When a society is free, it is operating in the manner most consistent with the God-given dignity -- and free will -- of its people. If we are not freely virtuous, we are not virtuous at all.
There is, however, one thing more crucial to the functioning of a society than freedom. That would be order. Without order, a society doesn't function at all.
And if a society doesn't function, it's not a society. It's a post-apocalyptic "Mad Max" dystopia.
CONSIDER, THEN, a world not only where a school employee thinks it all right to post vulgar messages on a newspaper's website -- using a work computer, no less -- but a world where the bad guy is the newspaper editor who notified the school. Here's the story, as told by the "offending" editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, director of social media Kurt Greenbaum:
A single vulgar word cost a man his job on Friday.
It all started with Friday’s edition of Talk of the Day, a regular blog on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s website, STLtoday.com. Talk of the Day is exactly that. A conversation around the water-cooler topic of the day. Friday’s edition is often a little lighter. Last week, it was about the strangest things you’ve ever eaten, loosely pegged on a story about deer meat.
By mid-morning, a number of folks had commented about their experiences with Bird’s Nest Soup, octopus, cow brains and rattlesnake. Then, while I was in our 10 a.m. news meeting, someone posted in reply a single word, a vulgar expression for a part of a woman’s anatomy. It was there only a minute before a colleague deleted it.
A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.
About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.
But these are not saner times.
These are times where freedom has given way to license, and "order" is something Adolf Hitler must have rhapsodized over in Mein Kampf. Here are a few comments left on the STLtoday.com post:
I told you Kurt was a “Thought Nazi”
“Hi! Everyone, I’m Kurt and I’m a thought Nazi! I’ll smash down your bosses door and have you thrown out in to the street! Look at me in my smashing new shiny black Nazi jackboots!”
I hope this guy sues Kurt personally and the PD for BIG BUCKS!
Perhaps he suspected it and now he knows for sure who did it!
— Told Ya!
4:03 pm November 16th, 2009
I will add to my original comment and say this: Of all the comments that you guys choose to “narc on,” for lack of a better term, you chose one that was actually kind of funny considering the question he was responding to (this coming from a woman). Vulgar, yes, but nowhere near as offensive as some of the racist stuff I’ve seen of here.
Many newspapers use software where the comments have to be approved before they are posted. The Post obviously feels that the notoriety they enjoy from their “Wild West” posting style is worth more than that software. So either enforce your own rules or don’t, but by gosh, don’t go around playing “thought police” and then brag about it!
4:27 pm November 16th, 2009
The Furher and I were just discussing your actions. We are very proud of you. You are coming along nicely.
— Joseph Goebbells
4:39 pm November 16th, 2009
Or the bullet to the brain.
But could one expect anything any less idiotic from a combox knuckle-dragger who'd throw around Nazi accusations at somebody named GREENBAUM?
I'm tempted to say something now about how I don't know about this Internet thing. That wouldn't be particularly fair -- the Internet and all its accoutrements are nothing more than tools. It takes real, live human asshats to screw them up.
Kurt Greenbaum, within the confines of his own comboxes, has been made out to be the bad guy merely for doing what responsible people do in functioning societies. He helped to knock a vulgar jerk down a peg or three.
It's called a society policing itself -- part of the delicate dance between order and freedom that goes on without end in all functioning democracies.
Most people's consciences tell them -- well, at least they once did -- that you don't go around painting filthy names for women's genitalia on people's houses. Or on bridge abutments. Or on telephone poles.
Or on their websites.
And you certainly don't go around doing it with other people's paintbrushes.
TO THE COMBOX CROWD, Greenbaum was being a censorious censor. To history, the combox crowd may well represent a postmodern-day Weimar era that set the table for the re-establishment of Order -- with a terrible vengeance.