some are naturally ill-tempered.  Others would strike up an argument with an anvil.  And there are many who, if you gave them free fried chicken, they would complain that it had bones in it.

    Keep doing what you do!

    Don

    1. Don, thanks. You have a good perspective. Actually, I was somewhat prepared for the personal attacks, but some of our guest bloggers have been beaten up pretty badly.

  8. David,

    I love your titles. They always draw me in and this one was no exception!  LOL.  How could I not read it?

    I was recently in Venice and learned this–in older times, there was a secret box at the Doges palace and anyone could deposit a complaint about someone and it would be investigated, as long as the name and signature of the complainant was given.  Their name would be kept  anonymous, unless it was determined that it was a malicious complaint, and then the complainant would have to suffer the same consequences as the person they had turned in would have suffered (fines or jail sentence).  I thought it was a fascinating system.

    The argument for anonymity online is an important one. The internet itself has been built on anonymity or the option for it. Al.com has apparently decided to go in that direction (and the fact that more comments mean more advertising dollars may weigh in on that decision.)

    On the other hand, it does mean that one has to deal with mean or spiteful comments from a small number of people. As a writer, or a caring citizen, this can be hurtful. The best advise is to ignore it (or make a great post out of it!)

    Thank you David for all you do to wake us up!

  9. David,

    I love many of the titles but this is one of my favorites. 

    You are definitely not a nincompoop! 

    The easiest way to silence an internet troll is to just ignore them.  

  10. *David, I have written letters to al.com and The Birmingham News and even discussed with several members of the editorial department the subject of comments by people who hide behind their “handles” instead of using their names.  I have been told that it is their policy to seek the comments from the community, both pro and con, in an effort to get at the opinions and attitudes of the community and to share that with others, and to require people to sign their names would inhibit that effort, or words to that effect.  Seems to me all they’re doing is seeking the lowest common denominator.  Newspapers used to be  the one place people could go for leadership in matters that affected the community or State; it was the newspaper that provided leadership.  No more.  Now they dive down to the bottom by printing or publishing the rawest forms of emotion and thoughtless dribble.  Why don’t you ask your readership to rise up against their policy of publishing unsigned letters and comments?  One voice means nothing to them but a thousand might cause them to re-think their position.   Chervis Isom

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