I’ve heard it said that folks who spew malicious attacks and toxic name-calling on Twitter are hiding behind relative anonymity—that they would never look someone in the eye and repeat face-to-face the same nasty, ugly venom, they type out to the world in 140 characters or less.
Whether that theory is true, and I’m not convinced it is, doesn’t matter. Words are currency. Whether delivered via social media, a phone call, email or text, or in the presence of others, the words we choose and way we use them speaks volumes about who we are, both individually and as a society.
So when I see the headline, Longtime Trump Adviser Calls Critic a “Stupid Ignorant Ugly B—–,” it gets my hackles up. Although some of his most profane and poisonous tweets were deleted, it’s been widely reported that Roger Stone, a crony of the President, unleashed attacks over the weekend aimed at CNN commentator Anna Navarro (whom he called “fat and stupid”), politics writer Yashir Ali (“politically correct asswipe”), and a woman who goes by Caroline O.
Seems Mr. Stone is under the impression that calling me a “stupid bitch” nullifies what I said. It actually just raises suspicion about him. pic.twitter.com/oFht3f4EVd
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) March 5, 2017
I’m not even going to mention all of Stone’s F-bombs. Not that I have a problem with properly placed F-words. They can be quite satisfying, but as my parents taught me when you use those words all the time, it appears you don’t have a very sophisticated vocabulary.
My dad used to say, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yeah, that’s never really worked for me. If you have the ability to slough off the cruelest, spiteful verbal attacks, my hat’s off to you because I sure can’t. Even more so, when someone vomits out their hatefulness in a fit of racism, sexism, misogyny, or any other form of bigotry, my heart aches for the world.
If there’s one thing that became apparent over the course of our most recent presidential campaign, it’s that legions of haters, whose prejudice and intolerance had been spoken in whispers, seem to have become emboldened. Somehow they got the message that it’s okay to disparage an entire gender, or a nationality, or a faith, or the LGBTQ community. And when Jewish cemeteries are vandalized, and community centers receive bomb threats, we have a leader who, instead of expressing outrage and pain on behalf of the victims, suggests it is his political opponents who staged such attacks to make him look bad. The bigots and Tweeters of nastygrams are empowered because the man at the top appears to look the other way, giving the message that it’s okay, wink wink.
Nary a day goes by without some vile slur on Twitter making me cringe. I want to be the kind of person who draws a line, who says, “That’s not okay.” But you know what we get when are brave like Caroline O., who called out—politely, I might add— Roger Stone? We get called “fat, ugly bitches.” Twitter trolls are not just taking aim at people who are in some way marginalized, either. White men who took place in January’s women’s march were skewered as well.
To be clear, no ideology is immune from having their basest members make the rest of us look bad. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana last week had to back track on sexual innuendo regarding Kellyanne Conway’s casual posture on an Oval Office sofa. Setting aside politics, Chelsea Clinton tweeted in support of Conway, calling Richmond’s remarks “despicable” and deserving of an apology. The apology came, but the congressman insisted he was misunderstood.
When did we become a nation of name-callers? What about a nation where too many people look the other way when a major party nominee talks about grabbing women’s genitals, or mocks a disabled journalist, or doesn’t seem to mind that his Attorney General potentially perjured himself in his confirmation hearing? Is it okay now for all of us to speak crudely about sex, to ridicule people’s appearances and health issues, to lie when the truth will do?
What worries me is that it’s a top-down thing. You know when you go to a store, restaurant or hotel with exceptional service, that the management likely treats its employees well, provides excellent training, and models customer-first behavior. The other side of the coin is that if management is surly and unsupportive, its mindset will filter down and likely be reflected in attitudes of the establishment’s staff.
Just nothing better than calling out liberal jerk offs on Twitter. We won, you lost. You’re done!
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) March 5, 2017
When close allies of the President believe that because they “won” they now have carte blanche to treat folks in whatever demeaning way they choose—whether on Twitter or in person—we know we have lost our collective civility. Many of us would have had our mouths washed out with soap for speaking the way Roger Stone has tweeted. After taking another look at his feed, I need to take a shower. You have my word on it.