I used to think I was one of those people who really could get behind the sentiment in the old adage, "I may not agree with what you're saying but I'll die for your right to say it." I'm not so sure any more.
I believe the free exchange of ideas to be a good thing, but in practice, what the comments sections in newspapers and elsewhere has become is a repository for meanness and ill-disguised ill humour.
I've noticed the first comment on a newspaper article is usually somewhat well thought out and reasoned, but it generally takes only until the third or fourth comment for a commenter to call either the author or another commenter a jerk or a racist or a commie, or, more often, a commie racist jerk. It's depressing and the spelling errors just make it worse.
Other methods of feedback appear to be equally open for abuse. I have a listener who sends me regular email notes complaining about the radio station where I work. His notes may or may not contain a piece of truth, but I can't tell because they're so dripping with sarcasm and filled with snarly asides, it hurts to read them. I dread seeing his name in my inbox, but I feel I have to reply with professionalism and it galls me to thank him for the missive. What I want to do is tell this guy he should stop listening if I offend him so. OK, what I really want to write is, "SAY SOMETHING NICE you unhappy wretch!"
That said, at least he's brave enough to sign his own name.