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September 21, 2023

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Online actions carry real-life consequences

By now, anyone who is even slightly sentient knows of the rape case in Steubenville and the accompanying national attention. Much of the outrage has been correctly focused on the role of social media.

Jimmy Momenee should know. Momenee, 25, graduated in May with a dual major in communications and political science from the University of Toledo.

He was a DJ for WXUT, the student-run radio station affiliated with UT. Momenee’s show “The Quarry with Jimmy” used to air on Monday nights.

Momenee was an active user of social media, as are most of his contemporaries.

Note the use of the past tense.

Why the past tense? Momenee had been commenting on the Steubenville case. His tweet that appropriately resulted in intense backlash was: “Disgusting outcome on Steubenville trial. Remember, kids, if you’re drunk/slutty at a party, and embarrassed later, just say you got raped!”

Due to the outrage that followed this tweet, Momenee’s show was suspended. He’s now as welcome at WXUT as a skunk at a wedding, to use Harry Truman’s phrase.

Momenee has now gone “on Twitter vacation indefinitely,” according to his own post.

Even at this advanced stage of social media development, evidently some still don’t comprehend the consequences of social media misuse.

There are those who would cite the First Amendment and say that Momenee had a right to say what he said, and that everyone’s thoughts should be given full expression. They ignore the fact that the First Amendment is not a guarantee against falsehood, bad taste or stupidity.

Also forgotten is that not all speech is protected. Use of threats, hate speech and incitement to riot are all specifically excluded from the First Amendment’s umbrella.

Other incidents reinforce this concept.

Two teenage girls have been arrested in Steubenville for sending threatening tweets to the rape victim, as if the victim wasn’t suffering enough. Specifically, the two are charged with intimidating a victim (a felony), and aggravating and menacing telecommunications (misdemeanors).

The local sheriff’s office has been monitoring Twitter 24 hours a day. The county assistant prosecutor has concluded that apparently some don’t understand the consequences of posting on Twitter or Facebook. He stated, ”It’s beyond me why these young people believe it’s OK to post things of this nature on social media.”

This seemingly universal ignorance is not limited to Steubenville.

The University of Michigan monitors the social media of its 900 student athletes, using two outside consulting firms. The rationale is to avoid embarrassment to the University and its reputation.

In one instance, one of the consulting firms hired an attractive woman to go online and bait student athletes. It was no surprise that some wanted to begin an online relationship with her.

All of this was turned over to university authorities and a presentation on social media was given to the athletes in Ann Arbor. The young woman was introduced to the students at the meeting, and all the tweets (and their authors) were put on a big screen for all to see.

The athletic director stated, “You can just see the guys who bit the hook slide into their chairs.”

This was not done to embarrass or entrap, but to illustrate the lesson that some in Ann Arbor, Steubenville and apparently everywhere had either forgotten or never learned.

Any message or comment posted on social media does not go away. It can conceivably stay there forever. And we are all responsible for our words and actions, as well as the consequences that follow.

Welcome to the brave new— and very real— world.

Respond to Phil at

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