Back in December, I posted a blog on the murder of two young women who were hounded to the point of killing themselves: Hope Witsell and Jessica Logan. And now it seems that they were just two of many more young women who have followed the same path to solving a problem that seemed to have no other solution than dying. As if this were not tragic and horrifying by itself, there now comes a new term to describe sub-human behavior on the part of people who 'troll' the internet and post messages on so-called 'memorial' pages.....with the sole intent of offending, assaulting and injuring the families of young people who have died, by whatever means. These evil-doers are called, "trolls". And, it seems to be an apt description of them because no decent human being would act the way they are.
When I refer to the fact that the long-standing practice of Honor is dying, this is what I am talking about. Some idiot kid with a computer sees a chance to rub salt into the raw wounds of a family in mourning and sinks to the task. The intent is to get a reaction. It is also to HURT. Now, some psychologists, or 'humanist' people might seek to understand this behavior. Yes, I think that is important, because unless we do have some handle on why so many young people have this otherwise inexplicable urge to inflict pain on people who are already suffering, then we cannot address the underlying causes.
But, there is also the fact that we all live in a supposedly 'civilized' society, sharing the same space, both physically and now, virtually. Without some agreement that treating each other with at least a modicum of respect in place is necessary and, in fact, VITAL....it all begins to break down. You see it in the angry mobs, spitting on congressmen, and calling them hateful epithets; you see it in the explosive growth of hate groups and militia; you see it in the behavior of people behind the wheel, when they cut people off, break into lines, do whatever THEY want, despite how it impacts anybody else. We are in danger of forfeiting our 'civil' conventions, and replacing them with: "Get the f**k outta my way, a**hole."
I, for one, do NOT believe that these internet 'trolls' are acting out in a vacuum. They are not isolated sickos who have some deep-seated mental illness that compels them to act in such a sadistic fashion. They are looking at the society around them and distilling a 'code of behavior', based on all that they see. "If it is okay for adults to be sadistic and hateful, then why not me?" This harkens back to the quote I mentioned by Dr. Temple Burling: “Kids need to be brought into the folds of a family and society and civilized. Otherwise, they will never learn how to be members of society and remain in a wild state.”
These kids are mirroring behavior that their own observations have told them is 'normal', even routine. And, the anonymity of the web insures that nobody will come back at them. So, it becomes a game of torturing a family that is already in agony over the loss of their child, of hounding the wounded, trying to inflict even more pain...and then laughing about it when there is a reaction. Either we begin to recognize that we are seeing one more canary in the coal-mine, or we 'tsk, tsk' and go about our own business. If we keep on ignoring all of these 'canaries' we will one day soon find that the air in our coal-mine of a society is now UNBREATHABLE.