Potential for good gone bad

HUNDREDS of Alaskan flight attendants suffered unpleasant reactions after donning their new uniforms.

They claim a toxic chemical, tributyl phosphate, used in textile manufacturing, is the cause. Eureka! I might have discovered the reason why perfectly normal well mannered people turn into robotic morons as soon as they pull on a uniform.

Some of the airline’s flight attendants suffered hair loss. Anyone who uses an airport knows what it is like to lose one’s hair.

It could be that the mere sight of a toxic uniform is enough to bring us out in a rash.

With other travellers I often watch dismayed at the arrogant behaviour of overbearing airport and similar security personnel. We dare not risk our flight by protesting so we endure it.

A uniform separates, protects and dehumanizes human beings.

When watching news footage of man’s merciless descent into depravity during wartime, I often wonder, what would these uniformed monsters have been doing had war not broken out.

In all likelihood they would be pleasant enough individuals behaving with kindness and civility towards their fellow human beings.

Much the same can be said of car drivers.

A near collision with a person in the street or restaurant results in good natured smiles and a ‘pardon.’ The same person in a car, when marginally inconvenienced, turns into a foul-mouthed finger-wagging bully.

It is best not to lip read his tirade of abuse but as soon as he gets out of the car he morphs back into a normal pleasant human being.

I presume being in the car has a similar effect to wearing a uniform; it separates, provides some anonymity and it protects.

Online forums and social networking sites like Facebook are a source of friendship, amusement, inspiration and education.

The Achilles heel of online forums is the optional anonymity given to some users. A favourite of many is an online forum that boasts nearly 8,000 subscribers.

As a source of essential local information it can’t be beaten.

Given the area it serves it could and should be many time that number yet I doubt if it has more than a score or so regular users. Its fatal weakness is the anonymity given to those who, for whatever reason, have no wish to identify themselves.

Given the protection of anonymity some users become foul-mouthed bullies.

One could be on the receiving end of a venomous neighbour who to your face is polite; you wouldn’t know.

Having benefited from the advice of proven experts in their chosen careers I asked why they didn’t use online forums to enlighten a wider audience.

The answer was depressingly predictable.

You become involved in a wearisome tit-for-tat with anonymous amateurs.

This is why poorly moderated online forums, despite their advertising cost advantages, will never compete with conventional media.

Working ethically to guidelines and within the law, newspaper editors actually edit whereas online moderators rarely moderate.

A pity; it is a lost opportunity.

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