Go Forth and Nutpick No More

Vox reporter Jane Coaston is trying to turn over a new leaf:

Hooray! More people need to be familiar with this term, which was a team creation back in 2006. I suggested that we needed a word for “trawling through open comment threads to find wackjobs who can be held up as evidence of crazy liberals”:

Needless to say, this practice is almost self-discrediting: if the best evidence of wackjobism you can find is a few anonymous nutballs commenting on a blog, then the particular brand of wackjobism you’re complaining about must not be very widespread after all. So how can we mock this practice effectively enough to make people ashamed to indulge in it?

Bill Wasik, now gone on to bigger and better things as a deputy editor at the New York Times Magazine, was the judge, and he chose “nutpicking,” which had been suggested by commenter BlueMan.

Not only do I think this meme deserves more widespread use, I’d even broaden the definition a bit these days. An awful lot of reporters now trawl through Twitter looking for performative comments without checking to see if the tweeter actually has a following of any serious kind. I’m not suggesting that the Washington Post should only quote people with big Twitter followings, but I am suggesting that if your goal is to find flamers and trolls and randos, maybe you should just stop. You’ll certainly find them, but what’s the point?


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