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Moral intuition and the Internet troll

Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." Marcus Aurelius 

Moral intuitions are beliefs that we hold that are strong, stable, and immediate. In common parlance, we know when something is right or wrong when we see it. It’s our immediate response when confronted with a moral question. And while there is endless discussion among ethicists about where our moral intuitions come from, most of us, whether religious or not, hold them.

We might, for example, hold core moral beliefs that we should treat people fairly, that we should treat all people with dignity and value, or that we shouldn’t cause harm to innocent others intentionally. Most of us expect ourselves and others to be honest, to tell the truth, to be peaceable and care about others.

But the Internet in the 21st Century has, for many of us, interrupted our moral intuitions. By placing a screen between us and other people, it has freed us from the immediate personal impact of our words. We are more willing to attack, devalue and even lie about others. This is not inconsequential. Platforms like Twitter have normalized and given voice to vicious, immoral people who spend much of their time online tearing down others. More consequentially, that kind of behavior has become so common that we have come to accept it, excuse it, and even celebrate folks for their creativity who get pleasure from trolling others online.

We can’t survive as a country if we have abandoned civility, compassion, empathy, and truthfulness as an ideal to strive for. If we lift up leaders who model the very worst of society instead of the very best, then we become just like them. If we model leaders who no longer represent the moral values that we claim to hold, we will lose our culture and our souls. Calling people names, spreading lies about them, bullying them and marginalizing them is the stuff of elementary school yards, not of adult society. Somehow, we’ve lost sight of that concept.

We are stuck with each other if we want to remain a republic. And while I’m not optimistic that we won’t devolve into anarchy soon, our last, best chance is to reject any politician that works to divide us rather than unite us. There are 360 million of us with varying hopes and dreams, and beliefs. We must stop trying to force our beliefs on others, stop lifting up leaders that are only interested in power, and lift up those who are pursuing peace and inclusiveness. We don’t have a binary option; we can’t divide this country into two countries. We’ve already tried that, and the result was civil war.

An Internet troll is a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, untruthful attacks on ideas and other people. They are the scourge of the Internet and have made comment boards and social media sites a nasty, unpleasant place to be.

The New York Times has compiled  “The Complete List of Trump’s Twitter Insults (2015-2021).” There are thousands. If you don’t have a subscription, I’ve excerpted just those aimed at Former President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

John Bolton FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER “one of the dumbest people inWashington,” “so stupid,” “one of the dumbest people in government,” “A sullen,dull and quiet guy,” “added nothing to National Security except, ‘Gee, let’s go to war’,” “illegally released much Classified Information,” “A real dope!” “Wacko,” “such a jerk!” “dumb warmonger,” “one of the dumbest people I’ve met in government and sadly, I’ve met plenty,” “with the exception of Hillary, by far the worst offender of them all!” “lowlife dummy,” “a war mongering fool,” “really dumb,” “Washed up Creepster,” “a lowlife who should be in jail,” “Crooked Hillary,” “was incapable of being Senate confirmed because he was considered a wacko,” “was not liked,” “turned out to be grossly incompetent,” “a liar,” “Wacko,” “was all washed up until I brought him back and gave him a chance,” “He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!” “Wacko,” “A disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war,” “Never had a clue,” “was ostracized & happily dumped,” “What a dope!” “incompetent!” “Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!” “Wacko,” “stupid,” “dumb,” “set us back very badly with North Korea,” “was very publicly terminated,” “He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!” “couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since,” ““begged” me for a non Senate approved job,” “many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now,” “He was holding me back!” 

Don’t model the worst in our society.

Don’t be a troll!

Jim Powers writes opinion columns. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Polk County Publishing Company or its owners.


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Monday, 15 August 2022