Words as weapons

It’s about time people learned that they can’t just say whatever they like.

It’s about time people learned that they can’t just say whatever they like.

When the floodwaters of the Highwood, Bow and Elbow rivers began to rise, when citizens of High River were being evacuated from their homes as they watched them swept away by the swollen river and downtown Calgary was quickly being submerged, one man decided this would be a good time to take a shot at Albertans. While others were taking to Facebook and Twitter to post messages of support, concern and positive wishes for those affected by the floods, Andy Greschner logged into his Facebook account to blame Albertans for their predicament and gloat about the beauty of British Columbia.

In a post made on his Facebook page, Greschner said that Alberta was to blame for the flooding in the province because it had neglected to take care of the environment.

Greschner also used a number of derogatory comments to express his joy that the “beautiful B.C. campgrounds” would be free of Albertans for a few weeks.

Comments such of these are never acceptable in any place, at any time, in any context, much less when the disaster being referenced has claimed lives and destroyed homes.

Greschner later released an apology saying that he made the comments before he was made aware of the deaths caused by the flooding. He also said that his comments were meant to be an “inside joke” among B.C. residents about Alberta vacationers.

Like many others who make sick jokes at the expense of those who fall victim to such tragedies, Greschner uses the excuse that  he didn’t know anyone had died to defend his comments. Since when has it ever been acceptable to mock anyone, especially the victims of such a serious disaster, as long as no one has died?

This is behaviour that is seen far too often and it needs to end.

People also need to learn that comments made online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or other online forums, are not at all like having a private conversation with friend (not that the comments made by Greschner would have been acceptable had they been made in private).

Greschner said in his apology that he had meant for his comments to be an inside joke among B.C. residents. He found out the hard way that posting something on Facebook makes it public and it doesn’t stay “inside” anything for long. After the rash of negative attention his Facebook account received in response to his idiotic and hurtful comments, Greschner was forced to close his Facebook account.

Greschner might count himself lucky however.

Law enforcement organizations are starting to take such comments much more seriously. In February of this year, a 19-year-old man was arrested in Texas for comments he made in response to a taunt from one of his friends on Facebook. Justin Carter posted on his Facebook that he thought he might “shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.”

Once again, sick comments meant as a “joke.”

Carter has been in prison since March and could face up to 10 years in prison.

It is unknown at this time whether he will face the maximum penalty but he has already rejected a plea deal where he would serve eight years in prison. It’s good to know something is being done to show people words carry consequences.