Conservative Trolls Go After Beau Biden
By Dick Polman
Way back in 1954, Army lawyer Joseph Welch famously rebuked right-wing demagogue Joe McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" One can only imagine what Welch would say today about the vile Internet trolls who can't curb their hatred even when somebody dies.
The trolls' reaction to Beau Biden's passing speaks volumes about the death of decency. Everything in our coarsened culture is now politicized, including the brain cancer death of a 46-year-old military veteran. Granted, most people have responded with the appropriate social skills. But a sizable number of Americans appear to have been raised by wolves. They can't resist the primal compulsion to pound their paws on the keyboard. For instance, these comment-board quips about Beau:
"One less liberal politician."
"My liberty is under attack, no sympathy here."
"What a shame to die at only 46, especially when all 46 years he has such a complete a--hole for a father."
A conservative commentator, Rob Dreher, is just as revolted as I am: "Beau is the second child that Joe Biden will have had to bury. I have seen up close what grief over the death of a child, even when the child is an adult, does to parents....I wasn't going to mar this occasion by saying anything about how horrible human beings are, but this makes me so angry I can't let it go....Is there anything nastier in this universe than the human heart?"
When the Fox News website posted stories about Beau's death, the reaction was so despicable that Fox had to shut down those comment boards. But that didn't stop the trolls. They simply attached themselves to the Fox story about John Kerry breaking his leg. Such as:
"between this and bidens pig son dead, it's been a great weekend"
We've seen this behavior before, of course. When Ted Kennedy died in the summer of 2009, the trolls posted gems like, "Burn baby burn!" and "Good riddance to bad rubbish, the Kennedys have always been socialists." When Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha was on his deathbed in 2010, the well-wishers wrote, "Typical Democrat. Please die soon" and "He and Benedict Arnold should share a very hot corner in a very bad place."
Trolls on the left have done this stuff, too. When Rush Limbaugh was hospitalized with chest pains during the 2009 Christmas holidays, some comment boards lit up: "If he croaks, this is officially the greatest year in American history" and "Come on 2009! Don't fail me now!" And two years earlier, when the news broke that Bush press secretary Tony Snow's cancer had returned, some trolls were thrilled: "The cancer in Tony Snow is removing the cancer of Tony Snow...could there be a God?"
But we're talking here about Beau - who served his country in Iraq while the trolls stayed safe at home and lost his mother and sister in a car accident, a childhood trauma that few trolls can even imagine. Apparently none of that matters. In the absence of decency, we have this:
"I bet it was an overdose."
"I just can't feel anything for this POS vice president. He along with obama are the enemy. Why should he get a pass on anything."
"I don't care about anyone that is taking part in destroying this country or give 2 s--ts about their families."
"yep, we need to feel sorry for anyones loss, in this case a liberal politician who if something happened to that commi obama would take over and make obama seem mild."
"Beau was a #redwings fan, so I was happy to hear he died."
I love that last one. Not only can you be slimed in death for affiliating with the "wrong" political party, or for having the "wrong" father, but also for liking the "wrong" sports team. This I did not know.
Abraham Lincoln, who in his era was besieged by pamphlet trolls, pleaded with his fellow Americans: "In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity."
Lincoln's advice was ignored, and today's keyboard warriors don't care a whit about responsibility or eternity. Their hatred lives in the here and now.
Copyright 2015 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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