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Keyboard warrior

I have a dear friend whom I have known for probably 25 years or more. He’s a neat fellow, retired from the Marine Corps and a civilian career. If I had to name one person in the world that it would be good to have with you in a tight spot, it would be him.

I could spend quite some time extolling his virtues, his help to others both personally and through community volunteer activities. But for all of that, he took a mean-spirited pot shot at President Obama on Facebook, something I’ve never seen in person.

I say all that to suggest that there is something different between being behind a keyboard and living real life. Personally, I have been consciously striving to bring the two closer together, and because I’m paying attention to the problem, I know that it is not easy to do that.

This article is occasioned less by my friends comment on Facebook than by a large number of comments I’ve been reading as I classify them from Orly’s web site. I think about Adam Cox who got into trouble for typing a threat against Joe Arpaio that he never meant. I’ve certainly written some nasty things, particularly in emails, that I’d never say in person, and probably never think in person.

It’s a strange business. What I want to suggest is that at least some of the birther comments that you see, hate-filled, seditious and violent, are not the whole story about those commenters. What we see might be anger and frustration more than a reasoned conclusion of what they want to see happen. At least I hope so.

14 Responses to Keyboard warrior

  1. avatar
    Craig March 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Doc,

    I’m inclined to agree. However, I draw the line at the people who fan these types of comments, who actively use all the dog whistles and incendiary rhetoric they can muster to deliberately mislead and rile these people up in the first place.

    These shock jocks and ‘activists’ have a special reservation in the latrines under the lowest rung in hell in my mind.

  2. avatar
    G March 12, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I certainly draw the line at that too.

    However, I’m not so forgiving of those who simply spout off irresponsibly online either. Unless they are some immature teenager who hasn’t developed sufficient emotional control yet, I have little sympathy for such types of irresponsible and immature behavior.

    People are accountable for their actions, words and deeds. If they need to blow off “angst”, they can buy a dart board or a punching bag or shout at their pillow when no one is around. What they say in any public arena is on their hands and they earn any blowback it causes. They also are responsible for any unintended consequences that arise from their childish little tantrums.

    You can say that isn’t “who they are”…but if they behave that way “anonymously” online when they think nobody is looking…then YES, the sad and ugly truth is that certainly IS part of who they are inside…and while their public persona in front of you might show a more well-rounded, normal or “kinder” soul…it is also a “mask” for their inner demons.

    Craig: However, I draw the line at the people who fan these types of comments, who actively use all the dog whistles and incendiary rhetoric they can muster to deliberately mislead and rile these people up in the first place.

  3. avatar
    US Citizen March 12, 2013 at 12:32 am #

    I think that the buffer of a screen or a car window can often bring out someone’s inner feelings.
    Sort of like alcohol.
    Things people might not do socially, they might do when feeling more protected.
    Of course, people are more apt to actually drink when at home too, so some comments may be made when people’s inhibitions are chemically lowered.
    A state we may never see them in socially or at work.

  4. avatar
    TheEuropean March 12, 2013 at 2:19 am #

    Doc,

    it is a sad story. Unfortunately your friend lifted his mask for a internet second – which is eternity.

    He may still be good to have “in a tight spot” – as long as he feels watched and is not drunk..

  5. avatar
    JRC March 12, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Don’t write your friend off as some have said here. LOL..if my friends do then they might write me off, and if they do I understand..in a way I did something like he did tonight when I read about Sarah Palin writing a book about Christmas, about the over-commercialization of Christmas. I think most of the people know that I have my ideas about politics, but don’t really touch on the religious aspect of it. I’m not against religion, though it might have come off that way. I have no problem with anyone believing whatever they want to believe. I do question a woman who is commercializing Christmas by selling a book about commercializing Christmas. I may have put off people by my post. I’m sure some of my friends would consider what I wrote a shot at Sarah, eventhough my post was only a question to get opinions. I wouldn’t write your friend off just yet from a post. Call and talk to him first because a post doesn’t always come across how we’d like.

  6. avatar
    Bob March 12, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    In part I think there’s something of an I-can-say-raw-shockingly-ugly-things fad going around a la Michelle Malkin, Keith Ablow, Matt Drudge, etc. The more ugly the remark the more it’s repeated.

    Yes, Democrats do the same thing but it’s much more often buffered by a layer of humor, satire, snark, or style and, most importantly, based on at least a grain of truth (unlike Birthers, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, etc.) There seems to be a desire to get out the truth on Liberal/Progressive sites whereas Conservative sites are nothing more than cheerleading.

    Look at Liberal/Progressive Wonkette vs. Conservative Gatewaypundit as examples. The actual information found on Wonkette is truthful and accurate whereas Gatewaypundit is often untrue, or outdated, or based on joke someone made. Gatewaypundit is pure agit-prop without any regard to the truth.

  7. avatar
    Kiwiwriter March 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I have always said that the Internet was the best thing to happen to the school bully since the invention of lunch money.

    Anonymity and immediate response eliminates civility and civil discourse.

    With the lack of accountability provided by the Internet, with the cloak of anonymity, people say things on the Internet that they would never dream of saying in public, if not out of politeness and decent behavior, simply out of fear of receiving a punch in the snoot as a response.

    In the Internet world, you can hound, vex, harass, and humiliate others and very little can be done about it…as the cases of kids driven to suicide by Internet bullies have shown.

    I try, but fail, when I read some angry screed directed at me, to refuse to take the bait. My interlocutor wants me to get ferociously angry, and pound the keyboard in molten fury, to really show that little bastard, by God! And all he does is laugh at having made me push my own buttons.

    What I try to do is ignore the immediate desire to respond, and simply let the statement marinate for a few days, plot a measured response, and use that…if I bother.

    Unfortunately, too often I fail, and I do pound that keyboard in fury. I should not. Nobody should.

  8. avatar
    Yoda March 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Craig:
    Doc,

    I’m inclined to agree.However, I draw the line at the people who fan these types of comments, who actively use all the dog whistles and incendiary rhetoric they can muster to deliberately mislead and rile these people up in the first place.

    These shock jocks and ‘activists’ have a special reservation in the latrines under the lowest rung in hell in my mind.

    I have a special contempt for people like Orly, or the people at ORYR, or WND, who will censor certain posters, i.e. anti birthers, but will allow the hateful, seditious, often racist comments through.

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    This has been called “mining outrage.” Basically the tack is to get people worked up and angry to improve ratings.

    Bob: In part I think there’s something of an I-can-say-raw-shockingly-ugly-things fad going around a la Michelle Malkin, Keith Ablow, Matt Drudge, etc. The more ugly the remark the more it’s repeated.

  10. avatar
    MTinMO March 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I agree too many do hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and may perhaps make comments they would not do in person or if their face is behind their words. There are many nasty, vicious comments made in response to postings that were not nasty and vicious. I have had it happen in response to some of my comments. So I have made a conscious effort try to stop before I hit “post” and reread my comment and sometimes I save it so I can walk away for awhile. Frequently, those posts never seen the light of day or make it any further than my computer. I have even started considering whether I want that “like” by my name on facebook and no longer just hit “like” because an organization or group I support or a person who I am facebook friends with posted it. If a comment or post gives me a bad feeling or it is phrased in a manner I can’t agree with, I am not willing to bother with it. I find I post less, but when I do, it is a more thoughtful and less hurtful than what I may have done in the past.

  11. avatar
    Kiwiwriter March 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    MTinMO:
    I agree too many do hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and may perhaps make comments they would not do in person or if their face is behind their words. There are many nasty, vicious comments made in response to postings that were not nasty and vicious. I have had it happen in response to some of my comments. So I have made a conscious effort try to stop before I hit “post” and reread my comment and sometimes I save it so I can walk away for awhile. Frequently, those posts never seen the light of day or make it any further than my computer. I have even started considering whether I want that “like” by my name on facebook and no longer just hit “like” because an organization or group I support or a person who I am facebook friends with posted it. If a comment or post gives me a bad feeling or it is phrased in a manner I can’t agree with, I am not willing to bother with it. I find I post less, but when I do, it is a more thoughtful and less hurtful than what I may have done in the past.

    I agree…the best thing to do is ignore the trolls.

  12. avatar
    G March 12, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    Well said!

    Kiwiwriter: I have always said that the Internet was the best thing to happen to the school bully since the invention of lunch money.

  13. avatar
    The Magic M March 13, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Yoda: I have a special contempt for people like Orly, or the people at ORYR, or WND, who will censor certain posters, i.e. anti birthers, but will allow the hateful, seditious, often racist comments through.

    Same at Breitbart. For some time, I doubted if they actually moderated their forums, but when somebody made disrespectful comments about Breitbart’s mother under an article about her death, they were deleted. Therefore it’s proven their comments are moderated, yet they allow open and vile racism on a daily basis.

  14. avatar
    Crustacean March 13, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    US Citizen: …the buffer of a screen or a car window

    I used to think people who drive like maniacs were in fact frothing maniacs. Then I got into a good friend’s car one night. The entire 30-mile drive home, he was conversing pleasantly with me, never raising his voice. Meanwhile, he was cutting people off, speeding, tailgating, practically running people off the road. There was no road rage; he is just a ridiculously aggressive driver. It was a real eye-opener for me (I don’t think I’ve blinked since), and I realize that you can’t necessarily judge someone by the way they behave behind the wheel. So I thank you, Doc, for pointing out that keyboard warriors can be the same way.

    Of course, being a keyboard warrior can take its toll, especially if the person you attack is a boxer with a taste for revenge…

    http://www.worldboxingnews.net/news/2013/03/11/curtis-woodhouse-hunts-down-disrespectful-tweeter.html