I rarely read our online comments, but I hear about them.

Ever since we started allowing online readers to post comments on our website, postandcourier.com, I've made it my personal practice seldom to read them.

My reasons are simple:

They are anonymous.

Sometimes they're uninformed.

They are often racist

They can be quite offensive.

Occasionally they are nice.

Sometimes they are nasty.

Too often they are political.

What it tells us is that people who feel a need to post comments online either have very strong opinions on a variety of complicated topics, or they simply don't have enough to do.

The shut-ins

When I was a little boy growing up in the Methodist church, we used to pray for people like that.

There was a designated time in the Sunday morning service when the minister would tell us about members of the congregation who were in the hospital and those who were shut-ins, meaning they were sick and confined to their homes.

So we would pray for the shut-ins, which is how I visualize many of the people who make it their business to comment on any and all the stories in the paper, whether they have any knowledge of the subject or not.

If the story is of a political nature, the comments start popping up early and keep going strong with liberal or conservative rants, sometimes for days.

There are commentators who obviously try to elevate the debate, but they usually are beaten down by the wackos.

All too often, however, they get cannibalistic and turn on each other, forgetting what the original story was about, and start ripping one another apart.

Flea market

But the comments are obviously entertaining.

Those who read our paper only online actually consider the reader comments an integral part of the story and protest when they are taken away.

Sometimes our editors close the comments on a particular story because some people can't control themselves and cross the lines of fairness, libel and decorum.

That's when those who post comments really raise a ruckus.

They say their First Amendment rights are being denied.

One person actually said there was no reason to even print the story if he couldn't comment anonymously about it online.

Mostly, it's a sad commentary on the news of the day.

But we have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing this kind of unfettered freelance foulmouthed flea market to flourish.

Every time someone posts a comment, it counts as a "hit" on the arbitrary abacus that now serves as a forecaster of our fate.

Thus, there are those who absolutely love the comments and those who despise their very existence.

Somewhere in the middle, I'm afraid, is our future.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598.