The other day, a local newspaper’s online edition ran a story on a speech that Archbishop Dolan delivered at the Manhattan Institute. His topic was Catholic schools but you could not have guessed that by some of the comments posted. Instead of reacting to the Archbishop said, several bloggers unloaded on the church, the bishops and the priests. What they wrote was more than inappropriate. It was hateful, inaccurate and sick. It made me wonder why kind of weird people are out there.
While I am all for providing opportunities for comment and I am a fierce (some might say too fierce) defender of the right to free speech, I also think it is important to note that something very evil has been making its way through the Internet for a number of years: hate-blogging. Right now, the Catholic Church, the pope and bishops are the targets of choice, but they are not the only ones to be on the receiving end of this. Public servants and entertainers get it, too. Moreover, I believe that hate-blogging is not the sport of choice for the majority of those who submit comments online.
I just think there is a small group of nasty people who have found in the Web an anonymous (although it really isn’t) vent for their anger. Perhaps it’s the only way that they can make others notice them. Technology renders it easy. Before the Internet, it took a bit of enterprise and money to spread hate anonymously. The person had to write a letter and distribute it. This took a lot of stationery, a lot of photocopying, a lot of envelope addressing, and a lot of stamps. And most of the stuff, unless it looked like the work of a seriously disturbed person, wound up in the dust bin.
But not these days. Hate-blogging goes out with a mouse click and stays out there, to be picked by all the search engines.
Sadly, I also have noticed that a few, just a few, irresponsible opinion writers are inciting their corps of haters with misinformation and pseudo-emotional appeals. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I’m starting to suspect that what these few are really trying to do is increase the traffic on their sites, so that they will impress their editors. These few may have crossed the line of free speech into another territory. The really good, respected opinion writers don’t do this, although even they occasionally and, I am sure, inadvertently set off the hate-bloggers.
There must be some way to deal with hate-blogging without infringing on our precious, hard-won and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to express our opinions.