CORNWALL Ontario – In 2005, after telling a friend that I was moving to Cornwall, her eyes bugged out: “What about all the pedophiles?” she asked.
I was taken aback:
“For silly sakes, you can’t paint a whole community with one brush.”
Project Truth was in full swing when I got here. There were 34 victims of child-molestation at the centre of the inquiry. But even at its long-awaited 2009 conclusion (that came with a $53 million price tag) no one could say for certain whether a pedophile “ring” had actually existed. On an emotional level, all that seemed “true” for me was sorrow mixed with hope that such abuses would never happen again.
Now another serious form of abuse has arrived in the community, cyber abuse.
In her latest book, investigative author, lawyer and journalism professor, Paula Todd, uses “cyberabuse” as a general but much more telling descriptor for what’s going on. She introduces us to other descriptors as well, “interpersonal terrorism,” for example. And as a result, we begin to understand the psychological motivations and rewards that turn various behaviours on, and keep them humming. Or as Paula says:
“…while digital technology has laid bare some of the worst of human behaviour, it also provides the information we need to understand it. And that insight gives us the radical possibility of using cyberabuse to catapult us into cyber civility and compassion.”
So what kinds of people engage in cyberabuse? Regular folk, everyday people, with a long list of issues that include being intoxicated, bored, angry and mentally ill.
Canadian research scientist, Erin Buckels’ work examines “the bored,” a group that derives its pleasure most while moving in packs. In Buckels’ words:
“Trolling culture embraces a concept virtually synonymous with sadistic pleasure: in troll speak, ‘lulz.’” (Laughs at another person’s expense.)
And this is what lulz can look like on a Thursday night after supper. It is but one of hundreds of attacks on local resident, newspaper owner and mayoral candidate, Jamie Gilcig. It has also been shortened by about half the number of comments for reasons of space and more-of-the-same.
Lulz on July 10, 2014
Member: is that NOT the same clothing he had on Tuesday on bridge Like · 8
Member: Exactly! His function attire lolol · Like · 3
Member: I like his front ass Like · 5
Member: haha was just gonna say that, must have had his shower & washed his clothes in Tuesday’s rainstorm…lmao · Like · 1
Member: Barf · Like · 1
Member: I bet he sleeps in this · Like · 1
Member: probably does, all cuddled up with his amazing JVC camcorder. It actually turns out to be a money maker. You can sue someone for a broken camera and get paid even though it was not broken . · Like · 1
Member: Look at that…todays first HOT AIR BALLOON Like · 8
Member: lol Cath.. !! · Like · 1
Member: nice Cathy lol · Like · 1
Member: Surprised he is there…isnt that schmoozing and kissing ass with the voters??
Member: there is NO ONE near him Does that tell you something ? · Like · 1
Member: He is easy to recognize he is always wearing the same clothes . · Like · 1
Member: easier for police when he has to be escorted OUT . · Like · 1
Member: He’s now endorsing ‘Money out of politics. Now.’ Guess he wants the playing field leveled now that the court has kicked his ample butt via the suit: if he doesn’t have any money to spend, he doesn’t want other mayoralty candidates to have any? Sore loser. · Like · 2
Member: My eyes!!! Omg my eyes!!!! I’m blind now thanks a lot!! lmao!!! · Like · 3
Other posts by the same group can run from obscene to violent. This is a truncated example of the former.
THERE once was a pig “WHO’S Own demise he liked to Dig”, He had no GIls and thankfully the x wife was on the pill…Cornwall don’t want you , South Stormont Cant stand you, Your balls are probably blue, Go back to Montreal spend $75 and blow your Goo…After give us a Holler If she Swallows, Cause my man that likes a Farter, We have a Charter Good enough that even for you Mr M*** won’t BARter, Cant believe a man of your size Is always looking for someone to APOLOGIZE.
Yet, a fellow member of the group posted to her friends about the author of the verse:
“Oh, I forgot to mention it was nice to meet ‘NAME’ yesterday…She seems like a very nice person, with a huge heart.”
While reading Todd’s exposé, I was hoping to find an example of an actual Facebook group that focuses solely on an interest or a person, hoping to find parallels to the Cornwall N area group.
The closest thing I could find was an adult group of Facebook mothers who take photos of babies from other peoples’ Facebook sites and, for entertainment, post ugly baby comments. And as one member of the group posts to her new found friends:
“An ugly baby thread…I have died and gone to heaven why can’t you guys live near me so we can do this over cocktails?”
Yes, hard to believe. But as Todd points out:
“The tidy and tucked corners of small towns are a thing of the past now that the Internet can reach inside communities and turn life upside down.”
On page one of Extreme Mean, Todd warns us her book is not for the faint of heart, and I admit to waking from a nightmare about halfway through. I even considered going off Facebook, but that’s the last thing any of us should do, Todd warns: They (cyberabusers) are…
“…pushing the talented, the ambitious, the kind, and the curious offline. And that’s the key: the future of the Internet is too important to leave in the hands of its worst netizens.”
Before reading Extreme Mean, I contacted Paula Todd after she’d been a guest on the CBCs Cross Country Checkup (How can cyberbullying be stopped?) and before the poppy scandal story broke LINK.
She was busy and on book tour but interested to know whether the Cornwall groups’ posts had been reported to Facebook (Yes), whether there had been any police follow up (No), and if the group was open and public (Yes, here’s the link).
Recently, the Cornwall group has discovered public relations and supported a local day of fishing to benefit special needs people. In PR speak, to help engender a “halo effect”: See? We’re not a H8 GROUP, as they put it. Fine.
But if my child’s photo were to appear on a Facebook site with multiple vulgarities that include the likes of: Too bad your parents ever had sex and produced you, the group’s leader and possible behind-the-scenes enablers would hear from me, quietly, swiftly, and with backup from a national not-for-profit that shall remain unnamed.
At the end of the Project Truth, Commissioner G. Normand Glaude outlined a number of systemic failures that had occurred locally, including reluctance by officials and police to pay attention, follow up and act on issues of child abuse. Glaude also recommended programs to help educate, reconcile and heal.
Paula Todd also offers suggestions on how we can protect ourselves online, and how the cyberabusers could be reformed.
Her groundbreaking, timely and useful book gives me hope for an end to abuse-related suicides, humiliation, ruined lives, and improved mental health.