An Ohio firefighter who said horrible, bigoted things about gay people is using the oft-heard excuse that it’s all okay because it’s just Facebook, so it totally doesn’t count. I’ve heard people say similar things a thousand times and it never strikes me as anything other than stupid.
The July 3 post of a weeping child who is quoted saying, “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me” sparked impassioned responses, including words of encouragement from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. George Takei and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome were among thousands who chimed in with “likes” and words of support for the youngster.
But 26-year Cleveland Fire Department veteran Guy Estergall threw his opinion into the mix of roughly 60,000 comments on the viral post.
“This kid needs psychiatric help, he’s delusional. We need to find a cure for his kind!” Estergall wrote in the comments.
In an apparent response to another comment, he wrote, “You’re mentally ill Andrew, just like this kid and the rest of the immoral homosexuals and their supporters,” NewsNet5 reports.
Continuing on, he wrote, “The overwhelming majority of pedophiles are homosexuals. You need to get the professional psychiatric help you need to become normal.”
Estergall told the station his comments were in response to a nasty exchange he got into, and he only meant to “get his goat” and “tick off” his opponent, who had started name calling.
“Was it childish? Of course. But this is Facebook, it was a ‘nothing’ thing,” he said in an interview with the station.
I’ve heard this argument constantly for the nearly 25 years I’ve been online. It’s just the internet! It’s just IRC! It’s just Facebook! It’s just Twitter! It’s just a blog comment! Just stop, for crying out loud. The internet is merely a means of communication. No one would think it’s okay to say vile or hateful or threatening things to someone and then say “But it’s just a telephone” or “It’s just radio.” The rules of reasonable, ethical behavior does not change when the medium does.
But you know what does change? The level of anonymity. And what’s the real reason why people think it’s okay to be vile assholes over the internet. Give someone anonymity, or the illusion of anonymity, and their real character may be very quickly revealed. That’s when they’ll say all the things they really think and wish they could say to someone in person but can’t because they’ll get their ass kicked.