I’m inclined to believe that these reactions are born of three things:
- **The lack of defined community around national newspapers. **This leads to a lack of consequences. You aren’t discussing with your peers or neighbours, but with random strangers. Misbehaviour has no particular social consequence. The worse possible consequence here is being banned from that particular community – but usually it’s pretty trivial to return under a different name.
- The relative novelty of freely-available commenting on news. It will take years for a set of standard behaviours for authors and commenters to emerge. As those behavioural norms emerge more things will be seen as unacceptable.
- Anonymity. It’s been a long-treasured part of internet culture that you can craft new identities for yourself which have little or no relationship to your real-world identity. Could it be that, in some parts of the internet, that boon is, in fact, a bane? And that injecting consequence into the debate is the only way to improve its standards?