Why Are People On The Internet So Mean?
by Mia Galuppo | USC
I try to find a little bit of humor in everything. I think that it is good for the mind and ego, as it helps to breed sound perspective and humility.
Something that I have never found to be funny are death threats.
Marshall Fine is a film critic. He has been one for 50 years. When he wrote his review The Dark Knight Rises on Hollywood & Fine he did exactly what he has done for the last 50 years — he gave his honest, objective opinion about the movie. The criticism he received about his criticism was far from honest and objective.
Both on Hollywood & Fine and the popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes, several over-zealous fans posted some disturbing comments. One commenter wrote that he thought Fine should “die in a fire,” while another said he would like to beat Fine “with a thick rubber hose into a coma.”
The comments on the movie review for the latest Batman installment have since been disabled by the site’s editor-in-chief, Matt Atchity.
Whether or not Fine’s critique can be deemed correct in the high courts of Internet public opinion does not matter. What matters is that people that did not agree with this particular critique decided to express themselves with gratuitously violent commentary.
I don’t understand much about the Internet. As far as I am concerned, trolls inhabitants of Middle-earth. But after reading some of these threats I began to wonder, at what point do people on the internet start thinking to themselves, “I don’t agree with what this person is saying so…he deserves to die.” This is not a logical thought process.
Threatening to kill someone in the comments section of a website is the lazy man’s death threat. It shows that no effort was given. It has no finesse or style, only empty and misplaced anger.
I don’t mean to subvert the seriousness of the threat to take someone’s life. On the contrary, I think Internet commentary has caused society to lose perspective on what exactly is being threatened when someone says that a person should “die in a fire.”
The culprit? Anonymity.
Anonymity tends to make people do stupid things. People in masks can be vigilantes and crime fighters, but all too often they can be cowards. Words are words, my friends, and whether they have a face and a name behind them does not matter. They still cause damage.
Atchity has said that the site is considering implementing the Facebook commentary system, so that commenters would no longer be able to post anonymously.
The death threats against Fine were posted before the Batman premiere, but with the recent tragedy in Colorado, the threat to take someone’s life takes on an even deeper level of meaning. Death threats can seem ridiculous, almost laughable expressions of personal frustration, but when the public is confronted with unjustifiable murder, the threat of killing someone becomes all too tangible and begins to be feared and taken seriously.
I think that all active members of the Internet community should make a promise to use our wit and intellect to express ourselves. I know that that majority of you are smart individuals, so prove it! When you disagree with someone, don’t threaten his or her life; instead, logically disprove the opinion expressed. It takes a lot more time and effort to comprise a coherent retort than it does to say, “You deserve to die.”
But above all else, know when to leave well enough alone. Know when to walk away. People can be stubborn and won’t know when to back down. You do not need the last word. Especially if the last word threatens the emotional or physical well being of another person.
And for the record, Batman can take care of himself. I don’t think he would want to be vindicated in the comments section of Rotten Tomatoes.Mia Galuppo is a freshman at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. If you want to tell her anything feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Except you Mike! Ya, you!