Title text: NPR encourages you to add comments to their stories using the page inspector in your browser's developer tools. Note: Your comments are visible only to you, and will be lost when you refresh the page.
This comic represents a news article that bemoans how sometimes lazy journalists will, instead of taking time to research the genuine public opinion on a certain issue, simply cherry pick comments as evidence to support their thesis. The irony is that the article is likely basing its own narrative of outrage among Internet users on random comments as well. For example, an anonymous Twitter account from Northern Ireland with 159 followers gets used as an example in the first paragraph of a NY Times article about how U.S. Millennials think.
The commenters create the narrative here, by pointing out how easy it is for commenters to push a point of view, and how little editorial control or fact checking there is in such a process. The final commenter reveals that the article itself is cherry picking from a handful of random comments to support its arbitrary narrative of internet outrage, proving the real joke.
The link in one of the comments is to 1019: First Post, which also refers to manipulating comments to change public opinion of a topic. It specifically mentions "creating an impression of peer consensus", a line which is near-quoted in the first comment included in this comic.
Another comment mentions a National Public Radio ("NPR") decision to remove comments from their website in 2016  because they represented only a tiny fraction of their readers. The statement released by NPR suggested they had decided to use social media channels to engage readers instead of using an on-site commenting system.
The last of the comments may be from the user "Mary" who, in the NPR article, was explicitly cited to have said that the comments have been too violent. But it is unclear how this is possible given that this article claims to have been published after the comments having been turned off.
The title text refers to the ability to edit webpages using in-browser tools, like "Inspect Element." However, such changes are temporary and only on the machine used for viewing the web site; anyone else loading the page will not see them, and refreshing the page causes the changes to be replaced with the real content. This would mean that no other users would be able to see the comments, and news sources could not use them to influence public opinion.
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- [Single panel comic depicting a screenshot of an Internet article, showing the article title, lines of wavy characters representing the article text, and several comments from readers of the article with their profile pictures.]
- Backlash: Internet users are outraged over news stories using a handful of random comments to support arbitrary narratives!
- [Close-up of Megan:]
- I can't believe how easy it is to create an impression of peer consensus.
- [Close-up of Hairy:]
- This dynamic is so easily manipulated and it freaks me out. xkcd.com/1019
- [Full picture of Hairbun:]
- Everytime I share something and a friend responds "Haha, did you see the top comments..." it just reminds me how influential these things are in shaping the impressions of even relatively internet-savvy readers.
- [Close-up of Cueball on a black background:]
- NPR got rid of comments in 2016 when they realized they all came from a handful of visitors posting hundreds of times a month.
- [Full picture of two guys, Cueball and Hairy:]
- Eventually social norms will adapt to this stuff, but it needs to hurry up.
- [Close-up of Ponytail:]
- I have nine followers and created my account last month; how am I being quoted in this news article??
One of the comments to the article references an earlier xkcd comic 1019: First Post, which compares the cost of buying election ads on news sites versus paying college student to wait for news articles and submit the first comments to every news article.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!