Never read the comments

Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins” revelation that she has multiple sclerosis drew a wide range of reactions in the […]

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Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins” revelation that she has multiple sclerosis drew a wide range of reactions in the context of comments on a Star Tribune article.

Since the news went online, readers are allowed to set up accounts and comment on many stories. There’s a running joke among journalists. We tell each other, “Never read the comments.”

Trolls all too often come out from under the bridge and weigh in online. Rather than having healthy discourse and debate, some comments can be pretty awful.

And because accounts don’t require real names, many commenters feel free to say some terrible things. I’ve had some incredibly horrible things said about me and my abilities, with comments on articles I write for other papers.

People would rather spout terrible personal attacks rather than consider that while they may not like an article and may accuse it of bias, there are those of us who write and edit the articles and those of us who are the subject of articles. I’ve experienced both and have to say it’s tough on everyone to be ripped apart nonstop. It’s also tough for our partners and family members.

The article on Jenkins is no exception. I’ll set aside the fact that she is in a four-way race to retain her council seat. I’ll also set aside comments for and against her re-election based on politics. I’ll also set aside the fact that anyone who holds office today has to be ready for attacks.

My focus is disability and how we still have to battle perceptions of competency.

One person said Jenkins should put her health concerns first and resign. That got a quick retort, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the right that it conveys.

Another was more blunt, saying, “Please resign. Don’t be RGB (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) or (Diane) Feinstein or (Chuck) Grassley, thinking nobody else can do the job. Don’t flatter yourself.”

That brought more responses. One was simply, “Anti-disability much?”

Another person said, “Why? A physical disability does not translate to a mental disability! She was not elected to build a bridge, shovel snow, build a pavilion…she was elected to research, analyze, realize unintended consequences . . . make decisions on our behalf . . . so disparaging and ignorant.”

A third person said, “I love it when people who say they are all about diversity attack a black, trans, disabled woman.”

Several people cited their personal experiences with MS and the experience of their family members. Some have lived with MS for 50 years or more. The main point repeated is that MS, which causes great physical pain and severe disabilities for many, doesn’t affect cognitive abilities.

One person noted that MS is a “snowflake condition” and that no two cases are exactly alike.

This kind of news coverage and Jenkins’ act of self-disclosure that I wrote about Tuesday are important. They lead to healthy discourse and debate. But never read the comments, and please don’t feed the trolls.

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