What to do about abusive speech?

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Citizen-Letters-1

This is a wonderful age to be alive. With a few strokes of a keyboard we can reach hundreds, thousands and even millions of people with our opinions, comments and, yes, our cat videos.

But these are also terrible times when irresponsible imbeciles can use that same power to harass, insult and shame our children and ourselves with unfounded and hurtful accusations.

Our own intelligence agencies have shown how the enemies of a modern democracy can use our freedom of expression to attack America by spreading false rumors and inflammatory rhetoric about our culture, society, leadership and candidates for public office.

So what do we do to protect our children, our country and our own city workers and officials from the cranks and enemies who would use our own freedom of speech against us?

These are some of the most important questions of our time in history:

• How do we prevent our vulnerable teenagers from viewing the hateful ramblings of their peers?

• Do we seek vengeance against the enemies of democracy with cyber warfare or even worse?

• Should we use expensive legal remedies to save us from unwarranted personal, professional and political attacks?

• Do we sacrifice our precious American ideals of fair play and truth-telling on the altar of the internet?

That “Pandora’s Box” has been opened and no amount of lawsuits can ever close it again.

On social media, when words like empathy, compassion, honor, kindness and generosity give way to expressions like hate speech, innuendo, fake news, white supremacy and communists, then I start to wonder why anyone would offer themselves up for public service. Some of the things I have seen and read on the internet would make even George Orwell blush.

Will justice be served if we sue the liars? I think not. Threatening liars only emboldens them and I don’t believe we can legislate fair play and truth-telling, as these first require character.

In the 16 months I have had the honor to serve with this council and our conscientious hard working staff, I have witnessed firsthand the meaning of public service.

Today, Peachtree City is a better and safer place because of their dedication and sacrifice to the common good, and no amount of bullying and badmouthing can change that fact.

I don’t have the answers to these tough questions but discussing them is the first step.

However, I don’t believe the indemnity ordinance is the answer either, and that is why I voted against it.

Kevin Madden
Post 3, City Council
Peachtree City, Ga.