In addition to the newspapers to which I directly subscribe, every couple of hours I go on the internet and look at a number of newspapers and magazines for the newest news stories. Additionally, via a number of keywords Google-Alert supplies me with links to current reports and events.
However, when I read the commentaries and blog discussions under these headings, I shudder. Next to the many subject-specific articles or good-natured use of freedom of expression, I find the most disgusting gutter language, hateful language, abusive language and verbal slugfests. The mist of anonymity appears to allow everything that language can produce. People judge others, about whom only the last commentary on a blog is known, and they come to the conclusion that others are empty-headed, incorrigible, egoistic, or dangerous.
While one anti-discrimination law follows another, the result is that a more respectful – much less more loving – behavior towards others is nowhere to be found. Discrimination appears to be gaining momentum on web discussion boards. In theory, the netiquette for many blogs and media say something else, but in reality bloggers give the evil in their heart free reign.
When a pastor or bishop preaches about the Ten Commandments and holds up a ‘mirror of confession’ in front of people (and in particular when he does not choose words that display respect for human dignity as he certainly has learned), the press jumps all over him. However, measured against the language used in commentaries and blogs, in particular those which are associated with the press media, everything that the pastor or bishop can possibly have said is a friendly piece of advice.
Hundreds of thousands of writers of commentaries do not use the new technological avenues to promote discussion in democratic society and to enable (almost) everyone the opportunity to participate in public discourse. Rather, it enables verbally lashing out at everyone who has a different opinion. Side questions in which one truly can believe one thing or the other become the cause for denying someone their personhood. and in the friendliest case a reason for calling on them to go ahead and emigrate – a well-known form of request in discussion pages and blogs.
Is that democracy, where every person can insult everyone else at will? As time goes by, will the hatred that is shown towards those who think different politically stay in the web, or will it at some point influence the actual daily interaction people have with each other? Can those who watch over the virtues of our country, who are paying attention to political correctness everywhere, but who themselves dish out evil on web discussion pages and blogs fail to address this hatred?
Jesus said in Matthew 24:12:
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold …”
On the internet we are increasingly experiencing how people allow their thoughts free reign, and the absence of law and prohibition is leading to boundless lovelessness which one day could spill over into our democracy. Democracy as a freedom of expression is bid welcome. However, democracy, when it is principally lacking in respect and takes away others’ dignity, is not a political structure that is worthy of human dignity. It is precisely the democratically elected politicians who are role models for hate bloggers and slanderers in the way they speak about each other.
The frequent warnings in the Bible against slander and rumors are indeed age-old, but at the same time they are more up to date than ever. People could by all means simultaneously be committed to the truth and make themselves controversial by being on a search for it, and at the same time through love get along respectfully with each other. See in this connection my essay “Putting Rumors to rest”, chapter 5 in my book “May Christians Go To Court”.