My internet friend Tracy wrote a post about Deadspin that kind of blew up. Here’s the lede:
The thing about sports is that it, well, tends to be an old-boys’ club. The sports world is full of sexist shit that pisses me off if I think about it too much (and, honestly, I’m not often prone to do that, because I don’t always want to be addressing Big Issues in the context of something I enjoy just for the hell of it, which I suppose is lazy of me). Commercials aired during sporting events or programs often are sexist. There are sexist athletes and sexist columnists, and I hate it all, but I try not to hold it against sports as a whole. That would be like being a Cubs fan, but hating the Cubs because of Cubs fans.
That said, there’s one place where the sports assholes come out in droves and it drives me batshit insane every freaking time I see it. It’s a land where you’ll see Asshole Stupidus in its natural environment, taking a gigantic dump on women and human decency.
It’s the land of the Deadspin commenters.
I was going to leave a comment there but figured I might as well put it here instead, since it’s important that many people in the world know how I feel about this issue.
Basically, I think DS has acquitted itself kind of poorly in defending itself in the comments of the post, but I guess that lack of rational thought is sort of the point of the irreverent misogyny.
I think the best criticisms of this post are the ones pointing out that Tracy is painting with a pretty broad brush. But those criticisms aren’t so great, either, because the fact is that the great majority of DS comments ARE offensive and stupid. So we’re not talking about a few bad apples spoiling it for everyone–we’re talking about a pernicious and overwhelming atmosphere that invites and encourages a race to the bottom.
Not to say that most Deadspin readers, or even most commenters, are offensive/stupid, but the atmosphere in the DS comment space is pretty pathetic most of the time. I like that kind of stuff when it’s well done (Kissing Suzy Kolber, literally the product of DS commenters, is at times pretty brilliant, for example), but there’s nothing less enjoyable than someone aiming for hilariously-rude and missing the mark (ahem, Carlos Mencia).
And it’s true that DS is no worse than many, if not most sports blogs (or, um, nearly all blogs), but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make it better. I don’t know what it is about public fora, but any blog with a sizeable readership ends up with a crew of douchebag commenters trying to one-up each other in stupidity and offensiveness. It’s a complete waste of time, and I basically never bother reading the comments on hugely popular sites like Deadspin, Engadget, The Washington Post (yes, even old media suffers from this problem), etc.–sifting the wheat from the chaff is just not worth the energy.
So, given that reading comments is not compulsory, even if you do read the blog’s content, how important is it that Deadspin’s commenters come off, for the most part, as hateful assholes? Probably not all that important, really. But it is pretty pathetic, and gives ignorant old media types ammunition in their poorly-conceived arguments against the basic idea of “the blog”–the quality and content of blog comments end up getting attributed (unfairly) to the blog itself. So when Deadspin’s comments are stupid, it makes Deadspin itself look stupid. Which is unfortunate, because Deadspin’s actual tone and quality are pretty great.
Although of course there are plenty of exceptions to Tracy’s general argument, I don’t think there’s any question that Deadspin’s commenters are representative of a misogynistic streak that runs through sports culture. And having someone point that out (and actually be heard) can only be a good thing.