Cruelty and Derision on the Internet

in Too Serious For Words

There is something going on in this country that is disturbing me. Maybe it’s always been here, and I’ve just never noticed before? It’s quite possible that I am that so focused on my own shit that I’ve forgotten about the crap that goes on in people’s heads.

Two things were brought to my attention that are distressing me today.

We’ve all heard about the horror wrought in a Colorado theater the other night. So many dead and injured. A mother was there with her baby. She lived through that terrible experience, and from what I understand (which isn’t much) neither was hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are groups of people on the internet questioning her parenting. Critiquing her. Besides the incredible lack of manners, it’s not okay to kick someone when they are down, the unkindness is staggering. Perhaps they are trying to reassure themselves that this will never happen to them, or their families because they would never make the mistake of taking a baby to late night theater.

It’s wrong on so many levels that I feel quite overwhelmed. Internet cruelty. I’ve heard of it, of course, but being brought face to face with bullying’s ugly face? I feel as if I’ve been punched in the gut. Innocent people died that night and what do we see? Compassion and kindness? No. Let’s tear down the victim.

The other thing that’s happening is a huge battle between readers/reviewers and authors. Authors are upset because some reviewers are targeting certain authors, sometimes without even reading that author’s book apparently. It seems as though they are trying to ruin careers. And not only are they attacking the writing and the plot lines, they are attacking the writer’s character. Groups are banding together posting negative reviews en masse, deluging book pages on Amazon and Goodreads with negative reviews and character assassinations. In return authors are banding together and doing the same to the reviewers. The difference is that as far as I know the authors aren’t targeting the readers/reviewers livelihoods, which is what is happening to the authors.

In return I’ve heard some authors are posting reviewer’s personal information on the web, threatening their privacy and the safety of their families. This is a harsh form of censorship, indeed. And also morally wrong – at least in my opinion. Really, bad reviews on your books warrants putting families at risk? Children are to pay for the sins of their parents?

Why attack another person’s source of income or safety? If you don’t think a waiter in a restaurant does a good job, you leave a small tip,  right? If the service is really bad, or if they are rude you might speak to a manager. I suppose you could invest a lot of energy and try and get them fired, but then you are robbing them of the opportunity for improvement. And normally, you don’t do that. You just walk away. You don’t try to destroy a poorly trained waiter, although you might avoid that restaurant in the future.

So why are people trying to ruin the careers of writers they don’t like? Why are writers trying to intimidate reviewers and endanger their families? Why do they think that that is okay? It’s easy enough to leave a review saying what you don’t like about the story or the writing, but why attack an author’s character? And why write a bad review if you didn’t read the book. Why ask your friends who have also never read the book to back you up and post more bad reviews? I know it’s a power play, but jeez people, don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

The lack of compassion and just plain manners is appalling. I don’t know why I thought we were evolving beyond this. I guess it’s because I only frequent websites where unconditional positive regard is the norm. Yes we disagree. But when we disagree we do it without attacking the other party’s humanity. They have a right to their opinions, even if they are different from our own. Or my own.

Here in the land of the free we are allowed the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (punctuation is my own – mostly because I can’t be bothered to look up how it’s actually written. I’m lazy, yes, but hey that’s my right.) Forgive me for foisting my opinion on you, but in my view LIFE includes the right to make a living. And to continue to improve your job performance if you care to.

I guess it comes down to this. It’s bad manners to tear down and trample on other people. It’s also bad Karma. It’s impeding our ability to evolve as human beings. And in my opinion evolve we must if we are to survive as a race. Unconditional Positive Regard people, that and a little compasion go a long way. Add some basic manners and we got the semblance of civilized society.

Of course I’m preaching to the choir here.

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