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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Popular opinion

This morning's NY Post had the following five sentence article:

Punk Mugs B'klyn Granny

A Brooklyn grandmother unloading groceries was viciously mugged by a young thug as her 4-year-old granddaughter watched in horror, cops said last night.

The 68-year-old victim was approached from behind, on Slocum Place, in Kensington, at 9:45 PM Wednesday and pistol whipped several times in the head by the punk.

The suspect, described as being between 15 and 20-years old, grabbed the victim's cellphone, pocketbook and cash, and fled on a black BMX bike.

The woman was taken to Kings County Hospital in stable condition. The child was unharmed.

Nothing particularly interesting about the article. What was interesting were the comments which followed it.

The first commenter, "Dead Rabbits," said, "Gee that's a vague description of the suspect huh? Think the perp had something in common with the bike?"

The second commenter, "Long Islander," said, "Free healthcare for these fine young people!"

And the third commenter, "Sunnyside-Up," said, "...and they KEEP ON MULTIPLYING -- ON OUR TAX DOLLARS."

These aren't sentiments you hear expressed by the NY Times, or even by the Post. They are far too raw and honest. But they are closer to what a lot of people are feeling these days. Yes, the people who comment in such forums tend to be more outspoken than most, and more extreme. But they are nonetheless more indicative of what "real people" think than the overly careful-not-to-be-offensive articles written by professional journalists (and editors) who need to hang on to their jobs.

Newspaper articles and editorials (though in the Times it's hard to tell the two apart) often have a slightly Sunday School-ish tone. The readers' comments, on the other hand, can occasionally sound like something one of your more witty friends might say to you after he's had a couple drinks and he thinks no one else is listening.

Now that we have interactive online versions of the major newspapers, it's a lot easier to gauge the popular temperature.

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