Five years ago, a 47-year-old Missouri woman began a duplicitous on-line courtship through MySpace with a 13-year-old neighbor who once had been friends with the woman’s daughter.
The adult, Lori Drew, flirted with the 13-year-old, Megan Meier, through the guise of a fictitious, 16-year-old character named Josh Evans. Suddenly, “Josh” broke up with Miss Meier, writing to her, “the world would be a better place without you.” Just hours later, Miss Meier hung herself in her bedroom.
Words have consequences.
Drew wasn’t charged with the child’s death. In fact, a judge reversed her conviction on computer fraud charges, saying the law was intended to deal with hacking, not murder. But for most Americans, there is something deeply disturbing, something morally, if not criminally, wrong with deliberate torment, with predatory viciousness. Drew eluded accountability the same way conservatives are seeking to evade culpability after their irresponsible speech has provoked the delusional to violence.
It’s hard to draw a line directly from Drew’s cruel words to the noose around Miss Meier’s neck. Similarly, it’s difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin’s illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords’ office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner’s shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.
What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it’s routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence. . . . Read the rest of this entry →