Read this story.
If you haven't already.
I know Internet vitriol is caused by the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Different communications standards apply when there's no muscle in your verbal opponent to respond to your barbed tongue. Sure, I get that.
But some people go too far. It's one thing to unleash a horrible tirade of hellish insults at someone for, say, stealing your frag, or disagreeing with your political views in a forum. It's quite another to genuinely wish bodily harm and psychological damage on people.
In real-life conversation, there is the muscle effect. The fact that the person you are talking to is standing right there, in the flesh, makes you think twice about what you say. Even if the person is neither violently-inclined nor physically capable of said violence, your body still responds on a visceral level, telling your mouth to watch what shit comes out of it, lest the body feel the consequences.
At our most emotional, we err in this regard, and say things we shouldn't. But only severe emotion will bring a sane, healthy individual to say terrible things, especially to someone in a truly vulnerable position.
So why do all these barriers go away in the anonymity of the Internet?
I honestly do not understand the capability of humans to so callously and vainly wish harm upon others. It is one thing to wish revenge upon the slayer of a loved one--this is a visceral response, and it is (or at least was) evolutionarily adaptive. Even then, most do not go this far; it is not only the consequences of such actions, but the unwillingness to harm or kill another human, just in general. Most people seem to have that restraint, and will kill only when absolutely necessary, such as to save their own life. It takes a great amount of training to make a soldier capable of killing for purely strategic reasons.
Or, you just find one of these people.
I believe there are people--a significant minority--with this psychopathic gene. I use the term in the strictest psychological definition. Psychopathy is a disconnect in the brain that removes the innate feeling of empathy, and thus impairs the restraint of ill will. In most, it manifests as a simple disregard for others; it might be described as narcissism or callousness. In a rarer few, it blossoms into so much more.
I have certainly had my share of fevered exchanges on the great, anonymous Interweb. We all have. It's the ultimate forum of self-expression, and not all expression is compatible. But I do not understand the vitriol of some (it seems most) people. It is one thing to argue, even harshly, on a point of great interest and importance (to you), with people you know. It is quite another to launch immediately into nasty, spiteful jabs at the slightest provocation of a total stranger.
I do not believe the anonymity of the Internet gives anyone the right to wish harm on another, or to exercise that right. Sure, they have the ability to do so, much like I possess the physical ability to stab someone, but freedom ends when it affects others. Speech itself should not be censored, but that never means that you are not responsible for what you say.
In this story, a group of adults masqueraded as a teen on MySpace to lure a neighborhood girl into a false sense of security, then proceeded to verbally abuse her. For what purpose? It strains my mind to imagine why any adult would wish such harm on a child. How it could be two adults--and worse, parents themselves--leaves me utterly speechless.
And then, to presume innocence, out of obvious fear for legal repercussions.
There was no guilt. There was no regret.
I'm not saying what they did should be illegal. They almost certainly violated the TOS of MySpace, and so did the girl. I can't think of what crime they committed, or certainly not one for which the punishment would be significant.
I'm not saying they didn't have the right to say the things they did.
But why? Good God, why?
It is not enough for a society to legally limit its members' ability to hurt one another, and their society at large.
We, as humans, need to grow beyond the need for hate, the need to hurt, and the need to feel superior to others.
All this talk of law, rights, and pragmatism distracts us from a real and noble goal; to enlighten ourselves to the point where we do not need to feel hate. We are not robots to be ruled by laws. They are there to keep order. True morality, true worth as a human being, comes from within, and is demonstrated by your actions.
In this world where morality itself has been taken hostage, who but those who see the darkest shade of man can enlighten the others?
We need more hippies, and with less drugs this time.