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I enjoy watching You Tube for its great archive of presentations by philosophers, teachers and musicians. It’s a tremendous resource to see and hear those artists and thinkers, especially those who have already died. I have noticed, however, a disturbing trend that has only gotten worse; that is the vituperative comments made by others to various clips.

These comments are filled with hatred, profanity, obscenity and a level of aggression that to me borders on the psychotic. Why watch a video of a person you hate or with whose views you disagree? Is it just to vent the spleen? To find an outlet for the deep well of hatred within? Do these people actually think their denouncement will have any effect on other visitors to the site other than astonishment at their bad behavior?

Although I have no way of knowing, and admit I am making an unsubstantiated assumption and generalization, I intuit that most of these scurrilous comments are made by youngish boys/men who feel threatened by anything or anyone that does not support their personal view of the world. The most vicious attacks that I have read seem to be directed to people in the areas of religion, politics and music.

Have we lost the ability to disagree with someone without consigning them to hell or wishing they were dead? As a society have we become so inured to expressions of violence that it is now the accepted response to a difference of opinion?  Has the brutality that is seen on TV and glamourized in video games become the new standard of behavior in social discourse?

Are courtesy, self-discipline, respect for others, moderation, consideration and kindness now seen as weaknesses rather than strengths of character. It used to be a compliment to be called a lady or a gentlemen but now those terms not only seem to be old-fashioned but demeaning, an occasion for smirking.

In any event, I find the depth and extent of these kinds of reactions very disturbing. The freedom of speech that we have under our Bill of Rights is made a mockery by this kind of behavior, and by abusing the right we run the risk of losing it.

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