Soon after getting up each morning I spend roughly ten minutes in checking a number of websites. One of these is the site of a Dutch daily newspaper, called de Telegraaf (the Telegraph). Let me say this: I am not a fervent reader of this paper. Maybe I ought to state this a bit stronger: I greatly dislike this paper and the values it proclaims. Around seven am the newspaper boy does not deliver this, admittedly quite popular, paper to our door, but another—’quality’—paper [Trouw]. However, the website of the Telegraaf does provide a quick answer to the question whether something important happened during the nightly hours. And I must admit that I am often also quite curious to see some of the readers’ comments.
Anyone who knows anything of communication and journalism knows that by comparison the media always get more negative ‘letters to the editor’ and web-comments than missives of adhesion. This seems to apply even more forcefully to the Telegraaf readers. Any ‘hot’ item—and lately there have been enough of those—hundreds of readers tend to empty their vials of wrath. Usually the comments define the government as rotten and ineffective, and the prime minister does not get a very positive press either. Half of the Netherlands (or perhaps even a bit more) consists of people who only want to line their own pockets, while they contribute nothing to society. And, of coursem there is Brussels and the EU, and . . . the thousands of Syrian fortune hunters who enter our country. And who knows how many IS terrorists are among them.
It takes me some effort to realize that these comments do not represent the average opinion of the Dutch population. Yes, they stand for a disturbingly large group of people (who are mostly ill-informed and opinionated), but there are also other voices of people who think in a more nuanced and constructive way—although these tend to be less vocal and, unfortunately, re not speaking out as frequently!
This does not just apply to the secular media. Looking at the letters to the editor and the web-comments of the Adventist Review (the journal of the Adventist world church), I often get a kind of Telegraaf-feeling. I find it quite frightening to see how negative sentiments or simple Hallelujah-shouts that ignore the facts, often reign almost supreme. The comments often cry wolf about all kinds of tendencies that readers discern in the church. So far, so good. There must be freedom of speech. But often ideas, intentions and hidden agendas are attributed to people, and opinions that are contrary to their own are all too easily depicted as satanic. [I hasten to add that I also find many letters and web-reactions in other denominational and independent Adventist media not very uplifting.]
Reading such reader-reactions at times discourages me greatly. I must continuously tell myself that it is a ‘law’ that negative comments will greatly outnumber positive reactions. We are told that the chance that someone who disagrees will seize his pen or grab his i-pad is about ten times more likely than that someone who approves of what he reads will react.
Last week I had to remind myself several times of this. My blog of last week was not appreciated by all readers. Some comments may be found at the end of that blog (both under the Dutch and the English version). Some reactions were of such a nature that I deleted them. After all, I want my blog to retain a certain amount of ‘class’. Quite a few readers preferred to send me e-mails. Among those there were also more negative than positive ones. The most important problem was that apparently many readers did not really understand that message I wanted to convey and thought that I placed Jesus in the gay-scene of his days. Whenever I post a somewhat controversial blog it also appears that some readers are so sure of the correctness of their own views that they will not even consider any other approach.
Until yesterday I thought that this week’s blog might be about the papal visit to the USA. However, I decided against that idea, since I do not want to receive too much digital communication during the coming week. Earlier blogs about the pope or about Catholicism usually resulted in some comments that I really ought to restudy the biblical prophecies, If I did, I would know that the pope is ‘the beast’ of the book of Revelation, and would discover that even the sympathetic Francis deceives us.
For the next few days I do not welcome such reactions. Together with my wife I hope to spend a few pleasant days with friends on the coast of the south of Spain. Next week, undoubtedly, I will find again something controversial to write about.