When death threats become as common as brushing teeth
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When death threats become as common as brushing teeth

I HAD the pleasure this week of talking to a number of human rights and political content film directors about their work.

We tackled the challenges they face creating potentially controversial material in an environment of mounting oppression as well as the common pitfalls that come along with exposing people to ideas they may not feel entirely comfortable confronting.

After a lengthy discussion about the potential repercussions to come from tackling difficult topics, one director nonchalantly dropped in at the end of the conversation that, “then, of course, there’s the death threats.”

This was accompanied by a little chuckle and a disheartened grin that implied these were all just accepted annoyances of having a voice in today’s society. And that, it appears, is exactly what they are.

When asked to elaborate, she explained, “You know, the usual stuff. It’s normal.”, as if it were as natural as brushing your teeth in the morning.

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The writer Anthony Horowitz said in an article this week for The Guardian that people simply don’t disagree anymore, they send death threats. For a person to hold an opinion that differs from your own, these days, is seen as a personal attack of the highest degree.

This severe and knee-jerk reaction has become common place in society. To lash out at someone with threats of death when faced with an opinion or a standpoint we find challenging is almost de rigueur, whether we mean it or not.

It seems large swathes of us Internet dwellers experience such rigidity in the way we think, the information we consume and the way we interact that if something steps outside of those set, pre-determined lines we’ve lost the ability to react in a rational and considered manner.

There was a time when a death threat was the exclusive territory of maniacs and serial killers. The realm of mad men with crazy eyes who sit in dank rooms, meticulously cutting out letters from a magazine and glueing them together while Vivaldi plays in the background and a light bulb flickers in the corner.

It appears this is no longer the case. The death threat has well and truly come out from the dark recesses of society and is now fair game for any person with two thumbs and a keyboard, while the rest of us just accept this as standard.

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I suppose our blasé attitude towards them can be partly put down to experience. After all, of the millions of violence-inciting comments that are spewed on the Internet each day, very few of them actually come to fruition. And, while in the early days of the Internet, we may have found them more jarring, in these later years we’re all a little more war-weary on this digital battlefield.

These days, there’s not many of us who have managed to avoid the sting of the ubiquitous Internet troll. Anything from name calling, right up to rape and death threats, litter the comments section of many pages.

While most are ignored, laughed at, or baited further, and only an infinitesimal number actually mean what they say, doesn’t it strike you as crazy that this doesn’t strike us as crazy anymore?

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent