by Ryan Isley
This past weekend was not exactly a banner weekend for Twitter or some of the people who use the site.
When the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was written and put into place in 1791, nobody had ever heard of this thing called the internet. In 1997, when the Supreme Court of the United States allowed the First Amendment to roll over to protect people using the internet in Reno v. ACLU, Twitter was still nine years from being created.
If only they knew then what we know now, there might have been some second thoughts about giving everyone in the country the freedom to open their mouths or take to their computer and type things with no repercussions.
Saturday night when reports (now known to be false) of Joe Paterno’s passing was being spread like wildfire, there were plenty of people who shared their sadness at the loss of the legendary coach. Even I took to my twitter page with the following tweet:
While that tweet was retweeted by many people, I was amazed at some of the classless responses I received shortly thereafter.
Some of them were as follows:
“except for the 15 kids that got butt-raped under Joepa’s watch, right?”
“well, when you let dozens of kids get raped it is hard to sympathize for someone’s death.”
“Don’t forget kid touching”
Of course it quickly came to light that the reports of Paterno’s death were untrue, which led to another gem:
“I find it strange and disappointing that he ain’t dead”
Yes, someone was actually disappointed that the man was still alive. And those were just tweets sent directly to me – it doesn’t include all of the other ridiculous things that were said throughout the night and following day.
When Paterno did pass away Sunday morning, I wrote a column for More Than A Fan about remembering Paterno’s legacy as a positive and not just for what happened with Jerry Sandusky.
Again, I was greeted with some comments that were alarming, including one who told me I had no right to tell people what to think and to know my place. My personal favorite, however, was someone who told me that I must be a pedophile if I can remember Paterno in a positive light. All I could do was shake my head.
Once the Paterno tweets ended, I thought it was safe to go back to Twitter. I was wrong.
Just as things were settling down, Kyle Williams of the San Francisco 49ers fumbled a punt in overtime of the NFC championship game against the New York Giants. The fumble was the second of the day for Williams and the Giants had scored a touchdown off the earlier one to take a lead and ultimately send it to overtime when David Akers hit a field goal for the 49ers.
The Giants would also take advantage of Williams’ second fumble, as Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.
That is when the unbelievable truly began on Twitter. San Francisco ‘fans’ took their frustration to Twitter, threatening bodily harm and even death to Williams and his family. One sick individual even tweeted this:
“I hope you, youre wife, kids and family die, you deserve it”
I left it as it was written just so you notice that the person who tweeted this couldn’t properly use the different forms of you’re and your, yet had enough of what I call ‘Twitter courage’ to go online and hope the player and his family die because of a football game. Thankfully, this user has since been removed from Twitter but imagine the fact that he is still a part of the society.
If that tweet was not enough, how about this one:
These were real tweets. They have to be, because nobody could be sick enough to make these up. There are truly some disturbed people in the world, and some of them have access to a computer and are allowed to put these kinds of thoughts out there.
I will be the first to admit that I am a bit addicted to Twitter, especially during games. I have the TweetCaster app on my phone and I am constantly checking out what everyone has to say, be it at me or just in general. The words ‘tweet’ and ‘tweeted’ are a regular part of my vocabulary.
Do I sometimes say things on Twitter that are controversial? Absolutely. Have I ever vented frustration when an athlete failed miserably? You better believe it.
Would I threaten someone’s life because they missed a play in a game or they made a mistake? Not a chance in Hell.
Fans – if that is you want to call these people – need to understand that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor and just keep their mouths shut and their computers turned off. There is no reason to threaten someone’s life as was done to Williams or to celebrate the death of someone like Paterno.
The First Amendment was not adopted into the Constitution so that you could prove your ignorance.
You know what they say – it is better to let someone think you are an idiot than to open your mouth (or your Twitter account) and prove them right.
Stay Classy, folks.