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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Leonard Pitts Jr.: Technology Enhances Beer Muscles

Steve Blake of the Los Angeles Lakers missed what would have been the winning shot in a critical game. His wife got death threats.

Singer John Legend’s fiancee, Chrissy Teigen, criticized singer Chris Brown’s performance on an awards show. She got death threats.

Clint Eastwood’s daughter Francesca publicly destroyed a $100,000 purse as a piece of performance art. She got death threats.

A conservative teenage activist from North Carolina posted a video supporting her state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. She reported death threats.

All these threats came within the last two weeks. All were delivered online.

Welcome to the seamy underbelly of the communications revolution.

Professional athletes have this expression. When the doughy guy in the stands, fortified by the overconsumption of hops and barley, yells abuse to some chiseled giant down on the field, he is said to possess “beer muscles.” The aforementioned revolution has produced its equivalent. Call it “Internet courage.”

It does not always manifest itself in death threats. Sample the message boards attending your average opinion column, blog or controversial news story and you will find Internet courage by the bucket — people flaming the writer and one another with gleeful abandon you know they’d never dare display in the flesh and mortar world.

Perhaps you remember when new technology was supposed to make us better, bind our families, strengthen our communities, bring our world together. At least, that is what was promised in all those gauzy TV commercials and futurist essays that practically glowed with the warmth of human potential.