Time To Holster Your Opinions? Intolerance Kills

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic nominee and gen...
Gabrielle Giffords. Image via Wikipedia

Great piece in today’s New York Times, responding to the terrible shooting yesterday in Tucson:

Within minutes of the first reports Saturday that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of people with her had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the Web. One was Sarah Palin’s infamous “cross hairs” map from last year, which showed a series of contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords’s, with gun targets trained on them. Another was from Daily Kos, the liberal blog, where one of the congresswoman’s apparently liberal constituents declared her “dead to me” after Ms. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week.

Odds are pretty good that neither of these — nor any other isolated bit of imagery — had much to do with the shooting in Tucson. But scrubbing them from the Internet couldn’t erase all evidence of the rhetorical recklessness that permeates our political moment. The question is whether Saturday’s shooting marks the logical end point of such a moment — or rather the beginning of a terrifying new one.

I blog at opensalon, under my name, Caitlin Kelly. There, last week, someone decided to threaten me — for expressing an opinion (on boredom, of all things) he disliked — with beating me bloody.

Excuse me?

Did I laugh it off because, hey, he’s just some random guy on the Internet? Because he lives (he says) in a state far away from me?

No. I called my local police and they are investigating it.

Because to threaten someone in this fashion is a crime that can lead to jail time.

A few people at that site sneered at me and derided me for my sensitivity. He’d done it to a bunch of other people, so why was I so overly sensitive?

Because being threatened for speaking my mind, civilly and calmly, is an abuse of my rights. Because it is illegal.

And because the man who shot 20 and killed six people yesterday in Tucson started out “only” rambling on wildly on the Internet before he decided to express his opinions with a Glock instead.

What will it take to restore any sense of civility to public discourse?

When did lethal rage become the default way to express your opinion?

6 thoughts on “Time To Holster Your Opinions? Intolerance Kills

  1. Yet another mass-murder – when will it stop?

    Words can wound with horrible consequences. Yes we have a right to free speech but we cannot have that right without accepting responsibilities to use that speech to protect our community and build a better one.

    Our me-centred ethos does not work. While it is important to look after ourselves and express our opinions it must be balanced by sympathy for others and the will to go out of our way to help others. It will take effort by all of us to bring about this change of culture.

  2. I agree with your article in all respects but one. I do believe that Sarah Palin’s website, and remarks by highly visible bloggers are responsible for this type of senseless killing, if only indirectly.

  3. Ms. Kelly:

    As always, I find your blog to be both insightful and filled with things even a “commoner” like me can identify with. In this technological age where almost anyone can be “cyber-bullied” it’s almost like common decency to each other is a very distant and archaic ideal.

    Internet immunity has often been the shield these cowards hide behind, entrusting that just because its text, they’re relatively safe. I applaud you for taking steps to put these kinds of people in their place. No one should have to tolerate being denigrated, no one should have to be abused, even “textually”. I think more of us should take a stand against these cyber-bullies.

    Maybe once some of them start getting thrown behind bars people will start remembering what simple human civility is.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! Everyone needs to pay attention to bullies and stand up to them. I was able to get the man who bullied me at opensalon.com banned, for which I feel relief. But when you blog alone, without a moderator, you’re on your own, and can indeed feel very vulnerable.

  4. Pingback: Down With Cyber-Bullies! « Writerholic's Anonymous

  5. Pingback: Writerholic's Anonymous » Blog Archive » Down With Cyberbullies!

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