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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Comment

What does Amy Winehouse, victims of the current famine in the Horn of Africa, Michael Jackson, and a rape victim from Libya all have in common? They, among others, are the target for what is becoming a common source of pleasure and entertainment for many, and the opportunity for others to spew forth their own unique brand of virtual psychological and emotional terrorism, and that is, “The Comment”.

Almost everywhere you navigate online, facebook, You Tube, forums, discussion threads, news articles, or blogs, there is nearly always an opportunity for the reader to leave a comment, and it is here on this platform that we have an insight into the hearts and minds of those leaving their comments.

And an ugly picture is emerging; one of a sector of humanity, which has lost the ability to be humane, to be empathetic, to feel love, to show compassion, and to forgive. But, perhaps I am over-generalizing. Would it be better to say that a picture is emerging of a sector of humanity, of a society that is full of anger, cruelty and hate, and with an attitude of, “I don’t give a damn as long as it doesn’t affect my life”; an attitude of complacency and of living in a “bubble” mentality? Still over-generalizing? Too harsh? Unsubstantiated? Unfounded? A tad too critical and self-righteous? Allow me then, to let you be the judge.

Upon hearing that Amy Winehouse had died, I went to Youtube to revisit her marvelous voice and talent that had not been given a chance to reach its full potential. Death has an insidious tendency to cut short life, and Amy’s was indeed, taken from her much too soon. The world already knew of Amy’s demons and the battle she fought to exorcise them. That took courage to do, especially when she was faced with the knowledge that the eyes of the media were watching, and waiting for her to stumble and fall, providing more fodder for their hungry readers. While a lot of comments I read praised Amy for her fight and showed compassion, many more degraded and ridiculed her, in a torrent of senseless and venomous hate.

“It was her own fault she died early, shouldn't of been a crack head who had needle holes in her toes!, if you saw a heroin addict outside a shop with a good voice and died of an overdose the next week, would you say she died too early, or would you say it’s her own fault? Think about that for a second”.

“She was a Drug addict, she’s not a victim. You guys are f***ing idiots if you think she’s some poor girl. Why don’t you look up the videos of her smoking crack before you support someone who endorses a lifestyle like that”.

“ADDICTS = BIG STINKING CRAPS !!! ADDICTS = BIG STINKING CRAPS !!!

“Let’s face it all she was  ... was a smack head and a p**s head she had her chances to get clean and she didn’t, so I have no sympathy”!

“I'm actually very ok with her perishing, I mean one more drug addict off the streets it's not a bad thing, I bet most people pass thru junkies and/or hobos and speak very bad things about them so I don't know what is so different from her (besides she sings woopdi doo!)”

And the icing on the cake….

“Not enough money in the world for her sick lust for meth. She shoulda just ended it by drinking windshield wiper. Then maybe the world would be spared by her screeching that she calls singing. Coincidentally, she was probably singing on screech. LULZ”!

So, now let us proceed to the current famine crisis in the Horn of Africa, particularly, Somalia. Just speaking the word Somalia, for some, leaves a bitter after-taste in the mouth, because for Americans, emotions run deep and memories are long over events that occurred in Mogadishu on October 3, 1993. I can understand this, for what took place that day touched the world with the same feelings of outrage and horror. But, you cannot blame a whole nation for the actions of a few.

The people of Somalia are poor, and have been trying to survive in a country plagued by years of conflict. They are farmers and herdsmen for the most part, struggling to make a living, and a way to feed their families on a land that is as unyielding and relentlessly brutal as the conflict that surrounds them. Thousands flee to refugee camps, sometimes facing conditions not much better than from the ones they escaped from, and often leaving behind their children, who have been taken by rebels to train as soldiers in their army. Now, they are in the grip of the worst famine in nearly twenty years, and we see images of children with huge eyes and skeletal little bodies; their mothers weeping and praying for someone to save the life of their child. Aid has been slow to reach them because of the conflict, and what aid has been sent, falls far short of what is needed to effectively counter the hunger crisis.

I have read many articles pertaining to the famine, and comments left by some, have been particularly cruel and ugly.

“Oh well not my problem....... I don’t live in Africa”.

“When I get the urge to contribute, I think of how much these people hate people like me and the urge goes away”.

“Not only do I not care, but I am pleading for people to ignore their calls for help. Yes, someone is still bitter over the Black Hawk Down thing”.

“Let nature run its course.....stop sending food, financial aid (money pit), send birth control”!!!!

“I actually like watching people suffer”.

And the winner is….

“F*** THEM LET STARVE!!! Or better yet let the n****r rapists and basketball players and all the other n*****s with money feed them”.

Now, enter Michael Jackson, who was and still is, relentlessly pursued by a media determined to pry into every detail of his life, to dissect his every word and action, to publically put him on display as a “freak” and “weirdo”, to twist and manipulate every grain of truth, to portray him as a monster, pedophile, and drug addict, all for a juicy headline and a fat paycheck at the end of the week.

For most of his talented and brilliant life, Michael Jackson has been the target of hate, jealousy, prejudice, and ridicule, and even death has not saved his name and legacy from this continuous assault. The fire started long ago by tabloid reporters looking to gain a name for themselves in a business that had once been founded on integrity and truth, and continually fanned by die-hard supporters of sensationalistic headlines, is still being stoked by pens that should have run out of ink long ago.

“What happened? Why is this molester still on YouTube? Huh”!

“Yay... The KING OF THE PEDOPHILES is dead. Little boys around the world, rejoice.. your p***s is now safe”!!!

“It’s funny how people cry over a f****d up guy that was trying to look like a girl and raped little kids”.

“It’s incredible to forget how absolutely normal Michael Jackson looked back in the 70’s and 80’s, attractive even, before turning into the sideshow freak that he became”.

“I wonder how much his nose went for on EBay after his death..... It was still in decent shape, only a couple years old”.

And the pièce de résistance…..

“I was really disappointed last Saturday. I was rafting with some friends and missed Michael's two year anniversary of his death. I just wanted to stop by and say happy anniversary Mike. I hope you are rotting in hell you filthy, drug addicted, and child molesting freak. I hope your final moments were painful as your body was overtaken by the overdose. I hope you choked on your own vomit and felt your insides bloating up. You did it to yourself you fag. No one killed you except you. Trash pedophile”.

Ah, so eloquently penned.

And, lastly, we arrive at the Libyan woman, who burst into a Tripoli hotel where international journalists were based, claiming she had been gang-raped and beaten by Gadhafi’s forces. She has now been granted asylum in the United States.

Again, emotions and memories run deep in the hearts of many, as they remember the events that took place 11 years ago, on 9/11/2000. The act of terror played out on American soil, hit the heart and soul of this country, because no one dreamed, or thought that something like this could ever occur here. Trust turned to suspicion, courage turned to fear, children were educated about national security, and minds and hearts were redefined in the days and weeks that followed.

But again, you can’t blame an entire nation, or religion, on the acts of those who choose terrorism as a means to an end. They are not to blame for someone else’s agenda.

“Hilary Clinton needs to be slapped and removed from office for letting another freeloader into our country to live off our system”.

“Just what we need another lying asylum seeker from a terrorist country that the American taxpayers will be taking care of for years to come along with all her relatives that will now be given Visas and allowed to immigrate here”.

“Send her back to where the hell she came from. How long will it be before she starts making demands on our government. The last thing we need in this country is more Muslim's. Send her to France. Enough Muslims in our country”.

“While I feel for this woman, once again we will make this woman a celebrity, rich, while people, who have lived and struggled all their lives, will have to listen to her story for the next 6 months. I'm sorry, but send her a** back and save taxpayers a lot of money. Who knows, probably lying anyway. Whatever happened to the wino with the great voice? Probably back on crack, spending the money he made off his 15 minutes of fame”.

“Great. Another terror cell is now set up in the U.S. Why doesn't one of the freaking Muslim countries offer her asylum? She'll be on welfare and at the same time plotting death to the American people”.

And on a scale of 1 to 10, this comment received a zero...

“It would be interesting to find out how many family members she’s got. Probably hundreds. In a way I don’t have a problem with Muslim women seeking asylum. I much prefer that to the tidal wave of young Muslim men invading Europe. Illiterate, criminal scum, with no other reason to migrate than to make Europe’s white people suffer”.

The comments above are just a small proportion of what is really out there, and if you take notice, you will see commenter’s falling into definite patterns and groups.

The hit and run commenter’s are people who sign up on different sites, proceed to run someone over with their particular brand of unsavory words, and then flee the scene without checking for a pulse. They specifically troll the internet to see where they can do the most damage. You see this quite often on social websites such as facebook, You Tube, Twitter, and Topix.

Then, there are commenter’s who enter the room fully-armed, fire at point-blank range, sit back smugly and with a misguided sense of satisfaction, and read the effect their vitriolic and often pointless attack has had on another person. They then engage in verbal warfare with anyone who chooses to fight back, becoming increasingly more hateful with their comments, until they either get bored and move on to their next victim, or are blocked and reported. But, blocking and reporting is little deterrence when one can easily set up another anonymous profile.

And, let’s not forget the comments left to news articles. I will admit that a lot of commenter’s in this arena have constructive and intelligent comments to make. But, things will get heated when discussing sensitive issues, such as politics and religion. It is when you see strong opinions clash with other strong opinions that the sparks will fly and tempers will be lost, and eventually there ensues a melee of mud-slinging. In the quickly disintegrating atmosphere, certain personality types are easily recognized, while others remain hidden behind their strategically, veiled agendas.

Most news sites have moderators, who read each comment that has been submitted before giving the approval for it to be published. If the comments above, and others that I have read made the final cut, I would hate to read the ones that weren’t given approval. I know we have the 1st Amendment in this country, which entitles all people to freedom of speech, but at best, it appears that it is being used as a screen to hide behind while dumping the muck from the bottom of the barrel. Why do people do this? What is their motivation? What are their individual agendas, because what people are bringing to the virtual table, appears to be multi-faceted.

Far from being an expert on this, my guess is as good as the next person’s, but, three distinct groups of commenter’s are emerging. You have, to all intents and purposes, the stereotypical and mean-spirited bully; the hit and run commenter whose purpose is to elevate him or herself socially, and to gain a sense of superiority. The fully-armed commenter; the one who likes to linger and watch their victims squirm with their continuous, verbal assault, seem to have no other purpose than to spread their hate far and wide. Perhaps, this is because hate is all they are capable of feeling. The last group is hard to define, but it seems to be comprised of an eclectic assortment of racists, bigots, the amateurish, armchair, political analysts, the quasi-religious, the self-opinionated, the self-righteous, and the apathetic. Quite the melting pot, really.

It’s through comments that we get a sense of the disturbing nature of some people’s minds and lives. Bitterness, anger, apathy and hate come to the forefront, and one has to wonder what has happened to these people. What has occurred in their lives to make them feel so bitter, angry, apathetic and hateful? Are they relating to these stories from personal experience? Do they see themselves mirrored in the accusations they hurl at others? Are they victims or perpetrators themselves, trying to shift the focus from themselves on to others?

We can only speculate, at best, what the motives and reasons behind a comment are, but one thing that can’t be argued is that no matter what the topic or subject is, in the virtual world, everyone is vulnerable. And the terrifying thing is that people can hide behind their anonymity on the internet. No one knows who you are. The person who leaves you one of these comments could be your best friend, next-door neighbor, work colleague, or a member of your own family. Kind of scary isn’t it?

© Valmai Owens, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without permission from author.

2 comments:

  1. Valmai your observations are totally on point, as I have witnessed some of the very same incredible nastiness with my own eyes. One must wonder at the depth of callousness, insensitivity and anti-social leanings of these trolls (as there is no other word to properly describe them) It is indeed scary that these people could actually be the nurse, the crossing guard, or the teacher of your child with this type of mentality. Actually quite Terrifying. -- Buds

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  2. What an embarrassment. Those who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak until they are emotionally and physically powerful enough to carry them alone; instead we place more emotional burdens upon them with our verbal abuse. They aren’t able to bear what they already carry; why place more upon their fragile shoulders.

    As I was reading some of the comments Valmai posted on this particular blog post I decided to go back and read the story on Amy Winehouse about her reported use of crack cocaine. And of course the original story was published by a tabloid news source. What I found to be even more hurtful was that the story actually came from an insider. Someone she had invited to become a part of her entourage; in short, someone she trusted. This person or persons took photographs of her and sold them to a tabloid newspaper; forgetting about the tattered state she was already in. They never thought about what this story and the pictures plastered all over the world would do to her already weakened emotional condition. We have no idea what another person lives through until we’ve lived through that same thing. Yet, we use every opportunity available to spew out hateful comments based on what we think we know from what we read.

    Here we go again, Michael, anything for money. Michael and Amy have passed on. The haters can’t hurt them, personally, any more but they can cause a lot of emotional pain for the families of these people. I'm certain Amy’s family realized the demons she struggled with and so did Amy, but there wasn’t enough love in the hearts of people to offer her a kind word; even after death; same situation with Michael Jackson, even worst.

    It is possible that many countries in Africa will always be poverty-stricken and women like the one from Libya will always be ridiculed because they don’t want to be RAPED; and need someone to give them a safe haven from mistreatment of this sort.

    I use to believe that America was the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yes, we’re free to dump on whomever we like for a price and it’s called our “First Amendment” right as long as we USE it responsibly. That’s a joke. Call me naïve or just plain stupid but I really didn’t know there was so much hate in this country until June 25, 2009. I knew there were some extremists but not as much as I have come upon since that date. And forget bravery; people sat behind computers and use their monikers to get away with disgusting comments. I wonder why they don’t use their real names since they feel so strongly about the subjects at hand.

    MJJJusticeProject, you’re right, we don’t know who these people are and it is scary when you live in a country where things like this aren’t suppose to happen. There are millions of people who would love to become U.S. citizens because they believe they can come here and live a happy ever after life. Well maybe they could if there was more LOVE than HATE. We have to pray that a change will come. It won’t come until people start standing up for what’s right.

    Great article Valmai.

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