The internet has always been a rough place. People feel anonymous, and feel able to behave in ways that they would not dream of doing offline. Because it’s “only words”, people used to think that it didn’t matter. Accidental rudeness is easy online, where there is no body language. But as long as the internet has existed, the practice of “trolling” has left behind some very upset and hurt people.
There has always been malice online; but more commonly those online were generally from the same background, generally with a certain degree of civilised upbringing. The really nasty, cold, deliberate, calculated attacks, designed and intended to cause pain to the victim, were a rarity.
In recent years this has changed. Group lynchings online have become far more common, as access to the web has extended enormously, and the age of some of those contributing has dropped. Those desperately sad cases of teenagers driven to suicide online in Facebook should tell us that something horrible is happening. It happens when the pleasure of online interaction is deliberately twisted, like a knife, so that logging on becomes a worry, not a pleasure. I have seen this kind of murderous attack in Wikipedia myself, and it doubtless goes on far more than I know about.
I have seen, over the last year or two, increasing evidence that this technique is being deployed intentionally. I have started to think of it under a specific name: giving someone an internet beating.
We need to wake up, and realise that we’re not in Kansas any more. The technique is used because it works. The object is to give so much pain to the victim that he or she stops using the web, leaves the forum, dares never speak about the subject again. It’s organised, premeditated, and not different in intent, nor in any important respect from getting a gang of people together with sticks for the same purpose. The main difference is that the victim can’t call the police.
Today I read on the eChurch blog of an internet beating is being handed out to Stacy, a young Catholic mother, who complained that she couldn’t even go to the park with her toddlers without being confronted by a pair of gays who had decided that a public park in front of the children was the place to fondle each other. As she rightly observed, such conduct was a public statement, and a provocative, spiteful one. It was made in the knowledge that a lot of people there would object, and was designed to insult, to swagger, to say “we can do this and you can’t do a thing about it”. She naturally did not want such displays in a public park — paid for by us all — in front of her toddlers. And who would?
What happened next was sickening. She was handed a cyber-beating. The comments on the post promptly filled up with vitriolic hate and abuse, intermixed with the usual poisonous types who aid and comfort these cyber-thugs by blaming the victim for “provoking” the assault, expressed in fake-polite terms but with exactly the same agenda. Any attempt at rational discussion was drowned. Apparently she even received death threats. When this was reported, the beaters promptly blamed her for this too. Bullying always blames the victim, so this was classic.
eChurch blog adds:
I knew nothing of this post until I noted comments arriving on one of Stacy’s posts that I’d linked to, entitled: Self-Injury and the Sacraments.
I was truly bewildered as to the ferocity, quantity and nature of the comments on the self-injury post, until one commenter pointed me to Stacy’s original post, in which she’d closed comments.
Well, talk about quantity and ferocity of comments, I’d seen nothing until Stacy posted her recent blog, a few hours ago, entitled: You duped me, O LORD.
There are currently a whopping 328 comments!
It transpires that news has spread onto a prominent atheist forum and the hoards had simply hopped across to vent their spleen.
Lisa Graas has now jumped into the fray and blogged in defense of Stacy.
Good for Lisa. If you saw someone being given a beating, and you had the power to come to their aid, wouldn’t you do so? It could be you being beaten and stabbed. It has been me, recently, and nothing depressed me more than the refusal of others to help.
Stacy had a perfect right to object to public homosexual behaviour — I share her sentiments completely, as does most of the population of this world. If gays object to being hated, don’t be hateful, don’t parade your vice in front of people you know might well object. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. It’s really that simple.
Is it accidental that it is atheists and gays doing this? I fear it is not. Since these creeps apparently want to stifle criticism, let us tell it like it is.
It is entirely in keeping with my experience of atheists online that they should be active in this vile pursuit. A rational person would ask just why disbelief in God involved endorsement of a hideous vice. Logically there is no connection, of course. Except that, in reality, their atheism is merely hatred of Christians, and the atheist will endorse whatever the Christians are opposed to; indeed will try to force, by violence, the Christian to endure. There have been and are decent atheists. There are a great number who are murderous vermin.
Nor is it a marvel that this is a “gay rights” issue. From this pressure group I have come to expect no less than the most atrocious bigotry. This, if you remember, is a practice that was detestable to almost everyone, that was legalised under the pretence that “what two people do in private is their own business”. The determination by this lobby to silence any criticism, any discussion other than warmest approval, has brought to Britain the first arrests of clergy on religious grounds since the corrupt and brutal persecutions of the Restoration period.
Everyone opposed to such violence — call it what it is — should support Stacy. We must not let her fight our battle unaided. And we should support her without resorting to weasel words like “I don’t agree with what she says but she should have the right to say it.” To say this is to compromise with the intimidators, to tell them you’re afraid that they will attack you too. Let’s not. Let’s give these thugs the finger, and endorse heartily someone who had the courage to stand up for what they believe in.
I shall, of course, be moderating comments on this post.
UPDATE: The first four hate comments duly arrived overnight!