The dominant line in political talkbacks is completely different than the journalistic line. We can assume that at least some of the journalists who object to talkbacks view this “hostile takeover” as a sort of interference in their private estate, with some guild members feeling that it should remain their private property.
“Talkbacks are one of the most despicable things on the Internet. The talkbackers, instead of going to see a psychologist, write dumb responses. These mentally ill people must be arrested,” said public relations guru Rani Rahav several months ago while resorting to clinical analysis.
Yet even though the talkback world will never be the same after such declaration, there is still enough spirit in it to prompt Knesset members like Israel Hasson to cut them down, or castrate them to death. His new bill, which would see site owners bear the legal responsibility for talkbacks, similarly to his old proposal to require talkbackers to identify themselves, leads to one direction: Depletion of this tool to the point of atrophy.
The spontaneity, great freedom, relative lack of morality, immediacy, and anonymity all serve to build and shape the livelihood and vitality of the talkback phenomenon. Taking away some of these characteristics would largely kill it off.
The demand for identification and registration would leave many out of the game, exactly like imposing legal responsibility on a website would lead its managers to place a “human firewall” that would cut off talkback traffic – and we have not yet discussed the difficulty inherent in implementing and enforcing these flawed regulations.
One observer noted that “in the spirit of the talkback era, we can say that talkbackers are invited to take their talkback and shove it up their…” Another critic characterized them as rightists. A third one was shocked by this “reckless” phenomenon. Former Knesset Member Yosef Lapid insulted talkbackers by saying they’re all teenagers.
Self-appointed ‘democracy guards’
However, one suspects that this dignified group did not come up with its views regarding the blatant nature and mudslinging that indeed characterize some talkbackers based on these reasons. It is possible that the reasons for criticism are hidden from view, such as the loss of media hegemony and the need to publicly address the criticism leveled by readers. These factors may play a key role in objection to talkbacks, even though the critics naturally tend to refrain from publicly stating them.
A political factor also plays a role here. One need not be particularly keen eyed to notice where the talkback wind is blowing, particularly in political news stories and opinion pieces. While the press is almost completely controlled by a core of the moderate and radical Left, a completely different picture emerges in the talkback arena.
Just like Petronius served as Emperor Nero’s advisor in matters of luxury and extravagance, here too there are apparently those who think that this God’s gift of ruling in matters of good and proper taste is their own heavenly monopoly.
For obvious physiological reasons, it would not be appropriate to shove these positions, just like MK Hasson’s bill, to the place worthy of talkbacks according to one of the abovementioned critics. Yet the talkback world’s relative freedom of expression should certainly be safeguarded.