Goebbels and trolls kindred spirits

By Chris Northover

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Chris Northover Photo/File
Chris Northover Photo/File

Cowardly internet "trolls" are attacking anyone who puts themselves "out there" from the safety of their anonymous bedrooms.

This has undoubtedly contributed to the recent tragic suicide of a television celebrity and many others, and thoughtful people have become alarmed about the flood of - usually anonymous - abuse directed at those who are in the public light.

Even if the haters have names, they are rarely known to the hated.

This abuse has been made easier by modern technology and anyone with internet access can communicate with almost anyone they wish. So now personal abuse has become a global sport.

Even the lovely Toni Street, that effervescent, intelligent and not-a-bit-stuck-up presenter on TV One's Seven Sharp was told by a troll that she had "fat and flabby arms".

She had just returned to the screen after giving birth and a comment like that could send a less determined woman into a paroxysm of self-doubt and drug dependency.

The troll knew what he/she was doing - a jealous comment disparaging a young woman's appearance, perhaps using strategies learned at school doing text bullying, is calculated to do harm.

Today if we drive poorly - or perhaps are too slow to get out of some self-important person's way - we can sometimes see obscenities being mouthed. We can only imagine the words spoken.

But in the early days of motoring, with no windows or steel roofs, every insult or obscenity could be heard from the other car and may well have had consequences - perhaps floggings or, if the laird's dogs had to hunt you down, dog bites.

From the insulated security of our car cabins we can now insult to our black little heart's content, without restraint. Few of us have had to learn restraint, although many have achieved this state. But for those who feel powerless, unrestrained verbal aggression may be the only outlet they have - and it is no longer held in check by the fear of floggings or dog bites.

So the time of the consequence-free insult has arrived - just in time for an unholy marriage with universal access to the internet.

But oh joy. We are in election year with many amateur politicians ready, primed and able to do damage to anyone naive enough to hold an opinion different to the politically-correct beliefs held by the young and the thought-challenged.

It is like a fanatical religion with its own inquisition prosecuted by cowards over the net.

Few trolls would understand who Joseph Goebbels was, but he would have understood them. The propaganda minister of the Third Reich would give his autographed copy of Mein Kampf if he could reincarnate and use troll-power to seek world domination. What a useful tool for the despot.

This raging torrent of ignorant abuse is a bad, sad thing, and few would wish to retain this unfettered power to hurt people. But what to do?

It is difficult to regulate against it, so public education seems the only way to protect ourselves.

Edmund Burke said: "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

But for mysterious reasons our schools no longer teach about failed and evil political systems such as fascism and communism, and if our children are no longer taught about much of our world's history, then we can expect them to repeat it.

Should we have predicted the emergence of a totalitarian domination by a few malcontents with keyboards? Good luck, comrade.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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