On my first day as a newspaper columnist, I was given a piece of advice from a wise editor friend of mine: Never read the anonymous comments that follow most online columns because they’re most often written by trolls, sad people, folks with their own agenda, folks who are sad trolls, and an entire universe of people living under clouds of darkness.
It should be noted that this harsh, but true, assessment only applies to the “anonymous” crowd hiding behind their Dumpsters of despair, from where they hurl their insults in desperate attempts to infuse credibility into what is mostly petty rage or puny thinking.
For those who choose to weigh in, online or in print, with names attached and attributed, I say bravo, let your voice – be it biting with dissent or a sweet chorus of harmonious agreement – be heard.
Which leads me to a column two weeks ago by a colleague in The Forecaster, Edgar Allen Beem, on the subject of guns here in Maine. Without repeating his column in its entirety, the general theme was, we have a gun problem, so let’s discuss and implement reasonable gun laws that respect the Second Amendment, while at the same time applying common sense to the crisis.
In short, I agree with Beem and I thought his column was thoughtful and, (pardon the pun), on target.
The online response to Beem’s column was enormous. As of last Friday morning it had been shared nearly 350 times, “liked” 340 times on Facebook, received 99 thumbs down, and elicited nearly 170 comments.
While several people included names with their comments, most were anonymous and many appear to be part of an organized, out-of-state campaign.
Here are just a few examples of their comments:
“Any woman who would marry this kind of self-emasculated male should be aware that he will not protect you in a life-threatening situation. He would timidly cower and weep while you are raped and murdered rather than perform the most basic function of manhood: protecting his wife and children.” (This comment received 19 positive clicks, no negative clicks.)
“Let’s drop the pseudo-philosophical posing, pal. WE have guns. YOU want to take them away. Think about what that’s likely to look like, with 100 million gun owners in America. If confiscation is 97% peaceful, (wildly optimistic, I know) that will come up to three million shootings between otherwise law-abiding citizens, and your beloved State. Let me help you with the math. That will likely be something like 10 million deaths. Your move.” (This comment generated 12 positive clicks.)
“Just another liberal, feminine male, who voted for the worst president and watches ‘The View’ shouting, ‘you go girls!’ Certainly not a lover of the Truth.” (Fourteen positive clicks.)
While some comments supported Beem’s column, the majority were of the same vitriolic tone and tenor as these.
How did we get to the point where a newspaper columnist can’t share his opinion on an important, topical subject without being digitally abused?
The week after dozens of comment writers attacked Beem for his suggestion that we need better and more effective gun policy, a 22-year-old woman was shot and killed, apparently by her fiance, during a gun sale taking place in the parking lot of a Bath supermarket. The fiance was selling a 9mm pistol to another guy outside the couple’s vehicle when the gun went off accidentally.
Yes, accidents of all types occur, but given the compelling statistics surrounding America’s gun glut and the thousands of deaths attributed to it, shouldn’t we at least discuss possible policy changes to make things safer? Are the thousands and thousands of needless deaths that occur each year attributed to guns worth considering, or are all of those lives just statistics lost in the debate?
How did we get to this point? How can we find our way to a better point? I’m not a liberal. I’m not a conservative. And, I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns, as long as they’re qualified (age, mental health, no criminal record, etc.) to own and operate their gun safely.
I just want the chance to engage in a reasonable discussion on this serious subject without being comment-bombed by folks too blind to see the problem and too deaf to hear reason.
(Please send any and all comments about this column to Edgar Allen Beem. He has quite a collection.)
Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard each Saturday at 11 a.m. on WLOB-AM 1310.