Barry Saunders

Don’t trifle with a mother’s grief - Saunders

Barry Saunders

The family of shooting victim Kouren Thomas, including his mother Simone Butler-Thomas, center, brother Kris Williams, right, and Kouren's girlfriend, Amani Rainey, hold a press conference with attorney Justin Bamberg outside Simone Thomas's home Thursday, August 11, 2016.
The family of shooting victim Kouren Thomas, including his mother Simone Butler-Thomas, center, brother Kris Williams, right, and Kouren's girlfriend, Amani Rainey, hold a press conference with attorney Justin Bamberg outside Simone Thomas's home Thursday, August 11, 2016. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Tis better to remain silent and simply be thought a contemptible piece of fetid carrion unworthy of being consumed by starving buzzards than to spew venom from your rancid soul onto the Internet and remove all doubt.

OK, that’s not verbatim what the proverb often attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, but you get the idea.

There is no law against thinking vile, disgusting thoughts while sitting at home in private rolling your toe jam into little balls and contemplating why your your life stinks.

There isn’t even a law against saying disgusting things in public.

Most keyboard cowboys, of course, would never do that. They lack the guts to show themselves publicly, and thus are more comfortable at home, protected by the anonymity the internet provides and heartened by the occasional response they provoke. That, at least in their diseased minds, validates their vile existence.

“We’ve known for years,” Dr. Stephen Flannelly, a Raleigh psychologist, told me Friday, “that people are more inflammatory online” than in person. “I guess when people say something really disgusting online, it’s called trolling. They would not say that to your face, but when it’s on the internet they feel they’re just interacting with electrons, not fellow human beings.”

He gave a great analogy about when you’re trying to merge into a lane with your car and the people already there look straight ahead, refusing to look at you. It’s easier, Flannelly said, for them to deny you entry when you’re not perceived as an actual human being.

Well, let’s set the trollers straight. Whether they look up or not, they are interacting with fellow human beings, and in this egregious instance, they’re trolling a mother who just lost her son to what police are calling first-degree murder.

The trolls of which Flannelly speaks were out last week, convening like a coven of Shakespearean witches dancing a dance of macabre outrage after Munyir Simone Butler-Thomas, mother of Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, created a Gofundme page to, Simone wrote, help “provide a proper service for my baby Koury.”

Thomas, 20, was shot and killed as he left a party in Raleigh. Chad Cameron Copley has been charged with murder.

As many people do when faced with an unexpected expense, Thomas’s family needed help paying for his funeral and, presumably, for inevitable legal fees. The goal of the Gofundme page was listed at $50,000.

That was too much for some people.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” someone going by the screen name John Mann wrote. “A tragedy for sure and I hope your family finds justice. Just have to ask where the family came up with a number of $50,000 to handle the final arrangements? Most funeral don’t cost more than $10k.”

First of all, why do you “just have to ask”? And second, gee, wouldn’t you hate to see what John Mann would write if he were not sorry for her loss?

Another person, going by the name of Virgil Woolf, wrote “$50,000??? You making yourself look extremely greedy asking for that amount of money for a funeral. You’re trying to capitalizing (sic) off of a tragedy that is sure to make national news. Please change the requested amount. You’re making us look bad.”

No, Virgil, no one could make you look worse than you already do.

I tried to contact some of the writers, but was unable to verify their names or reach them. Pardon me, then, if I ask them here:

▪ How much is a murdered son worth?

▪ What kind of lowlife thinks it’s appropriate to compound a mother’s grief by accusing her of trying to profit from her son’s violent death?

Nowhere in Simone’s Gofundme post was there a requirement that anyone contribute, so the people criticizing her should just return to the hole from which they crawled.

Before they do, though, they should check out this insight Flannelly provided when I asked if people log onto the internet to become jerks or does the internet merely accentuate jerkishness that already exists?

“There are people who are very respectable, say a certified public accountant, during the day,” he said, “but they get online and all of a sudden they’re a warrior... They’ve assumed a whole different identity. It’s like sleepwalking or hypnotism. I don’t think you can hypnotize someone and make them do something they wouldn’t do when they are fully conscious.

“I feel the more people do it” – violate the unwritten social contract about not being jerks – “the more desensitized they become to the feeling of others... Twenty years ago, people did not have broadcast capabilities,” Flannelly said. “Maybe they had the same ugly feelings, but they didn’t have a way to broadcast them anonymously.

“Just like alcohol loosens our inhibitions,” he said, the anonymity of the internet may loosen inhibitions, too.

Dang. That means that if you’re the kind of rotten human being while drunk or on the Internet who’d troll a grieving mother, you’re the kind of rotten human being who’d do it sober or in person – if you had the guts.

Wow, stinks being you, eh?

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, bsaunders@newsobserver.com, @BarrySaunders9

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