Keyboard Cowards

    The email was all too typical of the bigoted cretins who dominate political debate these days.

    “You’ve nothing but a fag-loving commie,” it declared. “Why don’t you and your queer friends just crawl back under a rock somewhere.”

    Signed: “Real American.”

    Like I said. Typical. Anytime I write anything that pisses off the extreme right or left wing, the email inbox fills with this kind of crap — 99 percent of it anonymous, sent by brain-dead bigots who hide behind screen names like “patriot” or “God-fearing American.”

    “Why don’t you do everyone a favor and shut down your left-leanng rag,” writes another. “You’re a disgrace to the human race, you God-damned swine.”

    Signed: “A True Patriot.” No real name, of course.

    This kind of juvenile behavior is not limited to email. Visit most any computer bulletin board, from the right-leaning Free Repubic to the lefty Democratic Underground, and you find debates dominated by anonymous cowards who spit out bile and hate while hiding behind their screen “handles.”

    The anonymous nature of bulletin boards creates too many keyboard heros — self-proclaimed experts no one can verify or bile-belching bigots who spew equal amounts of hate and misinformation and call it debate.

    One such cyber-cowboy ventured onto the Capitol Hill Blue bulletin board recently, claiming an extensive journalistic background, touting authorship of “many aclaimed pieces of political analysis” along with a number of other lies.

    But when challenged to produce evidence, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t disclose his name or any real information about himself so we kicked his lying butt out.

    Cyber-cowards who post hate and misinformation cheapen the debate and serve no useful purpose. Too many are simply armchair observers who have never worked in a political campaign, never served their country or never did anything to improve society.

    These patriotism-embracing “screen names” are too often the white sheets of the new century, a new way for cowards to hide their true identities while spreading fear, bigotry and homophobia. Those who don’t have the guts to put their own name on what they say and believe don’t deserve to have their beliefs considered or their opinions deemed worthy.

    While “screen names” are a staple of bulletin boards, some operators are taking steps to verify the identities of those who join. Some members of CHB’s ReaderRant send emails or private messages and include their real names. Those are usually the ones we trust.

    But others do not. They sent hate mail and talk big but don’t have the guts to use their names, choosing instead to hide behind their patriotic-sounding handles.

    We’ve reset our email spam filters to reject anonymous emails. Those who hide behind such handles are cowards and cowards aren’t worth the time of day or the bandwidth they waste.