Once again, we have a terrifying example of how the Internet can be used for unspeakable ends.
In this case, it’s the fiend in Cleveland, Ohio who, angry with his girlfriend, decided to take out his anger on a total stranger – a 74-year-old man walking on the sidewalk. The killer walked up to the elderly man and told him he was about to die because of his (the shooter’s) girlfriend. Then he shot dead the poor guy.
Then he recorded the killing on his cell phone and posted it on Facebook. Even before he killed the man, he indulged in a sick selfie by pointing the cell phone at his face and telling one and all how he intended to kill a bunch of people. Apparently, through some warped rationale, his random murders would somehow be a kind of revenge to “get back” at his girlfriend.
That is just the latest despicable outrage that just might not have been committed were it not for the Internet. Many deranged people, including terrorists, commit crimes of violence as attention-getting ploys. There was a time, not too long ago, when a person would kill somebody he hated because of motives like jealousy or greed – not to bask in publicity.
The Internet made possible these “show-off” crimes by sick people who think they might as well not just commit their senseless murders – but publicize them, as well. Bite the dust in fame. What a way to go.
With the advent of the Internet, all of a sudden anybody could be famous for “15 minutes,” if not longer, as pop artist Andy Warhol predicted. Mentally unbalanced people, sadly living in the well of their own loneliness, began to connect via Internet with others suffering similar imbalances, delusions and mindsets. Suddenly, they were no longer isolated individuals. They’d become a group, a mutual-admiration sub-society, an extended family. They suddenly had a reason-for-being. They had buddies; they had fans; they had a legion of enablers. At long last, these festering ingrown toenails had found empowerment.
And we all know what happened:
- Timothy McVeigh and his conspiring buddy used the Internet to connect before their atrocious bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
- Terrorist attacks on 9/11 and other atrocities worldwide were made possible largely through instant electronic communications (cell phones, Internet and more). Terrorism, as we know it, would be almost impossible without the Internet. One example: ISIS recruitment of vulnerable wannabe jihadists.
- The Russians attempted (or succeeded, depending on the investigative outcome) to undermine the last American presidential election. The Cold War of the 1950s has become, in a very real way, the Cyber War of this century, with cyber disruptions and thefts from various countries. It’s even possible sinister cyber subversion and trickery could cause a launching of nuclear missiles.
- Vicious libels have been made against many good people through distortions and lies posted on the Internet. Some people commit suicide because of sleaze posted against them, including cyber-bullying or compromising photos or altered photos. How many parents have come home to see their precious teenagers dead by suicide because of relentless Internet bullying or slanders?
- Fake news is rampant on the Internet where posters are not held accountable for their bogus claims. There are now employees in shadow agencies who work all day to make up fake news stories to post in an effort to sway gullible people. The Internet browsers are told never to trust any mainstream media reports, and like lockstep lemmings they step right in line and keep believing the fake-news tidbits the illegitimate fake-newsters post on sites. The more outrageous the “news,” the more the gullible long to believe it. It’s really just a variation on the fake news splashed across the front of the trashy tabloids in the check-out lines (Haggard Hillary punches Bill, spends night in jail!). That’s the kind of lunacy people laugh at, but some of those same people parrot the sensational “news” to friends – other gullible people.
The Internet made possible not only a proliferation of fake news and horrific postings but a world in which nothing whatsoever can be totally trusted, where everything is in doubt, where even the most outrageous assertions are at least entertained if not believed. Skepticism is a good trait, mostly, but not to the dangerous degree promulgated by Internet grotesqueries.
Like the invention of the atomic bomb, the invention of the Internet (I should say the evil uses of that innovation) just might precipitate – some terrible day – the death of us all.
We must fight back against its rampant distortions.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.