TechCrunch Turns Into Digg/YouTube

I was flicking through TechCrunch a moment ago and noticed that they had also published the Barack/Wassup YouTube ad. The post, by TechCrunch owner Michael Arrington, made no suggestion as to the rights or wrongs of the candidate, but merely suggested that it was a pretty cool video. At which point TechCrunch transformed into the bastard child of YouTube & digg.

The very first comment was

If Obama gets elected I’m moving to Canada.

To which the (oh so interwebz) response (note the use of LOL) was:

Lol you’re racist

And it just went down-hill from there.

Whilst a few people tried to point out that TechCrunch is meant to be, hence the name, a site dedicated to technology & business and not politics, most were happy to follow Godwin’s Law, though in this case it seemed like no-one was likely to be called a Nazi, but quite a few were going to be called racists/call Obama a socialist/Muslim/monkey face (I’m not making this up). Reading the comments was, I have to say, one of the most depressing things I can remember doing in a very long while.

One commenter suggested that the ‘discussion’ wasn’t really going anywhere:

Geeeez… someone should have disabled comments on this post.

“You’re a racist!”

“No, you’re a racist!”

“Jesse Jackson’s a racist!”

“I’m not racist, but seriously, Obama looks like a monkey!”

“Oh maaannnnn, can someone pass me the Sunday spliff?”

I have to say that I agreed with him. If a conversation is doing nothing more than descending into racial hatred and tit-for-tat insults, no greater good is served by leaving them open. In fact I’d argue it’s quite the opposite: the level of public discourse was so low that everyone involved was dragged down just by joining in. Of course the Mob 2.0 disagreed.

Hey Rowan, if you want censorship start your own blog, OK –Wherever you are. You sound like a rabid ‘towel head’ Chill, man.

“Sunday spliff?” –Yeah, right!!!
You must be in China. TC is in the US and here there is no thought/blog police.
Sorry to disappoint you.
Go away

Apart from the amazing irony of all these rabid right-wing loons calling Obama a socialist when their own President has just nationalised the banking industry, or the fact that they scream about censorship whilst trying to shut down any line of discussion not in line with their own thoughts, the sheer hatred here is scary. I’ve written before about the horrible vitriol that often comes out online and how I think it’s to do with the anonymity that the web brings. After all, very few people have the courage to attack someone when they’re on their own – give them a mob and they’ll have grabbed the pitchfork before you can say “That bird’s a paediatrician!

None of this is new, or should indeed be that surprising. I guess that I just hoped that a site I read might be slightly more immune than places like digg and YouTube, where the comments are regularly over-run with ignorant arseholes spreading vile hate. And also that Michael Arrington, or another TechCrunch employee might have stepped in at some point to say that these types of views wouldn’t be accepted on the site. I guess that makes me just as stupid as the idiots posting over on TechCrunch.

Racism sucks image by blmurch on flickr


  1. I’ve been reading your site for quite some time, and in my humble opinion, this is one of the best posts you’ve published. There’s so much hatred out there it’s unbelievable. It makes me sick just reading it. Especially on simple things liek the Yahoo! Eurosport section. Come in late on an F1 post, or something to do with football and the comments have descended into utter chaos. Whatever happened to normal, educated opinions?! Is this what the world has to look forward to??

    I believe you’ve just inspired me to write a post upon my sabatical return.

  2. Thanks – that’s very kind of you to say.

    We tend to become immunised to this sort of crap when we see it in places where, sadly, it doesn’t surprise us anymore (I’d be more surprised if comments on YouTube didn’t include people calling each other Nazis or towelheads). But when it’s somewhere you expect the level of conversation to sit at a certain level, it comes as a real shock.

    I love teh webz, I really do. But sometimes it makes me want to take a long hot shower and then a domestos bath.

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