Trolls Beware

This one pretty much stands on its own:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel brings us one from the Turnabout Is Fair Play Dept.:

As readers of a conservative blog debated the subject of teacher salaries, a writer using the pseudonym "Observer" weighed in.

The West Bend teachers' salaries made him sick, the person wrote, adding that the 1999 Columbine High School killers had the right idea.

"They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time! Too bad the liberls (sic) rip them; they were heros (sic) and should be remembered that way," the writer said.

But police say the writer was a teacher himself--and the past president of a teachers union--apparently posing as a teacher-hater.

James Buss was arrested Thursday by West Bend police, and the 46-year-old Cudahy man could face criminal charges. He has been suspended from his job as a teacher at Oak Creek High School.

The Journal-Sentinel story includes an odd correction: "Because of an editing error, an article . . . incorrectly stated that police said he was 'apparently posing as a teacher-hater.' That statement was not made by police." We guess that means it was made by Owen Robinson, who runs the blog on which Buss allegedly made the comment.

Robinson "said Friday that it seemed that 'Observer' was 'posing as a conservative, right-wing whack job to discredit' the Web site's discussion of teachers' salaries. Robinson also criticized Buss' arrest as an overreaction." We have to agree, although we'll admit that at some level it pleases us to see a teacher rather than a child on the receiving end of such excess. The really interesting question is whether the school district will try to fire Buss--and, if so, whether the union will defend him.

On his blog, Robinson reports that he gave the police the commenter's IP address, through which they were able to trace him. Blogress "Mary" of Freedom Eden has some pertinent observations on the disinhibiting influence of online communication:

When will people learn that posting anonymously on the Internet is not the same as being anonymous? . . .

Buss is certainly paying the price for posting irresponsibly.

It appears that he may have posted while drunk or otherwise impaired. More likely, I think he utilized the technique of attempting to disguise himself with multiple misspellings and poor punctuation. (I'm assuming that Buss, the teacher, is more proficient at writing than his posts reveal.)

As Owen notes, the Internet provides a false sense of anonymity.

While blogs can provide forums for lively discussion, posters need to understand that they can be traced. They aren't free to say anything without being held accountable. They need to understand that they don't check their personal responsibility at the Internet's door.

The Internet is not a responsibility-free zone.

It's a creepy phenomenon. An otherwise responsible person will morph, jumping at the chance to let loose an alter ego when online. It can be remarkably reckless, as well as remarkably naive.


By the way, this website does track IP addresses for commenters. Trolls be warned.