On CNN a few moments ago, the brother of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, lamented that he and his brothers’ family, including his daughter, had endured mockery and insults because of the scandal of the mayor’s cocaine use and admitted “drunken stupor.”
It echoed a comment from earlier in the day, from the woman whose picture was featured on the Obamacare insurance-exchange website, who said she had been a victim of bullying:
The woman, identified only as Adriana by ABC News, is a Colombian citizen who lives in Maryland and is married to a U.S. citizen. The report said she is applying for U.S. citizenship.
After remaining anonymous for weeks, she said that she decided to speak out to confront people she described as bullies hiding behind their computer screens.
“They’re cyberbullying…I had to do this for my child. I’m here to stand up for myself,” Adriana told ABC News in a choked voice.
“I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website,” she said.
Three quick points:
1) Kids are off-limits to anyone decent. Unfortunately, the world has plenty of people who are not decent.
2) No one was actually making fun of Adriana of Maryland; no one knew who she was. The target of the mockery was the site and the geniuses who built it and assured us all that it would work fine. No one held her responsible for the site’s failure to work – well, no one sane, anyway. Nobody hates her.
3) There is nothing all that special or remarkable about people writing terrible things about you on the Internet.
As I wrote in a Morning Jolt a year or so back, if you express your views in public on a regular basis, chances are high that at some point you’ll get a death threat. Here are some of the folks who received death threats in a one-month span:
- Comedian Jon Lovitz.
- A Spanish field-hockey player.
- A Somali comedian — who was actually murdered.
- Actress Ellen Page.
- Bank employees in Cyprus.
- Drew Peterson’s defense attorneys.
- The guy who wrote the first negative review of The Dark Knight Rises.
“I want to kill you” is the new “I disagree.”
I don’t want to be cynical when I hear someone complaining about getting death threats, because it’s almost always frightening and surreal to receive one. Normal people don’t express a desire to kill each other over mundane disputes. (They reserve it for appropriate occasions, such as an insult to their loved ones, someone cutting them off in traffic, or when a referee makes an awful call.) But the ubiquity of death threats, and the ever-lowering bar to trigger an expression of allegedly murderous rage in some numbskull with access to an e-mail account, have rapidly devalued them on the scale of the Weimar Republic’s Papiermark.
I increasingly find myself rolling my eyes when a public figure cites e-mails threatening as a claim to a particular status of victimhood, or ipso facto evidence of the extremism and rage of those who disagree with them. Your critics may indeed be extreme and enraged . . . but the rise of e-mail has permitted people to express a lot more extreme and enraged views. (I like Amelia Hamilton’s method of handling it all.)