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Opinion: Racist Zoombombing of Democrats' meeting shows that as technology advances, our humanity does not
Raphael Warnock
The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, a Georgia Democrat, is running in Georgia’s special U.S. Senate election. - photo by Associated Press

There used to be this rather quaint notion that technological advances were in some fashion indicators of societal growth, a belief that somehow there was a correlation between technical achievement and the quality of a social structure.

The theory was that a society that demonstrated great acumen in technology would be more civilized than one that did not.

The hacker, or hackers, who bombarded local Democrats hosting Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock in a Zoom meeting Monday night certainly disproved that theory. If there is a correlation between technology and social growth, it apparently doesn’t apply in the arenas of politics, race relations or human decency.

Hall County Democrats were holding a virtual meeting with Warnock, who hopes to replace Sen. Kelly Loefler after November’s election, when a hacker, or hackers, bombarded those watching the session with repeated postings of the N-word along with vulgar profanities and racist comments.

Over and over the hacker chimed in, disrupting what was meant to be a civil addressing of the issues by the Democratic candidate to others of the same party.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

The content of the hacks was repulsive, the fact the hacks occurred at all a sad indictment of where we are as a people.

There is no excuse for assaulting anyone with a word whose meaning is generally considered so vile as to be abhorrent to rational people. That the repeated use of that particular word was directed at a Black candidate mounting a credible campaign to be the first of his race to serve as a U.S. senator from Georgia makes it even more appalling.

What is even sadder is that some people will think it was cute, funny and no big deal. Others will downplay it as a legitimate part of political warfare. After all, what’s the harm in a little digital terrorism directed at a political party you despise, or a candidate whose skin color you hate?

Some have lost their sense of outrage; others are outraged, but have trouble pinpointing a target for their emotions.

The “Zoom bombing” of the Warnock event is certainly no isolated event. As the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed virtual meetings into the mainstream, such events have happened with everything from college webinars to government meetings.

Law enforcement agencies have gotten involved in previous disruptions of virtual gatherings, and last spring the FBI issued a warning to all who host such meetings that such hacks may occur. In some instances, including the Warnock meeting, hackers have introduced sexually explicit images into virtual events, in others they have mounted vulgar and profane attacks, all with no concern for the audiences who might be viewing them.  

And now it’s happened here, or at least as close to “here” as the ether of the internet world in which a locally organized event was taking place.

The fact that the event was hosted by the Hall County Democrats does not necessarily mean the hacker is someone local. Warnock is involved in a statewide campaign, and the digital hatred could literally have come from anywhere that has access to the internet.

We wish we knew from whence it came; wish the full weight of appropriate criminal charges could be brought to bear upon someone whose technical skills are obviously far more polished than is their sense of humanity. It would be nice to be able to make an example of a few virtual meeting hackers, so that perhaps others would find a more productive use of their time and skill sets.

There is something about such events that reeks of juvenile mentality and schoolboy stupidity, but odds are whoever attacked the Warnock session was an adult, at least in terms of chronology, if not maturity.

Almost immediately after the story broke, there were those who wanted to put forth the notion that this was another Jussie Smollett scenario, and that the Democrats themselves had done the deed to draw attention to their cause and generate sympathy for their candidate. Of course, no one has put forth any evidence to suggest that such was the case, but Smollett’s ill-fated report of an attack in Chicago, and a handful of other similar cases, has opened the door for such conspiracy thinking.

In truth, the political position of the Zoom bomber is of much less interest than is his, or her, lack of human decency. That anyone would subject others to such a verbal onslaught is indefensible and indecent, regardless of the motive for doing so.

There was a time in the South when the N-word was used in everyday language without being given a second thought. Those times are long gone. It now is used far too often as an overt act of verbal weaponization full of vitriol and racist intent. That someone would think it appropriate to do so, and to further add an assortment of vulgarities the likes of which are often seen on the walls of public restrooms, serves as resounding proof that our technologies have evolved far more than has our respect for our fellow man.

Somebody knows who did this. Somebody is proud of doing this and has bragged about it. Somebody needs to be punished for having done it. Somebody needs to speak up and let authorities know where to look.

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