The war against the trolls: We must reassert humanity in the face of cruelty
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If you’ve spent any time on social media, you may have had the misfortune of coming up against a cowardly troll who hides behind a Twitter handle or Facebook page to criticize or attack you for any number of grievances, real or perceived.
This practice was once reserved for basement-dwelling social misfits who seemingly had nothing better to do with their time than tell people they don’t know what they think of their hair or their weight or even their parenting skills. But it’s leaped into the mainstream, thanks in no small part to a president who has made tweet-shaming a national pastime, and a pitiful one at that.
The worst manifestation of online bullying, save for actual death threats, are the messages imploring other people to hurt or kill themselves.
It’s particularly unimaginable when it happens to children. Children like McKenzie Adams, who was urged to kill herself by classmates at her Alabama school. She did, eventually, earlier this month. She was only 9 years old.
When it happens to celebrities, usually on behalf of other celebrities, it’s called “Stan Culture,” after the Eminem song about a crazed fan.
Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live” came to know this all too well. After breaking up with pop star Ariana Grande, Davidson posted a harrowing and troubling message on his Instagram account: “I really don’t want to be on this Earth anymore. I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last. All I’ve ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so.”
In return, he got compassion, yes. But also, a truly horrifying amount of self-harm wishers — people he didn’t know telling him to go ahead and kill himself. For those of us with a history of depression and suicide, it was not only deeply disturbing, but maddening — the fragility of a person confronting dark thoughts makes them all the more susceptible to these awful suggestions.
So when an elected official, New York State Sen. Kevin Parker, a Democrat who represents Flatbush, Park Slope and other parts of Brooklyn, told a Republican staffer “kill yourself!” in a tweet on Tuesday, it deserves a serious conversation.
The despicable tweet was in response to Candice Giove, communications aide to Senate Republicans; she had retweeted a tweet showing photos of his improper use of parking privileges, with questions of her own.
It’s hard to imagine what prompted a public official to use social media to urge someone else to kill herself; Parker has some anger issues. In 2005, he was arrested for punching a traffic agent in the face as he was ticketing his double-parked car. And in 2010, he was convicted of criminal mischief for confronting a New York Post photographer outside his home.
But despite deleting the tweet and apologizing, Parker apparently doesn’t see the seriousness in his online outburst.
“I don’t know why this is a temper issue,” he said. “Did I touch her? Did I yell at her? It was a tweet. That’s all it was. Had I said this to her in the hallway, would we be having this conversation? Probably not.”
Of course, we absolutely would be having this conversation if a state senator told a staffer to kill herself in the hallway.
“It was a tweet. That’s all it was” is a popular thought bubble among online cretins, who don’t see the harm in social media bullying. And it has to stop.
Hopefully, Giove can dismiss Parker’s offensive suggestion and give it the consideration it deserves — none whatsoever.
As for Parker, like our boorish president, he is clearly a bully who can’t control his anger. His party should urge him to step down, go away and leave the rest of us alone, once and for all.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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