By Steve Murch
In the early-ish days of the internet’s explosion I was working as a newspaper managing editor. I wrote a column about how I feared some of the things that run rampant now, mainly cyberbullying, stalking and scammers. Some pretty smart people I knew were victims – a couple who were scammed and one who was stalked. Thankfully, the scammed didn’t lose much and the one being stalked found a way to put an end to it.
At that time, only a small percentage of the country had access to the internet or were on the internet and already people were being victimized. Cyberbullying was still a ways off, and neither Facebook nor MySpace had yet come into existence. People weren’t posting all their personal information and photos online but the underbelly of society was already finding a way to disrupt people’s lives in a new way.
I don’t have much of a personal presence online. I have a Twitter account, but that’s it. It’s just not my cup of tea. Even just being on Twitter, I see the stories about the issues people have online.
I was a little surprised by a Detroit TV station’s story about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address that included comments about her looks. First, that there were morons who decided to comment on her appearance is stupid. She’s the governor. What she has to say is more important and should have been the sole focus about the State of the State. Second, that a news reporter decided to include that was beyond dumb.
If the internet was as easily accessible when John Engler was governor, would commenters have talked about his appearance? Doubtful, and let’s not forget, Engler isn’t going to be a fitness magazine cover model. He’s not exactly a super-model.
Way back in his early stand-up comedian days, the late Robin Williams had a put-down line for hecklers that went something like, “I’d insult you but seeing as how God did a perfect job it would be redundant of me.” I think about that line every time I see a story about how people are body-shamed and that popped into my head as soon as I saw the story about Whitmer.
I think the perfect solution to cut down on some of this crap would be that commenters on any story have to post of photo of them holding up a copy of that day’s newspaper. It might reduce the number of these posts, as it would open up the commenter to the same kind of body-shaming they just tried to do themselves.
The Detroit TV station likely wouldn’t have included it in a story because then they would have had to include the backlash comments and the real story – the State of the State – would have been the only coverage. It’s doubtful any news agency is going to do a story where it points out people making fun of each other’s looks.
Perhaps a side benefit would be that if people were hell-bent on posting comments and had to post a photo of themselves holding up a newspaper maybe some newspaper circulation might increase. The extra sales could benefit the newspaper’s bottom line and help it cover the stories that really matter.
Nobody is perfect, but too many people act like they are when they are online.
Steve Murch is a former managing editor and award-winning columnist for The Alpena News. He’s a lifelong Michigan resident, a broken and defeated fan of the Detroit Lions and a forever optimistic fan of the Detroit Tigers. His column will appear most Thursdays.