Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Internet Cowards

Shawn Macomber, today at American Spectator, has a very thoughtful column concerning the downside of the Internet: cowardice and/or bullying via proxy (email) which coarsens civil discourse. I think he's right to point this out.

The Internet may have revolutionized communications in countless helpful ways, but it's time to admit it has also sent politeness and civil discourse back to the Stone Age. At any given moment on any given day, millions of modern day cowards are spouting off electronically whilst believing in their heart of hearts they are the bravest boys and girls who ever lived.

Is this any different than playing video-games? You get to be a contender without ever moving from your couch?

My own experience and travels via Internet have been different from Mr. Macomber's. Due the location I had lived, people who disagreed with my opinions used telephones to abuse me. Anonymous "drive-bys" by phone. Or would "place" hate mail in my mail box. Or leave newspapers, with specific articles circled, in my driveway. Ergo, my getting "hate and/or abusive" emails was actually less threatening, and in this vein I could appreciate the cowardice even more.

Again, I think Mr. Macomber is right to point out a very specific social negative, I disagree with him only in that I don't think the issue is confined to the Internet. Or even encouraged by the Internet. I hear so-called statesmen and "headliners" refer to Republicans as "Nazis", and so I have witnessed the natural repercussion of everyday people referring to Republicans as Nazis.

Hear some snazzy, nasty little quip via TV? Use it in public. See some celebrity get sued for harassment and watch others jump in as in the most recent allegations against Mr. Bill Cosby (a woman claiming Bill Cosby assaulted her, too!, 30 years ago). This, then, resembles a football "dogpile", no?

Year after year do we not see Academics pushing fraudulent opinions and studies, and year after year do we not see students continuing to spout the fraud whether by email, in front of cameras, in the streets?

I agree with Mr. Macomber, that uncivil discourse by internet is a social problem. But I think its roots are larger than merely being by "internet". The internet, IMHO, is a great leveler -- especially if uncivil opinions are expressed and permitted to be challenged in open forums. Heretonow, we've seen such nonsense quasi-mediated in courtrooms. This is what has fueled the Lawyer lobbies, and the "death" by press accounts.

I've tried and tried to understand the MSM (et al) obsession with slamming bloggers. And trying to hold bloggers to the same "journalistic standards" as journalists themselves are, so-called, held to. One would hope the MSM would believe the 2nd law of Thermodynamics in that water seeks its own level, no? Meaning, the freeing up of differences ("diversity") would accommodate and mediate differences in fact and/or opinion. It works in science; it also works in the public sphere.

But yes, I also know the hatemail fantasy: "I hit her hard! "I got one!". Words do not equal actions. Therefore, to uncivilly slam another person via email equates to encouraging delusions.

The real world, and interactions in and with it, are far more exciting and real than what is contained in an email.

But, OTOH, sometimes those hateful emails can take the place of real actions against a person. The "I got one!" taking the place of actually stalking and/or harming another.

Sometimes, there's a flip side positive to what appears a negative.

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