Words hurt. But should hurting with words be illegal?
A 17-year-old boy in Britain has been arrested for “malicious communication” after tweeting some seriously vicious stuff at British Olympian Tom Daley. After Daley’s 4th place finish, the unnamed teenager tweeted “You let your dad down i hope you know that.”
Daley’s father died of brain cancer last year.
Daley retweeted the tweet, responding, “After giving it my all … you get idiots sending me this …”
What would possibly possess someone to send such a cruel message to a complete stranger? How can you be that disregarding of the feelings of others? Also, if you’re enough of a fan of someone to care this much if they lose, why would you want to hurt them? And why be hurt? Daley is an Olympic swimmer and the other dude is just a jerk with a Twitter, a splinter in Daley’s aerodynamic foot.
This kid is a huge jerk. Jerks exist. Dealing with jerks is a part of life. But should they be able to get away with it? Should the government be allowed to put you in jail just for being a huge jerk?
At some point in the development of our society, we decided that physical assault was more valid, more “wrong” than emotional assault. But is that right?
Emotional attacks can cause depression and anxiety. Knowing that someone hates you and feeling the vitriol of another person cannot be good for your health; mental or physical. But emotional attacks like verbal bullying, and insults to public figures are very hard to prosecute. The whole addition of social media makes things a lot more complicated.
Sure, if someone stabs you, you will get cut, and you will bleed, and maybe you’ll die. If someone says something mean to you, you can choose to ignore it. But should you have to? What if you’re the target of constant verbal cruelty? Or what if someone, like in Daley’s case, takes a jab at you regarding something that will hurt you most? Verbal cruelty and physical cruelty come from the same basic desire: the desire to hurt others. Hurting others is always wrong, and should be punishable. People that want to hurt others are bad people.
But where do we draw the line? Is it illegal to give someone a bad grade on a test? To break up with someone? To reject someone? To not offer someone a job? It all comes down to intent. If your intent is to hurt, then you’re bad.
I don’t know anything about British free speech laws, all I know is my basic perception of morality. I think the kid who sent this tweet is a huge jerk, but I don’t think he did anything that should be punished by the government. That is not the government’s place.
I also don’t know if the Brits allow cruel and unusual punishment, but if I were a British judge I’d sentence this guy to “repeating this tweet to Daley’s face, while Daley has the entire British Olympic team behind him!” Now that’s justice!
What do you think? Should this vile tweeter have to face the law? Let us know in the comments!
UPDATE: Turns out there was more than just basic insults involved, the rogue tweeter also made threats and racial slurs against Daley and the innocent people who came to Daley’s defense. How does that change things morally? Legally, I think the addition of threats and slurs DOES in fact make this an issue that the government should be involved in. Share your thoughts in the comments!
Image via The Huffington Post.