There are moments when I come this close to quitting Twitter. The amount of hatred squeezed into 140 characters or less by lunatics usually cloaked in anonymity is enough to make you question your support for the First Amendment and your faith in the decency of other people. To the uninitiated, the torrent of bigotry can leave you feeling violated. Even the most seasoned, battle-scarred, seen-it-all, can't-nuthin'-shock-me individual will be left O-o by the filth in his or her Twitter feed.
David Badash at thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, following a blog post on Ifyouonlynews.com, wrote about the welcome President Barack Obama got upon joining Twitter in a story that left me slack-jawed. Badash noted that it took just 10 minutes to start baptizing the leader of the free world in Twitter's racist sewer. Obama's tweet at 11:38 a.m. on Monday was simple: "Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account."
The first racist tweet (from an account that has since been suspended) appears to have come in at 11:48 a.m. from a particularly nasty fellow who addresses the president as the N-word and advises him to "get cancer." The racist affront is the equivalent of being called the N-word by a coward in a passing car as you're walking down the street.
If you follow me on the beast that is Twitter, you have seen me do battle with racists, homophobes and the willfully uninformed and ignorant. I strongly believe those folks need to be exposed, for sunlight is the best disinfectant, as the saying goes. And I strongly believe those folks need to endure the public censure and ridicule that comes with being revealed as a hate-filled bigot. It is then that whatever sliver of hope I have in humanity is restored.
No doubt, Obama was neither shocked nor surprised by the racist reception he received. After all, this is a man who has endured six years of gasp-worthy slights. But I wonder whether deep down on some level the president wasn't disappointed. It wouldn't make him naive. It would make him human.
Capehart is a member of The Washington Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.