How about that internet, eh? This miraculous invention has expanded the scope of human knowledge like nothing in the history of the world. I can go from reading up on the cave paintings of Lascaux, to trying to read the 1000+ comments on my last article (!), to watching youtube videos of guys getting hit in the balls instantly. I do so love the information age.
But this marvelous connectivity also has its drawbacks. Increasingly, we are seeing the rise of the Internet Justice Squad (IJS) to demand consequences for speech they find distasteful and beyond their acceptable boundaries for civil discourse.
By now, most of you have probably seen the story of Lindsey Stone floating around on the internet. But, for those of you who missed it, allow me fill you in.
During a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, young Lindsey thought it would be oh-so-hilarious to take a picture mocking the posted signs requesting an atmosphere of silence and respect. Keep in mind, she did nothing illegal, only very distasteful. She and her friend fancied themselves rebellious, often taking such irreverent photos like smoking next to a “no smoking” sign, and the like. In other words, the typical stupid shit that teens and young adults often do to wag their fingers at authority. Personally, if it was rebellion she was looking for, I would have been more impressed if she had held up some Mohammed cartoons in front of a mosque… in Pakistan.
But I digress. Miss Stone then proceeded to post the picture to her Facebook page, apparently in the belief that her idiot friends would agree with her lolz and marvel at her rebellious wit. However, as happens with these things, the picture spread faster than the clap through a whorehouse. (I refuse to use the term, “went viral.”)
Now, do not for one second misconstrue what I am saying. If I, or many veterans I know, had borne witness to this excrement, there would have instantly been a time-honored physical correction handed out to both Lindsay and her idiot friend who took the picture. Following that, as they lay quivering and sobbing on the ground, they would then be subjected to a torrent of withering verbal abuse the likes of which the world has never seen, complete with the knife hand a half inch from their faces. Upon the conclusion of this hard, but necessary lesson, the young lasses would then continue on with their lives, chastened and shamed, now armed with the knowledge that honor and respect are things that many Americans take quite seriously.
Instead, what we have witnessed has become a far too common spectacle these days. There is no face-to-face admonishment; too many are afraid of any sort of interpersonal confrontation. Instead, the baying mob of the internet was unleashed, and the IJS sprang into action, demanding the scalps of the two young women, all for the crime of a bad joke. An apology wasn’t enough, nay, this lynch mob was out for blood. Secure in their blind devotion to all things military, they not only named and shamed her publicly, they also demanded that she be terminated from her place of employment.
The mob’s wish has been granted. Lindsey was fired from her job, along with her co-worker who took the photo. So, they’ve succeeded in adding yet another person to the legion of former workers collecting unemployment and possibly food stamps. Is this enough justice for the masses? Or does the mob contact all of her future employers as well, demanding they refuse to hire her because of her mistake? It wasn’t enough to publicly shame her, and it wasn’t enough to have the albatross of a horrendous google search of her name hung around her neck. Not because she committed a crime, or physically hurt someone. This was all over a bad joke photo.
Never mind if she had family to support. Who cares if she loses her home and her livelihood? The IJS has been sated, and can rest easy, secure in the knowledge that they, and only they, are the arbiters of justice with regards to the veteran’s community.
Germaine to all of this is the continued fetishization of the military in general. In a healthy society, all institutions, especially those in government, should not be immune to analysis, interrogation, and even mockery, as distasteful as it may be. Genuine criticism has taken a back seat to blind support of all things military, with any doubting or differing opinions drowned out by the adoration of the echo chamber. Thankfully, there are other veterans out there that believe perhaps we should start discussing this continuing phenomena. As USMC officer Aarron O’Connell wrote recently in his excellent op-ed in the New York Times:
“Most of the political discourse on military matters comes from civilians, who are more vocal about “supporting our troops” than the troops themselves. It doesn’t help that there are fewer veterans in Congress today than at any previous point since World War II. Those who have served are less likely to offer unvarnished praise for the military, for it, like all institutions, has its own frustrations and failings. But for non-veterans – including about four-fifths of all members of Congress – there is only unequivocal, unhesitating adulation.”
The first amendment to the Unites States Constitution only protects citizens from government retribution regarding speech. It says nothing about private consequences, so the argument goes. However, we in America also have an understanding that it is different here, and that we don’t go around firing people and excommunicating them from society because of stupid things they say and do. Regardless of whether you agree with the controversial opinion being offered, the way to combat it should not be to ruin someone’s life by making their name forever google-able.
I have already heard the argument from friends that, while they agree with my sentiment, they are making an exception in this case, because what she did was so heinous that it could not stand without serious consequence. That is inconsistency, and therefore illogical. Either we can discuss these things like adults, or the spirit of public and controversial debate is lost.
Gawker media is a perfect example of the selective outrage. One of the plank-owning members of the IJS, they recently ran an article questioning whether Stone should be fired, and seemed to take the tone that perhaps the public shaming of a young, stupid girl and getting her terminated was a bridge too far. The left-leaning Gawker had finally found a sympathetic internet mob victim.
That same Gawker media, at their Jezebel website, showed no such hesitation following President Obama’s re-election. Here, they published accounts of young, stupid children who had taken to twitter and bleated out hysterical, racially charged tweets. Not only did Gawker media publish their full names, they contacted the schools that these idiots attended to seek comment and urge punishment.
This hypocrisy is useful to illustrate that while we may find an individual’s speech to be personally repugnant and sickening, this is the price we pay for living in the only country in the world to have true freedom of speech. With various ethnic and academic groups
quietly loudly calling for changes in the first amendment, the time is now to draw a line in the sand and say with pride, “That is not how we do it in the United States of America.” And that means that we do not internet stalk people whom we have deemed at odds with prevailing public opinion.
A lot of us here at cms.sofrep.com, including many of you readers, have friends and former colleagues buried at Arlington. Let us honor them by defending the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution, as every warrior laid to rest there took an oath promising to do the same.
So, whaddya think? I know a lot of you will
think I’m a goddamn pinko commie who hates America have different opinions on this than myself. Let me have it in the comments…
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