By Chuck Woodbury
What if you threw a party? Maybe it was a surprise birthday party. Maybe it was a July 4th party that you organized at your RV park. What if 100 people showed up? What if 97 of those were wonderful people — interesting, smart, respectful?
But what if 3 of them were rude, offensive, annoying creeps? All they would do is walk around, eavesdrop on conversations, and then rudely butt in, telling everybody how wrong they were about what they were discussing and how they were right.
I know what I’d do: I’d kick them out.
The freedom to disagree with others is one of the great freedoms of our society. It’s called freedom of speech. It’s why we have two major political parties. But somewhere in there is the idea that it should be done with respect, not anger or hate.
I had to close comments on Andy Zipser’s article last week about his concerns about opening his Virginia RV park, now that the government had relaxed restrictions. The know-it-alls pounced with one rude, often offensive comment after another, often to people who had commented intelligently and respectfully. One called another “a moron.” There is no room for that no matter how much you disagree with someone.
We removed all 78 comments, the good along with the ugly. It was a shame because the article was hugely popular (more than 119,000 views so far) and lent itself to discussion. I banned some of the rudest commenters from ever posting again.
I SERVED ON A JURY about a year ago. Witnesses were called and they answered questions from the lawyers. If a witness made an accusation without evidence to back it up then my fellow jurors and I considered the testimony worthless. Here, in this newsletter, angry readers can make such unfounded statements without any evidence other than what they saw on Facebook, Twitter or cable TV. Bunk!
The most obnoxious are not experts, usually far from it. And when I respond to their comments, asking them to explain the source of their information, they never answer. They’re like the Wizard of Oz, hiding cowardly behind a curtain that’s called the Internet.
A MAN IN MY RV PARK has an offensive bumper sticker on this car. I have passed the car perhaps 20 times, wondering what kind of person would display such an angry, rude message.
And then one day, he was relaxing on a lawn chair outside his RV. I greeted him and he waved, smiling. I said something like “Nice day, isn’t it?” And he responded in a friendly, polite way that you’d expect from a fellow RVer. How could he and the person who displayed the bumper sticker be the same?
Here’s my theory: When some people get online, in the privacy of their homes or RVs, they change. The dark side of them rears its ugly head. We all, I believe, have a dark side, but most of us recognize it, and it remains hidden. If we were raised by our parents to respect others, then that dark side, big or small, is buried deep inside us.
I hope the angry, rude, disrespectful people in our audience go away. They have no place here among tens of thousands of kind, intelligent and respectful persons, many of whom have, through the years, become my friends.