In a recent radio interview, I discussed the issue of “webtribution,” a term coined by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal to describe people who use the Internet to get revenge – i.e., publicly to hurt another human being with whom they are not happy.
The Internet is anonymous, immediate, and gratifying in the moment. In human history, vengeance is not unfamiliar – people haven’t changed that much. Their means of delivering pain has evolved from poison, duels, clever rumors, and Machiavellian manipulation to the world wide web. In some ways, damaging someone’s reputation is akin to murdering them, as their reputation is devastated world-wide and forever, making it difficult for them to function in private relationships as well as in the community and at work.
To quote The Wall Street Journal: “Most of us have heard of someone posting naked photos of an ‘ex’ online. Or writing nasty reviews for a restaurant or book, not because they dislike the product, but because they dislike the person who created it. Or signing up an acquaintance for [unwanted] e-mail advertising lists.”
My opinion is that it should be illegal, as it is immoral, to post information or opinion about people without identifying yourself. Obviously, it is also cowardly. Google and all other such carriers should not permit anonymity. That would immediately change the complexion of what is posted, and I don’t think they’d lose business, except from those who use the Internet for evil (terrorists of the international and interpersonal kind).TrackBack URI
I’ve had a liberal commentator on live television in Canada suggest that someone should slit my throat because of my support of traditional marriage. He was not countered at that moment, nor criticized later. I, however, had to have bomb-sniffing dogs case a Canadian stadium before I gave a charity fundraising talk because of some nasty threats.
A fellow in West Hollywood didn’t see the irony in showing hatred towards Sarah Palin by hanging her in effigy…after all, if it’s not one of “us,” then it’s explained or excused as simply funny or an exercise of free-speech.
Calls to my radio program come from people of both genders, all age groups (5 to 81), the spectrum of races and those of various socio-economic standing, liberals and conservatives, and “straight” as well as “gay.” It would seem that socio-political positions be damned, since most all people have an interest in the well-being of their children, their intimate, family, work, or community relationships, their inner struggles, as well as morals, values, ethics, and principles.
When I helped a young male caller with his “boyfriend” problems – which are no different in their content from “girlfriend” problems: common sense, fears, communication, – I got a spate of letters like this
“I can’t stand it anymore! I know Dr. Laura can’t refuse to help people who call in, but I am SO sick of homosexuals being crammed down our throats. I can’t even turn on Dr. Laura’s show and get away from it.
“Decent, moral, religious, family-oriented people listen to Dr. Laura’s show and don’t want to listen to that crap. I feel like gay people are trying to throw their sexual preferences in our face more and more all the time with calling in to radio shows, lawsuits against people who don’t bend over backwards for them, children’s books, greeting cards, etc. The world really is going to HELL! I would really have a hard time answering calls like that if I was Dr. Laura.”
The station that aired my radio show dropped it because “She talks to homosexuals as though they were human.”
These comments are generally more than balanced by ones like the following:
“I’ve been a listener… for years and years. I’ve always enjoyed your show and appreciated your approach. One of your conversations today prompted me to write you. I am gay, and have had a long and challenging process in accepting my sexuality. Not only am I gay, but I’m a Christian, and generally hold conservative beliefs. Many of my friends have bought into the “victim” mindset that our community is told we have to fall into. In my opinion, all this seeks to do for anyone is to separate and divide. They believe that everyone needs to completely accept and support gays.
“While I personally believe that this is how I was born and how God made me, I also realize that many people do not share my view. While I disagree with them, I respect their right to hold that opinion. You made an excellent point today when you highlighted the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Right or wrong, good or bad, It’s simply unreasonable for anyone to demand complete acceptance of anything from anyone else.
“I wish with all my heart that my gay and lesbian friends would get past their biases and listen to what you have to say about right and wrong, healthy behaviors and appropriate ways of handling conflict. Thank you for being you, standing up to those who cowardly try to tear you down and silence you, and for coming into my radio every day. You have helped me more than you will ever know!!”
Speaking of hate, there’s a new television series (ABC, Thursday, 10 PM) called “Life on Mars.” A New York City police detective goes spinning back in time from the year 2008 to 1973 – where he is stuck. The 1973 cop he teams up with and he have interesting “cultural” differences. For example, the 2008 cop describes an assault that just happened as “a hate crime.” The 1973 cop mockingly retorts – “As opposed to an “I really, really like you crime?” – pointing out the absurdity inherent in such classifications – as though all men and women were not created equal nor equal in the sight of the law.TrackBack URI