Michael Jackson and the AOL Crazies

the lottery

Even though I should know better, I periodically check the comments on the AOL message boards when I’m curious about how the public reacts to a news story that I might be interested in. I know what you’re thinking: “are you crazy, Jim? Those people are lunatics and do not represent the well-informed and educated public!”

When Shirley Jackson published the famous short-story “The Lottery” in The New Yorker in 1948,  thousands of people wrote the magazine to vent their spleens about Jackson’s supposed anti-populist views. After reading much of the correspondence, here is what Jackson said: “I have all the letters still, and if they could be considered to give any accurate cross section of the reading public of  The New Yorker, or even the reading public of one issue of  The New Yorker, I would stop writing now.” Not only was she accused of witchcraft, she was accused of something infinitely worse– anti-Americanism! (And one darkly humorous inquiry from a Southern woman: “Why couldn’t they have made Mrs. Hutchinson Queen for a Day or something nice like that before they stoned the poor frightened creature to death?”)

The AOL boards are quite a snapshot of the American public, and I have to say: these people scare me. They are parading on Michael Jackson’s grave, trampling the sod before it even has a chance to take root. Not only are many of them rejoicing at this “pervert’s” death, but they are wishing upon his head the punishments and tortures of a vengeful and hateful God. (Yes, many of the posters are self-professed Christians.) I try to rationalize this population, manufacturing excuses as to why there are so many of them:  They are middle schoolers with access to Daddy’s computer and too much free time; or they are fringe people, sociopathic termagants with computer access who either transmit their views from home of from the local library; or they are the terminally unemployed and bitter, raging against the world; or they are perhaps even quite standard-looking, just like the people living next door to you. And none of them can spell, let alone tell the difference between there and their and your and you’re.

Who are these people to judge? Granted, they no doubt lack the rational ability to rein themselves in, and in that respect they are like untreated infections. Appallingly, these same voices also rise to the surface like pond scum in order to spew their bile about the President, gay people, Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, African-Americans… I wonder– should this be considered hate speech? Is this allowed? Should these people be censored, their computers taken away and their mouths washed out with lye? And does considering such measures make me as bad as they are? I’m all for free speech; I’m just against free hate.

Shirley Jackson’s central character was stoned to death by the regular folks living in a small village, apparently a sacrifice in hopes of a good corn crop. She describes the horror the poor woman experiences as her neighbors– and family– move toward her, their hands filled with stones. “And then they were upon her,” Shirley Jackson writes.

Are so many of us really villagers?

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19 responses

  1. Here’s my favorite part of the Optimist’s Creed: “I promise myself … to give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.” If everyone would work on that, there would not only be no room for hate mail, there would also be no wars.

  2. Jimmy –

    You’re a man of many great words but none so great as those written in this recent blog. It IS appalling how many in society feel as though they have a ‘divine right’ to voice hatred. Those who believe this, do so anonymously from the safety of their home and from behind a faceless computer screen – which, I guess, makes it all okay? Wrong. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that my right [or the rights of every other living creature] to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be tagged with damning criticism by outsiders. Words aren’t just words … they have power and strength to build nations, or to move us to tears when used to destroy. Compassion is the most fundamental principal in life yet it seems to be ignored by too many now. I hope one day we can all be on the same side of this human revolution where we give freely of our compliments and this primordial need to hate others evolves right out of our way of thinking. Jimmy, thank you.

    – Jon

  3. Jim,

    Wouldn’t it be so much more effective if all of the time and energy people waste venting on just about anything, could be focused on relevant issues and persons. If we could get a leader to focus these voices toward our corrupt government officials, maybe we could have some sense in the world.

    Nevertheless people have the right to vent and we wouldn’t be who we are if we couldn’t. So if Sharpton can say, with the media willingly giving him the exposure, that MJ opened the world to color way before Tiger, Opra or Obo, then I have the right to ask him, “what color is that?”

  4. I enjoyed your post and it really is amazing how easily the human animal can engage in such mindless hatred. However, you asked: “Shouldn’t this be considered hate speech” and “Is this allowed?” On the surface, these seem like reasonable questions but upon closer examination we will see that to maintain a free society, we MUST have complete freedom of speech with no government limitation on what we can speak about. I don’t know if you were specifically talking about LAWS of “hate speech” or just using it as a general term, but for my post I will talk about the insidious nature of actual laws that purport to regulate what someone should or should not say.

    The moment you give the government the authority to control what is and is not acceptable for its citizens to say, you give up your freedom…end of story. To see the slippery slope that exists with “hate speech” laws, you needn’t look any farther than the recent attempts by Muslims to introduce laws to make it illegal to criticize Islam:

    Anyone who respects rational thinking and human progress should be APPALED by this action. As Christopher Hitchens points out “It is an absolute butchery of the first amendment.” As an atheist, secular humanist and rational thinker, Islam disgusts me. (So do the inhumane fundamentals of all 3 Abrahamic religions but that is another topic altogether.) The fact that an intellectual critique of Islam (or any other religion) could be rendered illegal by a “hate speech” law is UTTER MADNESS. Laws like this are a fine example of liberal philosophy going COMPLETELY off the deep-end and people had better wake up to the problems inherent in worrying about everyone’s feelings more than worrying about reality of the situations at hand.

    As much as I HATE the KKK, they MUST be allowed to speak. In addition, even though I am gay, I realize that in order for the US to stay free, people should still be allowed to stand on a corner with a sign that says “God hates fags.”

    At any rate, I just wanted to bring this up as a point to consider. Again, you may not even believe in hate speech laws but I wanted to throw it out there as these laws are well meaning, but ultimately very dangerous and fundamentally anti-intellectual.

  5. Yes, sadly in a way we are all villagers and try as we might there is hate and racism and jealousy in all of us. But we try to be better than that and not to voice it, because voicing it makes it real and helps it to spread. I am usually appalled at what people write on those AOL message boards and only hope that they are mostly kids, who haven’t yet grown up to experience pain and hate and all the other things we humans can inflict on others.

  6. Love this from your post: “I’m all for free speech; I’m just against free hate.”

    But alas, one man’s love is another man’s hate. And so it goes.

  7. I agree with this & Yes there are alot of aol crazies. I know a few & people jump on them alot & there’s been many reports. Nothing’s being done. Most are online predators or trolls/stalkers. Greentea143, mcstardust, jmgoldrush, hockeylips, philaPhillies99. Beware of these women & men. They are physco.

  8. There is a post this guy has made under a number of accounts on topix. This guy has made a few posts with racism on topix. One of his things is called Should “Illegal Wet Back” have his account banned? We need everyone’s help to make him stop flaming/being racist towards religions & differnt races online. He must be banned as well as his posts he’s made on topix. Thank You.

  9. I only dealed with a few hateful people on aol & other sites not alot. You also gotta remember being online can be fun but dangerous. Some of these people who are so hateful so much maybe (mental) If you are being bothered please contact the websites or police. So please be careful.

  10. Wes the kkk should never be able to speak. Do you understand what you typed up there? Did you know they hate gays? Race, Gay, If you don’t follow by them they hate you ! Hun I live in the South. They have hatered and kill/beat people everyday in certain parts. Gay comes through walking ….. He or she will get beat. Alot of them gets busted for crimes. I had a few kkk or wanna be’s ranting at me on aol. They can go somewhere !!! These people are sick. People got the right to speak . When it comes to those types of people you don’t understand. I hope you understand now. If you don’t. Please stand there & watch what they do & say at a thing. Only few in groups. (cowards) So many police & people protesting & wanting them because of what they do & say out in the open.

  11. “Wes the kkk should never be able to speak. Do you understand what you typed up there? ”

    Of course I do, but apparently you didn’t.

    You do not seem to understand that the greater danger is for a government to say that citizens CAN’T speak about something. I don’t think the KKK has a single valid point but the moment the government steps in and says “You can’t say this or that about this group or that group” we have lost EVERYTHING it means to be American. Did you watch the youtube video I posted above on Islam’s attempt to make criticizing it illegal? If you didn’t, you should and then maybe you would understand what a dangerous slippery slope the idea of passing laws against “hate speech” is. Do you realize how insidious and suicidal it it to say the government should be able to control what citizens are allowed to speak about? I hate the KKK with all my heart but they have the right in this country to speak and they must continue to have that right or we become just like the thought police of Saudi Arabia.

  12. Okay. That’s your own saying. We all got freedom of speech. When it comes to them. I’m not fighting with you. I just don’t think you understand but you think you do ! Peole think they do. Till you seen them or been around or see what they do on the news. You’ll know what they are then & do. There dangerous. And believe me when they speak 90 % of the time they’ll do what they say. There speaking is hate & threats. Sort of like mental and-or verbal abuse. The other times they do speak is just ranting out filth. They become a big danger when they speak out. And cause riots. So that’s why police come in & We have laws to stop that type of stuff if it gets out of hand.

  13. I also just think that there are certain groups who should not speak out in public esp. with hate speechs. You are just asking for trouble !!! Keep it to yourself or post like example I hate abortion on your site ! You can deal with hatered and more people then you can imagine coming after you like a group of people and police when you start to speak. The KKK (small coward groups) . Well they always cause trouble & A huge mess when they go running there mouths & spewing hatered towards other groups about 80 % of the time. Police are making a few arrests. They of course the kkk runs like little cowards sometimes. And does not speak anymore. I think groups who start that stuff. Some don’t understand you are causing riots & trouble when you throw hate speechs at people !!! You just gotta watch what you say & Try to be somewhat peaceful like some groups are out there. There are a few who are peaceful not wanting hatered at that very moment. I love freedom of speech. In other countries you can’t speak at all. I also think there sould be certain laws. Or people need to watch there mouths.

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