How many times have you heard, “Let me tell you the truth about (insert the name here)?” What follows usually bears the same resemblance to truth as a Hieronymus Bosch painting does to sanity. That is, it is usually scurrilous gossip of the worst sort, delivered with the intent to smear an individual and discredit all their stands. This occurs when an individual cannot counter the ideas of another on the merits, and they wish to silence all opposition to their own fancies.
With the internet, such sorts have a new tool at their disposal. In many ways, the internet is our beneficent servant. We can e-mail friends in Moscow in a matter of nano-seconds, we have access to knowledge that previous generations only dreamed of, and publishing is open to virtually everyone with access to a computer keyboard. Unfortunately, we have not yet developed a code of behaviour for internet communication. At present, people are drunk with the possibilities, and they do not realise that there are some things that are truly beyond the pale.
For instance, I NEVER “google” any private individual. I believe that anything posted on the internet about or by them is their private business, and to pry into such is the same as peering over a transom or opening someone else’s letter. In short, it is sinful and without excuse in any form. It is the same as spying on the neighbours. No normal or decent person does such. Then, why do so many do so?
I would say it is positive proof that many do not believe in the concepts of privacy or discretion, nor do they believe that restraint is an important part of courtesy. It is a sad comment on contemporary American society. Yes, it is boorish in the extreme, for one cannot get a complete picture of an individual from such sources, in any case. Sadly, many such sorts belong to “open internet forums” and they share their partial (and therefore, misleading) information with all comers. That is why I belong to no open forums at present, nor do I intend to join any in future. I have never noted any moderator stopping such behaviour, and even if the miscreant is removed, the damage has been done (the intent of the “troll” in the first place, in any case).
Well, what can we do? Firstly, “google” no one excepting public figures. Secondly, withdraw from any group that allows “trolls” to operate. Thirdly, publicly support all those attacked by “trolls”. That is why I support Mrs Kristine Koumentakos in Maryland so vocally and unreservedly. Raymond Velencia acted as an internet troll when he passed intimate information about her in an e-mail attachment. I find that disgusting and reprehensible, and I shall NOT be silent. If we all did so, the trolls would head for the hills.
In other words, courtesy extends to the internet. If someone wishes to be a boor we must ostracise and shun such sorts. We should show the same restraint and civility on the net as we do in all other walks of our life. I pry into no one’s personal doings, so, I would like reciprocity, thank you very much.
If anything, the common behaviour on the internet proves the assertion that we live in a fallen world. As decent men and women, we are called to better than that.
It is time to muck out the byre. Who shall help me?
Saturday 10 May 2008