The person didn’t call me a “curse word.” Well, I take that back. He actually did call me a curse word, one that begins with a F, but I use “curse word” in the headline and the writing because social decorum dictates cursing, especially in text, is just plain trashy.
At least that’s the way it used to be. Before the dark times, before the Internet, before social media.
It was Facebook. The Warriors were out. Not the kind who are brave and defend their nation under the strain of constant threats of harm, but rather the Internet Warriors. These are the guys and gals who just can’t do without that arousing dopamine hit they get from waging war in the pursuit of some kind of vengeance against people they’ve never met. But it ain’t justice, y’all. It’s vengeance. Vengeance, hate, and downright stupidity.
I use that word “stupid” rather than “ignorant.” Stupid is harsher because “ignorant” gets a bad rap. “Ignorant” means you just haven’t learned yet, but you still can. “Stupid” means, in southern boy terms, you know better because your momma or pop or grandmoms or grandpops taught you better. Therefore, the Internet Warrior crowd is more appropriate to be labeled stupid, obtuse, stubborn, and a**hole.
That last one, the one with the double asterisks rather than the double crooked letters, pretty much sums up how the Internet Warriors are perceived by those outside their little cadre of like-minded troglodytes. Case in point, the case referenced in the headline, the case where I was called fat and a CURSE WORD. It’s the tragedy of the North Carolina diner owner and the rabid mob descent upon her establishment and livelihood in pursuit of “internet justice.”
Back this summer, a woman in the Tar Heel state made a mistake. A dumb one. Dare I say a “stupid” mistake. She went on Facebook – and no story that begins with those words usually ends well – and ridiculed people who didn’t tip her servers. She was rude and crude and cringy.
The internet backlash was swift and brutal.
What started out as a call for the business owner to pay her employees a living wage and an assault on the foundation of Capitalism quickly deteriorated into threats, home address publications, links to her other social media accounts, posting the situation to Reddit so it would go world-wide and a concerted, frothing at the mouth like Cujo, crusade to disrupt her business and life to such a degree that not only would the place close but her life would be forever ruined and tossed atop the bones of so many others cancelled because of one dumb mistake, one stupid turn of phrase in the echo chambers of the world wide web.
You see, I saw what was going on and agreed with a lot of the commentors that what she said was dumb and tone-deaf. I agreed with the sentiments that businesses should pay their employees a living wage. All that is true. What got me was when the claws came out like werewolves when that waxing bright ball in the night sky goes full. The fangs came out like Dracula’s when young Mr. Harker came a calling once upon a midnight dreary.
When home addresses were published, I made the mistake of putting in my two cents. I said something to the effect of ruining her life and business wouldn’t just affect her but her family, her kids, the lives of her employees, etc. You could send her into a depression that might culminate with suicide or worse, violence against others. I said they were going too far, that they were blinded by red-hot hate.
“Grow up, you fat CURSE WORD,” one guy told me and went on attempting to destroy the lady’s life.
I don’t know if they succeeded. I got out of there after telling them I hoped they would find forgiveness upon the day they screwed up and the internet mob came for them. I doubt my words made an impact because I see local Internet Warriors still running their mob games even when others try to talk some sense into them.
You just can’t argue with stupid. Mark Twain told us that. They’ll just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
This country has completely lost its civility. It’s completely lost its decency. People are angry. You go to the store and there are no smiles. You get gas and there are no nods of good morning. You try to be kind and call for common sense and you get called a fat CURSE WORD.
Yall, misery loves company. That’s true. And when you associate with miserable people, you become miserable yourself. When you spend your days looking to trash others and share every scrap and tittle of gossip you hear, you not only do harm to those around you, but you also destroy part of your soul.
Every single harsh word, every single attempt to harm others, every single bit of gossip you hush your tone for and lean in to say “did you hear about,” is a chip away at what God gave you.
I’m not perfect. Lord knows I’ve made mistakes online and shared gossip in person. I hate myself for it. I really do. But it took removing myself from those who only do harm to start down a better path. You got to make a change to actually make change. Just like an alcoholic can’t have any liquid temptation around them, so too must those who want to no longer speak or write harsh words not have messy people around them.
You can’t change the world. You can’t put back the toothpaste in the tube. You can’t close Pandora’s Box. You can’t keep people from saying stupid things and others trying to ruin lives.
But what you can do is make a difference every day for yourself. You can do better. You can be better.
Just remember that the people in your life are the heaviest anchors weighing you down. Pull up those you love and cut the anchor on those who just keep you in place.
And Ric Flair said “WOOOO,” and the Good Lord said He loves us.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
(Josh Beavers is an award-winning writer and author. He has earned more than 40 individual writing awards and is syndicated in 12 North Louisiana news journals. The Louisiana Press Association has recognized him five times for excellence in opinion writing, and he has earned numerous Best Investigative Reporting Awards and Freedom of Information Awards for exposure of governmental corruption in Webster Parish.)