The cowardice of online haters

The Cast Stone

BLASTING OUT BILE Keyboard thugs hide (or think they hide) behind pseudonyms while pouring scorn on others.

The Cast Stone
Michael Gallagher

My parents are extremely sociable people, but they know little or nothing about social media. There are times when I think it would be nice if they were able to use Facebook and see the various celebrations and achievements of the extended clan, and there are days when I thank God they haven’t joined the keyboard cadets.
On a positive note, it would be lovely for them to access pictures of newborns in Canada or graduations in New Zealand; it would be great for Dad to watch live video of his nephew dolphin-chasing in Tenerife and for Mam to see the grandkids kicking points in Leitrim.
That’s the nice side of social media. Unfortunately, wherever positivity and possibility exist there is also a quantum of individuals hovering in the gutter who should not breathe the same air as my parents and their ilk.
Last week, I sat at the table kitchen at home and reveled in the joy of conversation. Dad is currently compiling his life-story, and the kitchen echoed to tales of a life well-lived. Like many others, Mum and Dad are living, breathing libraries of social history and teach me so much every time I sit, chat and drink tea with them.
On this occasion, Dad had just finished telling me about the time one of his schoolfriends rounded up a flock of ducks and herded them into the classroom at lunchtime, when Mam plonked a massive plate of boxty in front of me. It was time to take a break.
Sadly, that’s when reality hit, and we were hauled back into the darkside of communication and storytelling 2021-style. I checked my phone in case my presence was needed by the females in my life, but of course it wasn’t. However, a message had come through from a friend, directing me towards the disgraceful Twitter-hounding of Naomi Long, the leader of The Alliance Party and Justice Minister in the north.  
Ms Long and her Stormont cabinet colleagues had voted through a regulation which some people didn’t approve of – isn’t that the way democratic politics work? Within minutes she was being denigrated on social media by people with self-conferred degrees in derision, hate and vilification and doctorates in cowardice.
Interestingly, the messages rarely mentioned the regulation Ms Long and her colleagues voted on, the wicked words almost exclusively concentrated on her body shape. They poured scorn on the shape of her hands, her eyes and the size of clothing worn by the woman from Belfast. It was pathetic and utterly unacceptable in any circumstances, but Ms Long’s case was even worse than usual, if that’s possible.
Naomi Long has represented her constituents for many years while privately suffering from an extremely aggressive illness. She kept that information utterly private until recently – not even telling her closest friends.
However, a person’s vulnerability only fuels the cowards on Twitter who hound others from the princely setting of their bedrooms or kitchens. Someone not conforming to the ‘standards’ of these keyboard kings and queens becomes a receptacle for their bile. Naomi Long is a perfect target for them. She’s articulate and is not afraid to express her views in a legitimate manner. This certainly doesn’t suit the Twitter thugs.
These people, many of them in our own community, hide (or think they hide) behind pseudonyms while pouring scorn on others. They somehow believe they have the right to spew hatred and obscene commentary towards the rest of humanity because they don’t agree with a decision made or a view taken. Why is this?
Do these people think they’re doing some public service? Do they believe they’re a force for good? Or are they just frustrated middle-aged men (studies show they’re almost always men) looking for some relevance in life? The latter gets my vote.
Personally, I don’t care what they are. All I wish them is happiness, but not at the expense of others. The hounding of Naomi Long illustrates their cowardice. And don’t forget for one moment that some of these people slither around in our communities here in Mayo too. Cowardice has no borders.
Thankfully, last Thursday, I put the phone away, ate more boxty, drank more tea and revelled in real life. I recommend it strongly.


3011 MPU