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Harmony Out Of Dissonance

Since we launched the NPR Community, we've had more than 27,000 comments posted. The good thing is that the social media desk (made up of myself, Wright Bryan and Andy Carvin) has blocked only a tiny fraction of those.

For the most part, we've been happy with the conversation you all have created; we've learned a lot in the past couple of months, from how a community polices itself to more ordinary things like useful links and amazingly human tales about the toll of war.

Terrell Spencer's comment on Ivan Watson's story about a tumultuous marriage between an Iraqi woman an American serviceman was especially poignant.

He wrote:

I'm an Iraq War vet, and I've recently come out of PTSD. Fallujah was a hell hole. You can't live/fight there and it not mess you up. I'm a loving husband and father, I consider it my duty to sacrifice for my family. I love and respect critters, but 8 months ago I snapped at the world's loyalest dog for not coming. I beat her, pummeling her with my fists, screaming while choking her, then threw her off the porch. I was completely out of control. I never hit my wife, but I shamefully created a home where she and my son lived on edge. I'm better now, I've dealt with what happened over there. Why am I spilling all this? Because these people need help. They're hurt and messed up. These people are ashamed, and hurting. They should be rebuilt - not abandoned and condemned.

The comment was left amidst a hostile conversation. The gist of it is that, after struggling economically, the Iraqi woman in the story had turned to stripping to support her family in the United States. A lot of the comments were disconcerting in their judgment.

One of the mild ones came from Jan Shields, who wrote, "Where is the dignity and discipline that we associate with our veterans of war? Shameful. shameful, shameful!"

A couple of producers asked that the comment thread be closed for the story and we considered that seriously, but, then, out of the steam of the conversation emerged Spencer's earnest plea.

Part of the reason we launched community tools on the site was to open NPR to the outside but another big reason was that we thought the wisdom of the many would better inform the stories on NPR.

To see so little empathy given to such a human, flawed family was, to be honest, disheartening. Part of my greatest hope for a community like this is that we go back and forth civilly on a diversity of opinions and come to find some understanding.

But I guess the lesson learned with Spencer's comment is that sometimes to come to that understanding, we need a little tousling, that sometimes out of dissonance emerges harmony.

Next Time: A lighter fare: We look at the NPR Community's top favorites.
The Time After Next: We consider two new discussion rules.