I recently wrote an opinion piece that was published by AOL News about people’s misunderstanding of the First Amendment. For a couple of days, it sat on AOL’s page without many comments. But then on Sunday, AOL members came out in force. One member said I should be hanged. Another said, “First, a typical American female should not be assigned this story . . . Based on her last name I'd say she should be promoting zionist[sic] causes in Gaza. . . Some females should stick to cookbooks and travel hype.” Although I’m not Jewish, the wrath was clear. What prompted the hate speech and the misogynist remarks? Why was I being called both leftist and Fascist?
After reading the tenth or so comment, I realized that either people were not reading the essay or they did not understand it. They assumed content that the piece did not contain. The more the comments baffled me, the more addicted to them I became. Just what did they think I had written? The novelist in me wanted to understand how their minds worked and where I had failed.
And then, around dinner time, it hit me. The people who thought I was advocating the sale of a book on pedophilia must not have understood the word “disingenuous,” or more accurately, this sentence, “To invoke the First Amendment in this case is disingenuous at best.” They thought that I believed that not selling this book was censorship when I was actually arguing the opposite. (If you don’t know what “disingenuous” means, look it up. Now.) Their outrage stopped them, then and there, and they never read further. If they had, my point would have been clear in more pedestrian language. (Look that up, too -- the adjective, not the noun.)
In this age of the internet, when everyone can have an opinion and put it in writing for millions to read, it behooves us to understand the written word and content before we make fools of ourselves. We don’t need to be intellectuals as much as we need to be intelligent.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
Causes Debbie Wesselmann Supports
The Jane Goodall Institute
Save the Chimps