As a New York Yankees fan – as well as someone who supports science and knows that evolution is real – I’ve never been a fan of Curt Shilling.
But when Shilling took to Twitter last week to congratulate his daughter on her invitation to pitch for the Salve Regina University baseball team, Internet trolls emerged from under their bridges in numbers that Shilling never expected.
“I expected the trolls. The one kid kind of came at me and said, ‘I can’t wait to take your daughter out.’ Kind of borderline stuff, which again, I expected. I’ve been on the Internet since, I started playing on computers in 1980, so I understand how it works and I knew there would be stuff. The stuff that they did, that is not bad or vile, it’s illegal. It’s against the law.”
“When that started -- again, I thought it might be a one-off, but then it started to steamroll. And then [my daughter] started to get private correspondence and then I said 'OK, this needs to get fixed.’ This generation of kids doesn’t understand, and adults too, doesn’t understand that the Internet is not even remotely anonymous.”
Shilling went on the offensive, attacking the trolls on his blog and identifying a handful of the offenders.
One of the offenders – a part-time ticket-seller for the Yankees – has been fired, the team’s director of communications confirmed to NJ.com. Another, a student at a community college in New Jersey, was reportedly suspended from school.
As the victim of an large scale, anonymous attack on my professional credibility several years ago, I understand the power that a person has when they hide behind the curtain of anonymity and hurl false accusations and libelous statements at people who are unable to confront their accusers. I also understand how anonymity can embolden a person to say terrible things that they would never dare say in public.
Shilling refers to his not-so-anonymous offenders as “garbage” on his blog. I have often called them cowards, but I like garbage a lot, too.
Unlike Shilling, I was never able to positively identify the persons responsible in my case, mostly because the cowards (or pieces of garbage) used old fashioned paper and ink, thereby eliminating any digital trail (though the search for their identities remains active). As a staunch advocate of free speech, I believe in the power of using that freedom to publicly identify people who make threats and spout hatred and vulgarity online.
It’s time to pull back that curtain of electrons and force people to own their words.
Shilling may be wrong when it comes to evolution, and that stupid bloody sock may have been completely overblown, but when it comes to his response to Internet trolls, Shilling has my full support.
The sooner we let these cretins know that they cannot hide behind their computer screens, the sooner they will crawl back under their bridges and leave the rest of us alone.