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Few would argue that an epidemic of intellectual and emotional weakness plagues our society. We have raised an entitled generation for whom competition is a dirty word, “self-esteem” the highest goal and criticism the greatest crime. Confronted with any word or deed with which they disagree or that they do not like, denizens of our modern age will proclaim their victimhood and mewl for government redress.
If you read these pages with any regularity you are well aware of the damage wrought by these “progressive” attitudes. Chilling academic speech codes, rampant political correctness and a hyperactively litigious social landscape are just some of the unintended consequences of the “everybody gets a trophy” mindset. When our children are rewarded for participating regardless of merit and without regard to success, they don’t simply fail to learn math or quit at the first sign of challenge. They also become wilting, bedwetting pansies who whine that a crime has been committed whenever they feel bad.
Incessant media bleating about “cyber-bullying” and bullycide has created the perception of an epidemic of such technologically facilitated mistreatment. While bullying and harassment of youth and adults certainly does and can occur, today’s students don’t remember a time when they weren’t connected through the Internet and social networking. Older citizens of this ostensibly free country can recall a time when harassment by one’s peers took place in real time, in person, through vandalism and graffiti, and in notes passed and deposited in lockers or under windshield wipers.
Nonetheless, wide-eyed news-readers, social workers, our citizens and their occasional authority figures whisper in hushed tones about “cyberstalking” as if we are all beset by lurking evil. While there is no shortage of online crime or electronic harassment, we’ve planted a forest that now obscures our view of the trees. Put simply, real cyber-crimes can and will be overlooked amidst the epidemic of false assertions and reports of cyberstalking that now plague the Internet.
The handmaiden of our oversensitivity to what we wrongly perceive as “stalking” is undoubtedly political correctness. The doctrine of political correctness proclaims that one’s rights are void and one’s guilt is proven if another human being decides he or she feels bad. Regardless of what we did and irrespective of the law, the scions of political correctness judge first and ask questions later. If someone feels bad, you must have done wrong, and if you must have done wrong, some actionable crime must have been committed.
While it wasn’t a cyberstalking case, a beautiful example of this principle occurred recently in Canada, when a man was arrested and strip-searched because his child drew a picture of a toy gun the family had at home. With no evidence of a crime, prompted only by a child’s politically incorrect artwork, authorities proceeded as if the man were a menace. His guilt was a foregone conclusion. His only “crime” was making hysterical school officials feel uneasy, and then only indirectly. Today, all you must do to commit a social “crime” is make someone feel uncomfortable.
A similar “crime,” no less rooted in an emotional reaction by the “victim,” was committed by William Cassidy. For reasons that are not clear, Cassidy took umbrage at something one Alyce Zeoli (described by TechSpot as a “female Buddhist leader”) said or did. He took to the microblogging site Twitter and began posting about Zeoli … nearly 8,000 times.
The comments were not kind. Many of them involved wishing her dead or suggesting she kill herself. When Zeoli complained, Cassidy’s IP address was subpoenaed by authorities. He was subsequently indicted and jailed on charges of stalking across state lines.
Late last year, however, a federal judge ruled that Cassidy’s tweets were protected by the United States Constitution. TechSpot quoted the judge as saying that the First Amendment “protects speech even when the subject or the manner of expression is uncomfortable and challenges conventional religious beliefs, political attitudes, or standards of good taste.” Because Twitter is public and those who choose to communicate on it do so voluntarily, the judge reasoned, Cassidy was wrongfully imprisoned for “stalking” when he was, in fact, simply engaging in free speech in a public venue.
The implication in the ruling is that a certain assumption of risk occurs whenever a citizen chooses to use a social media site. When you sign up for and participate in a public forum, you can and eventually will be confronted with ideas you don’t like – to include personal criticism. By choosing to voice your opinion in such a public square, you open yourself to that criticism, even when it is voiced harshly and repeatedly.
Perform a search for the term “cyberstalking” on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube and you will see returned a staggering number of hits. Legions of whining, vapid and emotionally weak participants in these sites protest that they are being “cyberstalked” or “harassed” because they have been criticized. They are almost pitiably firm in the belief that their many oppressors are even now being investigated by vaguely identified authorities. Soon, they opine, those who have wronged them will be hauled off to prison, never again to hold a mouse or smartphone in anger.
Rarely does it occur to these social media posters that the “cyberstalking” could be ended as simply as closing their accounts, nor do they grasp that publicly voicing one’s opinion invites others’ responses. Furthest from their minds is the fact that something you don’t like, even something that seems mean or cruel, is not necessarily a crime.
“Weakness of attitude,” said Einstein, “becomes weakness of character.” Our inability to accept criticism – which we invite when we speak out – is an insidious and ultimately crippling liability. It is a liability born of political correctness and nurtured by progressive intolerance. The mentally and emotionally weak, the leftists, the liberals, cannot abide any contrary opinion or criticism. This attitude filters down through all layers of society, from old to young, producing generations of Americans who believe they are being “cyberstalked” because people online don’t like them.
We should be stronger – and if we are to survive as a nation, we must be.