Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bad on Many Levels

An article about nasty anonymous comments on a Chicago Tribune story about a rape in a housing project, prompted this response:
The poison's damage came even clearer when I phoned Deanese Williams-Harris, the Tribune reporter who wrote the piece.

I was wondering what else she might know about any suspects. Immediately, she mentioned the comments.

"It just broke my heart," she said.

The comments enraged her. Disgusted her. But they also simply hurt.

"These people they were talking about," she said, "that's me and my parents."

Williams-Harris' mother grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes, her father in Stateway Gardens. She spent part of her own childhood in public housing, as a kid in the Washington Park Homes, as a teenager in Stateway Gardens. Like her parents, she attended college, then went on to earn a master's degree.

Of course, not every public housing resident has such credentials. But a shortage of master's degrees isn't the same as a lack of morals.

"Public housing has its issues," she said. "But rape isn't something that's accepted there."

First, the columnist seems shocked at how nasty anonymous commenters are. Gee, give anonymous people a microphone, and who would predict that it bring out massive incivility? This is why reputation matters and a system that monitors people, to validate a reputation, is essential. If people could act without accountability, like anonymous commenters, they would be rude and uncivil, because there is no downside to being an asshole when no one knows who you are. Similarly, tracking your payment history allows us to have credit cards, something not so common in Mexico, to say nothing of Haiti or Liberia. Big brother is too far, but there is moderation in all things.

Second, if you go to college and are in public housing: fail.

Third, I'm glad she clarified that even public housing has limits.

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