Tuesday, November 17, 2020



I did not expect that football would inspire today’s blog post, but, there you have it:

Ravens’ Matt Skura says family received ‘hateful and threatening messages’ after loss to Patriots. "They do not deserve to be scrutinized for something they did not do.” 

This information comes from an article by Jonas Shaffer in the Baltimore Sun. It’s yet another indicator that toxic online behavior is a serious problem in our culture. What is it that emboldens ordinary human beings to explode the boundaries of decent behavior and reach out to hurt others? What makes them feel justified? 

The reason this is weighing heavily on my mind this morning does have a more local source. I’ve been catching up on local reactions to the Board of Education decision last night to remain fully virtual for the third quarter of the school year. While I expected that some would be disappointed, frustrated, or even angry, what I did not expect was the outpouring of insults and accusations against the student member of the board, Zach Koung. Angry parents had zeroed in on his vote as being “the deciding vote” to remain virtual. With that, the firehose of fury was targeted on him.

Posters asserted that his vote was paid for, or that he wasn’t a “normal” senior. He was accused of having a sick and demonic agenda. Others maintained he was under the complete control of board members they didn’t like. But one post stood out from the rest.

Hello, FBI witness protection program?

What do you suppose that means? It feels ominous to me, almost like a threat. 

Suggesting that a Howard County student might want to “disappear” after casting a vote that you don’t like has crossed so far over the line as to be in brand new territory. It wouldn’t be acceptable to say about any member of the board. And, laughing it off as a joke, which might very well happen if the poster were confronted, is no excuse.

Did your mother and father raise you to act like this? What kind of upbringing produces this kind of toxic behavior? Does your family know you post things like this? Your friends? Your employer?

It’s simple, really. If a football player has a bad game, you don’t threaten their family. If someone casts a vote you don’t like, you don’t wage an online war that could make their life less safe. No, there’s no “rule book of life” that says this. Am I naive to believe in my heart that this is not how to treat people?

Is there a way to turn this toxic trend around? Where do we start?

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