It sounds like language you’d expect only at a right-wing hate rally held behind closed doors.
Instead, it’s posted in the comments section of a local news station – and sometimes allowed to remain up for days or weeks at a time, even after drawing complaints.
References to "cannibals," "chimps," "savages" and a "cooncert" involving black musicians are not what you expect to see when perusing the public comments attached to coverage of what’s happening in Buffalo. It’s a vexing problem that challenged legitimate news sites – years ago.
Today, most have figured out a way to maintain standards of decency and respect while still allowing the free exchange of viewpoints in a diverse society.
Unfortunately, recent postings indicate WIVB-TV is not yet among them.
"A bl@ck savage murdered this woman" was up for at least four days following a story about the anniversary of the killing of Sister Karen Klimczak.
An account of the fatal shooting at a youth tournament in West Seneca evoked one of the oldest and most vile slurs: "what kind of subhuman brings a loaded weapon to a basketball game. Damn chimps."
A shooting at a party at an Orchard Park arena drew a "Savages being savages! What did you expect?" reply that was up for at least 18 days, while stories about the Cheektowaga man charged with fatally shooting his father brought this stereotype that was up at least four days: "Everywhere the cannibals settle, they bring destruction."
Apparently, African-Americans shouldn’t live in the suburbs.
"That always brings out racist comments, they’re kind of connected," said Scott Glasgow, who keeps tabs on the site and said he tried to get WIVB to remove such comments or block repeat offenders, with little success.
The station – which did not respond to inquiries, but did delete the comments in recent days – would hardly be breaking new ground if it cracked down. News sites have experimented with a variety of solutions, from eliminating comments altogether, to removing those that get flagged by a certain number of readers, to curbing anonymity by making commenters register through their Facebook accounts – a solution employed by The Buffalo News, which also invites readers to flag inappropriate comments.
Buffalo is hardly alone in harboring its share of bigots. And such language may even be edifying for those who want to believe America has left a certain era behind.
But it is one thing to report on racist drivel as part of a news story in which it is placed in context to expose abhorrent attitudes. It’s quite another to give it free rein and legitimacy by allowing it to stand unfiltered amid comments on substantive public issues.
Ironically, Glasgow – a longtime Black Rock resident who thinks he has a pretty good feel for both the city and suburbs – said he was kicked off the site once, accused of "race baiting" for trying to respond to the racists by asking about white culture. Rather than banning the messenger, WIVB should ban the message inherent in the types of comments it has allowed to stay up.
In the shiny new Buffalo we’re trying to rebrand for all the world to see, station officials would never allow such comments on the air. They shouldn’t tolerate it as part of a community discussion on their website, either.
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