One of the truly awful things about the internet, I know from experience, is that everybody can publish anything they want any time for the whole world to see, without any professional editors getting in the way.
Self-publishing amateurs sometimes wonder, is there a boundary? Is there something I might say on the Web that will get me in serious trouble? Where is that line?
As a professional editor, I can tell you that the answers are, yes, hell yes, and somewhere in Capt. Jimmy Morris’ rear-view mirror.
Morris, a 16-year Columbia Fire Department veteran, ran screaming over that boundary with this Facebook post referring to the Black Lives Matter protesters who were blocking I-126 Sunday night:
Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.
Apparently having read that back over, and deeply concerned that maybe he hadn’t been quite inappropriate enough, he added this an hour later:
Public Service Announcement: If you attempt to shut down an interstate, highway, etc on my way home, you best hope I’m not one of the first vehicles in line because your ass WILL get run over! Period! That is all….
The next day, he was fired from his job with the fire department.
Let’s just leave race out of this for the moment (ex-Capt. Morris is white; the Black Lives Matter protesters, in case you just aren’t paying attention, are not — and the station where Morris worked is in a mostly black neighborhood). Pretend there’s no such thing as race: Who, unless he’s blind drunk or something, thinks that’s an appropriate message for a ranking public official to post about the general public?
Another, tougher question: What would be the motive for that message in a world where race was not a factor? What’s the cause of all that bile?
Since we live in world that does have the problem of race, we’ve come to recognize certain types of communications that derive their flavor from that factor.
And those messages have a distinctly familiar flavor.
There’s a lot more I could say about someone in such a position who responds this way to protesters who already believe that the public-safety sector has it in for people like them.
But I’ll step back now and let y’all comment…