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undergroundpanther Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 06:21 AM
Original message
Must we tolerate cyberbullies?

The belief that the First Amendment guarantees people the right to unfettered speech results from the inability of too many people to understand the difference between freedoms and rights. People have the freedom to do what they want, but they do not have the right to do so without suffering consequences.

The idea that anything goes not merely on the Internet, but in any speech, stems partly from the rise of talk radio. Most have never been forums for reasoned debate, but platforms for bullying, blustering and casting aspersions without ever touching on the issue at hand.That type of speech spilled over in the public forum, with many on the right and left greeting arguments for or against a particular issue with the inane pronouncement, "That's just (insert political spectrum here) (insert favorite expletive deleted here)."

All such a comment shows is that those who must resort to it never had a viable argument to make in the first place.

Trying to instill civility on the Web or in the public forum also is not censorship another concept most people don't fully understand. Censorship exists only when a ruling body prohibits speech, written or spoken, deemed objectionable from all forums. It is not censorship if your letter to the editor is not published. It is not censorship if a comment you posted online is removed. So many forums exist in this nation that allow people to express their views, being snubbed by one does not rise to the level of censorship.Civility also doesn't exclude passionate and forceful speech. Listen to the speeches of Winston Churchill, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy. Passion comes from within, from a broad understanding of the power of language, from a willingness to speak directly to people's reason and emotions. Forcefulness comes from asserting one's position in strong, active terms not merely the most profane.

Can civilized speech that embraces passion but rejects invectives, that allows for forceful arguments but rejects menacing talk actually be brought to the Web? /

An American case of 1992 is regarded by some observers as a landmark in this whole debate.

The Jones, a black family living in a white neighbourhood in St Paul, Minnesota, were subjected to harassment. One night a burning cross, the symbol of racist persecution, was placed within the fenced yard of their house.Robert Viktora was among those who put the burning cross there. He was prosecuted under a city ordinance directed against the display of a symbol which one knows or has reason to know 'arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, colour, creed, religion or gender'.

The US Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment rights of Robert Viktora and struck down his conviction in a lower court. The judgement is a complex one and indeed Viktora was later sentenced to imprisonment for the same act but under a different law.

However, this was little consolation to Russ and Laura Jones whose experience as victims in this case deserves close attention, as it is by no means unique or unusual. The couple subsequently spoke to Laura Lederer then of the University of Minnesota Law School and it is worth hearing some details of what they had to say. Russ Jones told her that once the prosecution against Viktora was brought, '..everything turned into a circus. It seemed like the violation to our family was pushed to the back burner, and the entire case was focused on this skinhead's 'free speech' right to burn a cross in our yard. We were hounded by the media, who twisted our words to fit their purpose....Being minorities, and also Jehovah's Witnesses, we are of course tremendous believers in the First Amendment. We couldn't believe it when we were characterized as against freedom of speech - as if burning a cross on our front lawn was free speech! For us, it wasn't an issue of freedom of speech....The Constitution should protect

us from violence, terrorism and prejudice.'

And Laura Jones added, 'No one seemed to care what the message of the cross-burning was, or what effect it had on us'.

(Don't let those people who misunderstand what "free speech" means.Don't be worried by fearful claims of'slippery slopes' .Don't let bullies who want free speech to be defined as the freedom to verbally bully people,overshadow the EFFECTS the bullies created by their ..quite DELIBERATE harassing they CHOSE to perpetrate upon a person via Cyber bullying. All people do CHOOSE their words for REASONS some reasons are not worthy of being communicated because the intention literally is abuse speech to inflict pain..

The FACT is.. a 13 year old girl is dead,by her own hand,because some adult bullies harassed her to death online,These bullies got a kick a 'high' out of the power trip gotten by tearing a human being apart from the inside. They got off on saying each hateful word by hateful word crafting it to cause maximum distress knowing full well what they intended to say to her and they knew what reaction she would feel upon reading it, they ABUSED free speech, to abuse her, until she had her own perceptions twisted,felt such emotional pain and rejection inside she believed she had no way out of the suffering and shame these cyber bullies enjoyed inflicting on her but to kill herself to escape .)

How many more targets of bullies must suffer or die before this society regards all kinds of abuse as WRONG and admits it is a DELIBERATE CHOICE made by the abuser, Precisely for creating a desired destructive effect upon the emotions, well being,life of the bullies target?

Free speech is not about tolerating harassment or verbal abuse.

Free speech is free if an abuser who abuses free speech to abuse a target and incite others to join in , The abuser faces consequences for his CHOICE to abuse speech.

This boundary,motivated by a desire to foster respect of the person hood of all the speakers ,that some may call CIVILITY,and enforcing civility is the ONLY way speech can be kept free from becoming abuse.An expectation of Civility is a healthy boundary that limits the destruction such words made into weapons cause to real lives ..y'all.

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EV_Ares Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 07:10 AM
Response to Original message
1. Good article and a important one with what all is going on today on
the internet and elsewhere. We must respect "Free Speech" but common sense must be used as well such as when someone is abusing the "Free Speech" amendment to attack or hurt someone else. They should not be protected under "Free Speech" when it is used in that manner and a proven fact. Our forefathers never intended for it to be used that way.

Thanks for the article and reminder for us all. By the way what actually was the incident where the 13 year old girl was being attacked on the internet by the cyber bullies?
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 07:33 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I read the story in the Houston Chronicle only a short time before seeing your post:
Edited on Sat Nov-17-07 07:47 AM by Judi Lynn
Nov. 17, 2007, 4:46AM
Mom: Web hoax led girl to kill herself

By BETSY TAYLOR Associated Press Writer
2007 The Associated Press

DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo. Megan Meier thought she had made a new friend in cyberspace when a cute teenage boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her.

Megan, a 13-year-old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, corresponded with Josh for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he had heard she was cruel.

The next day Megan committed suicide. Her family learned later that Josh never actually existed; he was created by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan's.

Now Megan's parents hope the people who made the fraudulent profile on the social networking Web site will be prosecuted, and they are seeking legal changes to safeguard children on the Internet.

The girl's mother, Tina Meier, said she doesn't think anyone involved intended for her daughter to kill herself.

"But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile," she told the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis, which first reported on the case.

Tina Meier said law enforcement officials told her the case did not fit into any law. But sheriff's officials have not closed the case and pledged to consider new evidence if it emerges.

Megan Meier hanged herself in her bedroom on Oct. 16, 2006, and died the next day. She was described as a "bubbly, goofy" girl who loved spending time with her friends, watching movies and fishing with her dad.



Incidently, I heard on the late night news in Kansas City that the mother of the bullying group next door said that since she heard the girl had tried to kill herself earlier in her life, she started feeling less guilty.

I hope someone helps her recover that sense of guilt she SHOULD bear!

On edit:

The tv show which quoted the mother next door was actually the Anderson Cooper show on CNN.
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EV_Ares Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 07:51 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Wow; thanks for filling me in on that. Very difficult situation and I am
Edited on Sat Nov-17-07 07:53 AM by EV_Ares
glad they are not going to just let it drop. Sounds like prosecution will be difficult, as not sure what crime on the books is there that they could prosecute them for but they can do something to these individuals and make them take responsibility for their actions as they were playing a very dangerous game. This is the problem of the internet and what is a parent to do as they cannot and do not want to hoover over their child 24 hrs a day. You can teach them and try to protect them to the best of your ability. It is a very dangerous and difficult world for a teenager to grow up in these days with everything being thrown at them you can imagine and expect them to handle it. Her having trouble with depression on top of this certainly helped in throwing her over the edge and they probably had no understanding of that or did not care.

Anyway, thanks for bringing me up to date on that. I don't know how you make law for civility, manners, hurting others feelings but on cyber bulling, if proven, seems you could make a law for handling that situation. We need to find a way to go there if we can. Its a different world today.
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Sadie4629 Donating Member (919 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 08:52 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Here's a link to an article with a little more detail

This is the most horrible thing I've ever read concerning I-Net bullying. The worst part of the whole thing is the involvement of an adult woman in this. As long as there are parents who will get involved in the petty squabbles of their children, limiting Internet speech isn't going to solve this problem. This is clearly a person who was way too immature/damaged/nuts to have children.

(Needless to say, this being the Internet and all, someone has already managed to get the name, address, and telephone number of the family involved. I imagine their business will be destroyed and their lives will be a living Hell. Can's say I feel too sorry for them.)
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man4allcats Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 09:02 AM
Response to Original message
5. Actually, it's not quite true to say that
Edited on Sat Nov-17-07 09:45 AM by anotheryellowdog
"People have the freedom to do what they want, but they do not have the right to do so without suffering consequences."

A more accurate statement would be that in a democracy people have the right to do whatever they wish - so long as it doesn't interfere with the same right of others to do whatever they wish. When viewed in this manner, the concept is potentially if not actually self-regulating. Anyone stepping outside these boundaries violates the social contract and is then subject to action by society's laws.

- edited for word choice -

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