The most popular blogs out there are disabling comments on their sites (other example, and anoher one). This is not circumstantial, it is a dominating trend. Too bad. I'm positive all these guys would have preferred to have vibrant communities of readers that react to what they publish and interact with each other, creating a feeling of belonging and loyalty (and increasing page views and revenues in the process). They ban comments due to the negativity driven by some commenters (trolls as they're called) that spoil the experience by introducing deliberately confrontational hard statements that immediately trigger a defensive reaction in the audience. Then it goes downhill from there.
This phenomenon has existed for years now and it seems to be a pattern, not a behaviour driven by novelty that ends up adjusting over time. It doesn't. So it probably reflects something fundamental of the human psyche. I believe most people create certain relationship filters when we know we will have to deal with someone in the long or medium term, and inevitably soften or adjust our behaviour to regulate confrontation, which is an emotionally costly thing to be involved into. Now, when you move to an environment (for the first time ever) where these filters do not apply, there are people that unleash their inner asshole, probably releasing them from a burden they cannot cope with in daily, regular interactions with other human beings. Channelling aggresiveness has always been an interesting topic, still to be fully understood. So somehow I understand these bursts of verbal violence as some people's two minutes of hate.
I must confess the challenge stimulates me: how to create a vibrant online community that captures the best of both worlds? The global reach of the web allows for human connections that would have never been possible. Making the most out of those connections, and avoiding the two minutes of hate phenomenon, would release a huge amount of value to us all. That is a worthy goal.