The public discourse

Feb 12, 2010

Two years ago, a select group of Wareham pen pals secured the rights to use the name of a local newspaper as the domain name for their new interactive Web site.


The collective mind-set behind this ploy doesn't care much for Robert Slager, publisher of the Wareham Observer, and even less for the town's Board of Selectmen.


In its infancy, was briefly linked to a hard-core gay porn site. This likely surprised even tech-savvy youngsters surfing the Web for Slager's popular sports column. Why the site administrator chose to barrage visitors with male genitalia is anybody's guess.


By 2009, however, had morphed into an established refuge for the town's disaffected citizenry. Regular contributors support each other with their mutual disdain for government officials and the newspaper they regard as little more than a bullhorn for Selectmen.


They openly plot strategy for replacing the current Board with new blood, thwart the Observer's reach by boycotting shops that sell the paper and proudly admit to absconding with entire stacks of gratis copies prior to Town Meeting. Hey, they're free.


Some of the banter on the Web site can be rather amusing, such as the provocative series by Dick Wheeler investigating Slager's journalism career in San Francisco. The author strings his captive audience along until the final chapter, when he confesses to a fondness for fiction.


Many discussions are thoughtfully executed, and certain scribes clearly put a lot of effort into preparing their texts before pasting them onto the message board.


But there's also a potty-mouthed contingent whose verbal assaults debase the site's intention by fueling the long held argument among critics that something more ominous might be lurking around the corner.


Cyber-bullying is the subject of an ongoing national debate in response to an up tick in teen suicides. 15 year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley took her own life last month after receiving abusive text messages and postings on Facebook, the popular social networking site.


During a recently televised Selectmen meeting, one rabble-rousing viewer grabbed her laptop and fired off a round of nasty innuendos at the newly hired Town Administrator.


Thankfully, the intended victim was otherwise engaged.