The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News.
Baseball star turned big-mouth commentator Curt Schilling is no poster child for social media civility, but wouldn’t it be great if his aggressive fight to protect his own child against Internet trolls resulted in a reset of what cyber-sickos get away with online?
This disturbing episode began innocently with Schilling’s measured Feb. 25 Twitter shout-out to his 17-year-old daughter: “Congrats to Gabby Schilling who will pitch for the Salve Regina (University) Seahawks next year!!”
As Schilling noted on his own blog, he knew he was in for some smarty-mouth responses. After all, he’s expressed more than his fair share of outrageous points of view on matters ranging from evolution to anti-police protests.
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By the weekend, the snarky feedback had turned horrifically lewd and nasty. Schilling’s twitter feed was inundated with responses that included the words rape and bloody underwear and sexually explicit terms so defiling to a woman that they are best omitted from this sentence.
Some people in Schilling’s shoes might just have accepted the despicable reaction as the price you pay for fame — or that we all pay for engaging in social media. Instead, Schilling called balderdash (substitute actual clubhouse language there) on that point of view.
The former Red Sox pitcher is a heat-throwing dad on a mission.
He saved every comment and began tracking down and contacting each bully. He’s reporting what he finds to coaches, university brass and employers.
Two New Jersey college students appear to be among the worst offenders. One was suspended from school and faces a disciplinary hearing; the second lost his job as a part-time ticket-seller for the Yankees.
Schilling says at least seven more culprits face punishment. Now the FBI and local law enforcement are talking to him about filing criminal charges against some offenders.
Those of us who live with one foot in the virtual world of blogging and social media are all too familiar with the accusations, lies and characterizations that people fling about in that arena. When cornered, the offenders respond with the ridiculous defense of, “Oh, it’s just a Facebook comment.”
Our assessment? The time it takes to type a comment and hit enter is clearly often not long enough for the brain to sufficiently engage. (At least we hope some amount of brainpower is in play.)
The graphic attack on Gabby Schilling is the cyberworld at its worst. To whatever extent her dad’s past online behavior contributed to the escalating toxic atmosphere, chances are that he has learned something, too.
That doesn’t lessen the righteousness of how Schilling has handled his daughter’s tormentors. As for the rest of us, considering our actions before we execute them is ultimately what will make the Internet a better place to work and play.