Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Try something more worthy of a man."

Thomas Paine

HARRIER PIETY. I knew it would happen. As soon as I heard about Laura Ingraham's health situation, I knew the maggots of the left would emerge from the dank underside of the Internet to wish her ill. Michelle Malkin signalled the beginning of the onslaught with a link to this odious comment (one of many) at It's written by a person who calls himself Tom_Paine, as if he fancies himself a noble champion of humanity rather than a vicious bully. I wondered what the real Tom Paine would have thought, and so I searched out an account of him that included some personal details, including his own response to a sly and dishonest attack upon himself:

Before Paine's arrival in America, the excitement on his approach had tempted a canny Scot, Donald Fraser, to write an anticipated "Recantation" for him, the title page being cunningly devised so as to imply that there had been an actual recantation. On his arrival in New York, Paine found it necessary to call Fraser to account. The Scotchman pleaded that he had vainly tried to earn a living as fencing-master, preacher, and school-teacher, but had got eighty dollars for writing the "Recantation." Paine said: "I am glad you found the expedient a successful shift for your needy family; but write no more concerning Thomas Paine. I am satisfied with your acknowledgment -- try something more worthy of a man."

That's how I'd expect a gentleman to address a personal adversary. The whole chapter is worth reading because every paragraph demonstrates the price that will always be paid by those who express their dissent bravely in the public eye.

I also wondered what the decent-minded of the Internet might do to confront those who creep out of the dark places at such times, and I hit upon an approach that might carry some weight. There is no need for invective, name-calling, cursewords, or scatologies. What I propose is that you and every like-minded friend go to this and similar links to identify specific comments which require acknowledgment. Reply to each with a single demand: Take responsibility for your words by giving your real name. If you can't do this, look into the mirror and see the face of a coward. Then, try to feel the shame you have earned.

Note that you don't have to be a conservative or a Republican to participate in this accounting. If you know of any similar response to the misfortune of Peter Jennings, for example, pursue the perpetrators in exactly the same fashion. (Interestingly, I haven't seen or heard of any such ugliness.) All such people are the equivalent of obscene phone callers, and those of us who congregate in this electronic realm do have a responsibility to maintain some standards. There is a profound difference between combativeness, satire, and ridicule on the one hand and bitter hatefulness on the other. Wishing disease and death on those who disagree with you is over the line, as even the unbalanced Randi Rhodes has lately been forced to concede.

Events like this prove that there is more than one kind of cancer in the world. The cancer that afflicts the Internet may not be organic, but it is -- if left to flourish in the dark -- a potentially fatal pathology. The very least we can insist on is that the carriers stand up like men and identify themselves by name.

Please also take the time to wish Laura Ingraham a speedy recovery. Perhaps a flood of wellwishers can do a little to allay the hurt of the brutes who spoke up before we did.

Thank you..

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