Some of you know that I am a survivor of what I call The Blog Wars. During the Scott Peterson investigation and trial, I followed a witty and incisive blogger who had a blog called Observations of a Misfit. She had a huge following, and her site was the go-to place for information and editorial opinion on that case. Her attitude of taking no prisoners and putting up with no bullshit caused a group of her readers to start a hate campaign against her. It started with a few blogs dedicated to critiquing everything from her logic to her clothes, her eyes, her hair and her children. It proceeded to involve photoshopping pictures of her and posting them at said sites.
The haters decided she was neglecting her children, so they called CPS and police to visit her home. They also published her address, her drivers' license number and a map to her daughter's school. That information was put on Usenet, where it can probably be found to this day. They sucked her sister into the fray, gleaning the fruits of years of sibling rivalry.
She wrote a book about the Peterson trial, compiled from her blog entries. The haters posted endless bad reviews of it wherever it was sold, bumping the good ones from her supporters and from innocent people who read and liked the book. They spent hours and days and on into weeks voting endlessly on a weird blog, to get her elected "Fucktard of the Year," just so that phrase would be linked with her name on Google.
They actually contacted her employer and managed to get her fired. She changed careers and they tried to sabotage that, too. It was truly unbelievable, the way these people had no boundaries and allowed something that deserved no more than a fit of pique to escalate into a serious case of real life harassment.
Several of her followers were attacked, including myself. My real name and drivers' license were up there on Usenet along with those of my blogging friend. My children were belittled, my husband criticized, my talents denigrated, and my face posted all over the Internet, peering out of the nether regions of a mule. I kid you not. They never came after me in real life, though they did threaten to contact my husband's employers.
We were not blameless. We fought fire with fire, and one tiny tidbit of information, gleaned through questionable means, put the final stop to the exercise. One of the saner women on the other side finally saw how hypocritical she was and quit, taking most of the rest down with her.
It had gone on for two years.
These days, the climate of hatred is much more virulent than it was back in 2004, when all this began. I could see the change when people started to gather outside Casey Anthony's home (before she was arrested), to scream, "Babykiller!" at the closed door, and wave signs and force her and her family to run the gauntlet every time they entered or left their home. I said time and time again on every message board that would allow me, "This is not right. How would you feel?" Nobody cared. The message board posters all defended the people acting like all they needed were a few torches and pitchforks, and maybe a burning cross and a rope.
In the past few weeks, there have been several feminist bloggers drop out of the atheist blogging community due to horrible threats and attacks aimed at them from others in the atheist community. The misogyny is astounding, and these bloggers have been the target of an unbelievable level of hatred ("I hope you die!" "I hope you get raped, you fucking cunt!" and more), all because they had the temerity to suggest that misogyny exists in the atheist community and that it is the community's responsibility to do something about it.
Today, someone from a Tea Party page on Facebook has hacked into the profile of a liberal Facebook "troll." On Facebook, a liberal troll is a person who, having realized the futility of using logic on the teabaggers and Paulbots, has decided to attack with sarcasm and humour. It has become an amusing pastime to read the anti-Obama sentiments and call the posters on the utter idiocy of their claims. In short, pissing off the baggers is a sport akin to shooting fish in a barrel. This woman's profile was hacked, revealing all her personal information, children's pictures...all the things we put on social media these days.
I have to say that I fear for these people's safety. It's a sad life when exercising one's Constitutional right of free speech on the Internet can put one in physical danger, but it looks as if we have come to that. I sincerely hope that there is some recourse to which these courageous bloggers and commentators can turn, before the mob shows up at their doors, or at their children's schools, or at their workplaces, with fire in their eyes and destruction on their minds.