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An email that arrived over the weekend was all too characteristic of current political debate.
“You and your worthless rag have turned into a commie pinko wasteland,” it said. “Somebody ought to drag your commie ass into an alley and put a bullet through your worthless head.”
This erudite missive was signed “True American” and came from a Hotmail address that bounced back any attempt to reply. I wasn’t surprised. Hotmail has long been a refuge for cowards who stage hit and run attacks.
An even dozen other such love notes waited in the email when I returned from the Thanksgiving holidays. Eleven of them had Hotmail accounts.
“Listen you filthy degenerate,” read another. “You’ve turned your web site into a haven for lefties, pinkos, nigger-lovers, queers and libs. I hope you rot in hell.”
Ordinarily, I toss this waste of bandwidth into the bytebox and go on about my day. But these examples of narrow guage thinking clutter up the mail on a daily basis and always seem to increase during the holiday season.
They are not limited to attacks from the right. Those on the left know how to hide behind freebie email accounts and lob their insults in from left field.
“Just another bunch of right-wing crazies,” begins one. “You and your loonie friends are destroying America. I don’t believe in capital punishment, but I just might make an exception in your case.”
So much for the season of peace, love and joy.
Hate mail has always a natural byproduct of both journalism and opinion column. I have several boxes full of real doozies from my days as a newspaperman.
But the Internet, and its ability to shield a person’s identity, race, gender or age has brought in increase of hatred and bigtory to American public discourse.
The Nexis and Diaglog databases list 43 anti-homosexual newspapers, magazines and newsletters currently published in America. Internet search engines Google and AltaVista found thousands of anti-gay web sites.
Nexis and Dialog list 27 white supremacy publications. AltaVista found several million web sites with the same mission.
“There’s no doubt the Internet draws racists, homophobes and extremists,” says behavorial psychologist Dr. Arlene Phipps. “It allows them to publish their discordent views in an anonymous nether world with little fear of recrimination. It also allows those with deep-rooted inadequacies to become someone they’re not.”
Dr. Phipps recently completed a two-year study of web sites, Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and online forums. Her study, which will soon be published in a research paper, uncovered a lot of online fakery.
“We’re not just talking about inflated resumes, bloated career claims or faked credentials,” she says. “I located a 13-year-old Jewish girl in Brooklyn whose on-line persona was that of a middle-aged Southern male who preached white supremacy and hated Jews. In another case, a gay man frequented anti-gay bulletin boards and attacked homosexuality.”
Dr. Phipps also found a large number of hate mongers who were exactly who they claimed to be — anger-ridden individuals living in fear of ideas and concepts they do not even attempt to understand.
Unfortunately, those who hate others who are not like them or who do not share their narrow-minded points of view will always be among us. They will spew their venon and claim their superiority while hiding behind Hotmail accounts and cutsie names, just as others of their ilk chose to hide under white sheets.
That is the price of a free society.