Internet Commenters Are Us?

Amy Myers, the sophomore who challenged Michele Bachmann to a debate on the Constitution, has been the target of vile comments on the Internet.

Balloon Juice‘s Dennis G. is outraged that we’re not outraged:

[T]he wingnuts are threatening to rape and/or attack the young high school student who challenged Michele Bachmann to a debate about the US Constitution.

Our own Doug Mataconis had posted the story of Cherry Hill, New Jersey sophomore Amy Meyers a few days back, but this is the first I’ve heard of the threats. The story:

“A lot of them are calling me a whore,” 16-year-old Amy Myers said, referring to anonymous comments reacting to online news reports about her challenge to the 55-year-old Minnesota congresswoman.

[…]

Amy and Wayne Myers said the comments on conservative websites alarmed them most. Several commenters threatened to publish the Myers’ home address.

Others threatened violence, including rape, they said.

“They’re targeting me just because I’m challenging Bachmann,” Amy said.

So . . . the “wingnuts” in question are unidentified anonymous website commenters. Anyone who has been on any of these forums over the years knows how horrific they can be. It’s not limited to conservative sites–or, indeed, to political discussions. Check out the vile comments on an Auburn-Alabama, Yankees-Red Sox, or Cowboys-Redskins thread some time.

Surely, someone who writes at Balloon Juice, whose comment section is a free-for-all, is aware of this Internet tradition? Not, apparently, Dennis:

Perhaps it is only 27% of these fucks who respond to any moment of cognitive dissonance with threats of violence. I think it may be most of of them, but lets go with 27% of TeaBaggers who make up 27% of Republicans, who are 27% of American voters. Sure it is a small and loud group, but it is still way too many folks dedicated to violence as their first option in any political discussion.

And yet, no outrage. IOKIYAR is a fact and not an acronym of the internets. I would think that threatening to rape a child might generate a little blow back, but it seems that threats of violence—including threats to rape children—really are OK if you are a Republican. As the kids say: WTF!!

I will stand by this statement of Republican condemnation until until a Republican of some note decides to condemn Backmann’s defenders. It would be nice if it was the Congresswomen, but I do not think she has the sand to do so.

Is directing such vitriol at a 16-year-old girl–let alone who’s done nothing more than politely imply that a public figure is a moron and an embarrassment to her gender–disgusting? Of course. Do I condemn it? Sure. But, really, we’re going to hold national political figures responsible for anonymous Internet comments made by . . . well, somebody? And require them to issue a statement of condemnation every time someone who might be associated with their political ideas posts something mean on the Internet?  As the kids say: WTF!!

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    If you want to truly experience a toxic online community, visit the World of Warcraft forums.

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    I think it’s more appropriate to hold the blogger to a standard. What was said in the original post on the conservatve website, was it written in a way which would elicit the wingnut response? Reminds me of Malkin and the health care/granite countertops kid.

  3. Southern Hoosier says:

    As I said before, there is a whole subculture of apolitical cyberbullies out there. The only way you know who they are and why they made their threats is either when they actually commit a crime or law enforcement takes the threat seriously.

  4. wws says:

    You want to see online hatred towards a teen, just look what the entertainment blogs have been saying about Rebecca Black. And all she did was sing a song about Friday!

  5. Southern Hoosier says:

    And there is all the texting bullying that we never hear about.

  6. TG Chicago says:

    Our own Doug Mataconis had posted the story of Cherry Hill, New Jersey sophomore Amy Meyers a few days back, but this is the first I’ve heard of the threats.

    And thus we learn that Joyner reads Balloon Juice more carefully than he reads his own blog.

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/high-school-student-who-challenged-bachmann-receives-online-threats/

    (as of this writing, it’s still on the front page)

  7. michael reynolds says:

    There’s an interesting contrast provided by Reddit.com which is a notably gentle forum, largely populated by smart geeks. I actually think the flame-war approach may just be weakening a bit in favor of kinder, gentler places like Facebook and Reddit.

  8. You want to see online hatred towards a teen, just look what the entertainment blogs have been saying about Rebecca Black. And all she did was sing a song about Friday!

    In fairness, it is a really, really bad song

    (And, before anyone complains, that was a joke)

  9. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago: “And thus we learn that Joyner reads Balloon Juice more carefully than he reads his own blog.”

    My reading can be sporadic, especially on very busy days at work or after the kid gets up on the weekends. For the most part, I read OTB the same way that I do other blogs: Via my RSS reader. I do check out our front page quite often, mostly for editing and quality control purposes–as well as to make sure someone else hasn’t posted on the same topic already– but I do sometime miss posts.

  10. john personna says:

    It wouldn’t hurt if all parties (small p) called for civility. And no, “it’s not just us” does not rise to the same moral plane, nor does “they do it too” or “you go first.”

  11. matt says:

    Vast Variety : I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. WoW is just the worst because it has the largest population. Other online MMOs and such have just as bad a problem with trolls . 10% of 6 million > 10% of 500,000.

  12. Dodd says:

    “[T]he Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy allows us to impute the utterances of one blogger to every other blogger of his acquaintance, to anyone who shares the same political persuasion or who dares to agree with him. This is entirely justified because, unlike Them, We are always fair and reasonable. Thinking people realize that ‘They’ (yes, every durned one of them!) all think alike. ‘We’ would never do anything like that, though. We think for Ourselves. You see, unlike some folks we could name (you know the type – smug, morally superior, blind to their own faults) we’re just better than they are. We’re tolerant and open minded folk: above the sort of wildly exaggerated, broad brush generalizations They employ with profligate abandon in lieu of, oh, I don’t know, logic, actual arguments, or other irrelevant/boring fare.” — Cassandra