The Missoulian newspaper website has disabled comments, depriving western Montana of its most reliable way to experience pure despair. Comments sections are bad. But the Missoulian comments were especially bad, combining the subliterate hatred of YouTube comments with the gravity of current events. And it always seemed to be getting worse. The paper turned off comments on obituaries a few years ago, after one became a public referendum on the character of the deceased, the circumstances of his death, and whether he had it coming. Last week, I am told, commenters on a crime story revealed the identity of a victim of sexual assault. That’s what prompted this editorial from Kathy Best, in which the new editor announces that comments on Facebook and Twitter will continue, but website comments are done indefinitely. I applaud this decision. It’s been a long time coming.
First, the good news: the alleged pervert wanted in connection with nine Missoula lewdnesses since last summer has been named by the police. His name is James St. Goddard. If you see him, please call the police and then break line of sight so he doesn’t masturbate to you. Sexual assault is never funny. But I think we might agree that some of St. Goddard’s schemes muddled the line between crime and comedy:
During the sixth incident on Nov. 7, 2013, a female student was approached by the man as she was walking down the stairs in the Language Arts Building. Prosecutors allege St. Goddard offered to help her carry a box, but pretended to trip when he reached the bottom of the stairs. While he was on the ground, he allegedly looked up her skirt and grabbed her buttocks with one hand and her crotch with the other, while attempting to pull up her skirt.
At press time, this master criminal remains at large.
I can’t read the Missoulian comments section anymore, because I installed CommentBlocker. Its combination of comment-blocking power and arbitrary bugs prevents me from reading comments at the Missoulian even when I override it. So finally I have escaped the funhouse. Yesterday, the prosecution in Marcus Kaarma’s murder case argued that it was more a hall of mirrors. Objecting to Kaarma’s attorneys’ motion to move the trial because it had become “sensationalized” in local media, Deputy County Attorney Jennifer complained that much of defense’s evidence consisted of Missoulian.com comments. For example:
As an example, attached to one Missoulian.com article about the case a single user commented 31 times and another user posted 34 times, Clark retorted.
I wish that sentence were not a train wreck, because it confirms what we suspected all along.