If you’re reading this right now, and you are, it means that you know how to get on the Internet in 2018. Which in turn means that at some point in your life, someone you can’t see and will probably never meet has used the most advanced communications system in human history to insult you.* That’s the purpose of the Internet, after all. Mankind might’ve built it to disseminate knowledge and connect people all over the globe and improve our lives, and all that pie-in-the-sky stuff, but that’s not why we’ve all flocked to it. No, we love the Internet because it enables us to say things to people we don’t like that we’d never say to their faces.
In most places with WiFi coverage, you have little recourse when someone online makes you angry and hurts your feelings. You can ask a big meanie to stop making you sad, which could work, theoretically. You can mute or block jerks and trolls on social-media platforms and commenting systems and the like, which can lower your blood pressure. Or you can choose not to use these entirely voluntary services at all. You can opt out of making yourself a target. You can, I dunno, go for a walk or read a book or engage in some other pastime from before the Internet.
But none of those solutions will literally put someone in jail for angering you. What if it was illegal to own you online? What if the authorities had the power to stop your critics from talking? Now you’re talking!
For some time now, our friends across the pond have been doing just that. The British authorities can’t seem to stop terrorist attacks, but they’re doing their best to stop personal attacks. Here’s the latest example, from the Twitter account of the South Yorkshire Police:
In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing. Hate will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire. Report it and put a stop to it #HateHurtsSY pic.twitter.com/p2xf6OLoQZ
— SouthYorkshirePolice (@syptweet) September 9, 2018
“Hello, police? I just took a knife to the gut, but only literally.”
“This is a recording. Please hold for the first available officer who isn’t tracking down an offensive meme. Hashtag Hate Hurts!”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the police have more important things to worry about. My taxes pay the cops’ salaries, so it seems only fair that they should use their power to punish anybody who injures my ego. This is a good use of police resources, and I don’t see how anybody could abuse it for selfish personal reasons.
Here are a few things I’ll thank you not to mock, if you don’t want the boys in blue to track you down. If you know what’s good for you, you will not insult my:
- Emotional intelligence
- Distinctive odor
- Refusal to kneel in obeisance to your favorite politician
- Unironic fondness for ABBA
- Bladder control problems
Or you will #GoToJail.
Some misguided souls will tell you that there’s no such thing as hate speech. They’ll say things like, “Hate speech is just speech you hate.” They’ll claim it’s a huge mistake to involve the authorities in such matters. These people are, of course, racists. Are you going to listen to a bunch of racists? Well, you’ll need to talk to them on a corded phone with a sheet of plexiglass between you, because your racist friends will be in prison.
Hide behind a keyboard and find yourself behind bars!
*It might’ve even been me. If so, then I’m sorry about that. Sort of.