Keyboard commandos

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When I was in a motorcycle club I was introduced to the term “sidewalk commando.” A sidewalk commando is a guy (usually, but not always) who doesn’t really belong to a motorcycle club (and may or may not even own a bike) who gets some perverse joy out of keeping things stirred up between the various clubs.

For example, he or she may approach a club member, say, a member of the Lethal Fawns MC, and tell the person that he heard that a member of the Terrible Turtles MC (I’m making these names up in case you couldn’t tell) say that his group was going to shoot members of the Lethal Fawns off their bikes.

Then he/she may go to the Terrible Turtles and say the same thing. Having stirred the pot, the sidewalk commando sits back to see what mayhem may occur.

While all this may sound silly to those who are not of the motorcycle sub-culture, the truth is that sidewalk commandos have caused more than a few people to get injured or even killed.

I was instructed to ignore such people as they have a corrupt agenda. Certainly such people abound. I could name a few from junior high and high school days who took pleasure in seeing if they could get people to fight each other so they could sit back and watch the result of their handiwork.

While I don’t concern myself with sidewalk commandos these days, it seems that a new breed abounds in the present culture. These are the “keyboard commandos” who lurk on the internet — especially on social media.

One definition is: Keyboard Commando — A bulletin board user who posts authoritatively on military or combat topics, but who has never served in uniform or heard a shot fired in anger. These folks are also called “Chairborne Rangers.”

But I have a broader view. I view a keyboard commando as anyone who deliberately posts something, whether true or false, with the primary goal of getting people riled up. And it happens all the time.

There have been scores of times when I’ll read a post that gets me a little hot and then, when I investigate the substance of the post, it is simply false. It’s not just “fake news,” but truly inflammatory and bold-faced lies.

Why would someone post untruths? Well, some people are just ignorant and will re-post anything. But a fairly large number of these people are keyboard commandos. They seek to cause strife; they seek to agitate, to irritate, and to aggravate. All they while, the digital hand grenades they have tossed do damage while they themselves, uninjured, revel in their cleverness.

One commando might seek to stir up trouble between people of different races. Others might desire to set Baptists against Catholics. Others will seek scapegoats to ridicule online, to disrespect and slur those who are “the other,” whoever that might be.

Supporters and detractors of President Trump toss these hand grenades on their social media platforms continually. Keyboard commandos of all persuasions and stripes advance their own agenda (or form of entertainment) continually without regard to the harm inflicted on individuals or the society at large.

One keyboard commando might write, “Barack Obama was a Muslim and wasn’t born in America!” Another might toss out, “Donald Trump is a fascist, a white supremacist, and a racist!” The point is not to make a political statement. The point is to arouse anger and set people fighting among themselves.

Much of the time, the keyboard commando is a coward, hiding behind a screen name that protects his or her anonymity. So, he or she can throw out all sorts of bombs without ever having to be accountable.

Even if they post on their own social media page, they still do so from the safety of their own computer desk and never have to risk much of anything. Keyboard commandos can say whatever they want on the screen without ever having to have the courage to say the same thing to someone in person.

Just the other day, I read a post, by a member of the clergy, of all people, who tossed out a provoking comment on race and race relations. What followed was akin to two schools of piranha attacking each other. It didn’t take long for the people who walked into the trap to devolve into name calling and accusations against each other. And these people were, allegedly, Christians!

All I could ask myself was, “What was the point of posting such a thing?”

Just a few days ago, I posted about an event I had attended. Someone posted something that, I thought, was insulting and demeaning to the participants who were hosting the event. I almost responded. Then I did what should be done more often … I deleted their comment before others saw it. And then I moved on.

In a free and open society we will always have the type of people who just like to stir things up and cause trouble. The temptation is to jump into the fray. But it’s a trap.

There are no winners except for the one who was able to get a reaction and take satisfaction from it. Just ignore them, delete them, and move on. They, truly, are not worth your time.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

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