Throughout the absolute cringe-fest that has been coverage of Donald-Trump-the-candidate, a thought has niggled at me.
Just because you're up in the polls doesn't make this OK.
Not an earth-shattering realization, but then two more things happened. The first came courtesy of Trump himself, when he dialed it up a notch by calling Senator Lindsey Graham an "idiot," and then gave out Graham's personal cell phone number on national television. This after Graham called Trump a "jackass" for his earlier obnoxious comments about Senator John McCain and the entire population of Mexico. (Thanks, guys. Can't wait to hear you in the debates.)
Then came the news that hackers attacked Ashley Madison, a website designed to help married people cheat, and threatened to release members' personal information to the public. Yes, such a website exists. Its tagline is, "Life is short. Have an affair." And they have 37 million members.
Again, I thought, "37 million members doesn't make this OK, any more than the fact that you attacked an abhorrent website makes the hacking OK."
Then it hit me. We have reached a point where we actually have to say out loud, "Here's an idea -- don't be a jerk."
People will validate all kinds of behavior with their attention, their "clicks," their dollars, and sometimes even their votes. That doesn't make said behavior OK. We each are supposed to have an internal moral compass, bounded on one side by the idea that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, and on the other by, "What impact am I having on systems and people I should care about, even if I don't?"
So, no, you don't cynically use a run for office to launch the next wave of your career -- sacrificing the integrity of our national democracy at the altar of your overwhelming narcissism. Donald Trump, I'm looking at you.
No, you don't build an industry that rapaciously drums women out through revenge porn (releasing intimate pictures or details of former sexual partners), "doxing," (releasing personal information, especially an address and phone number), and threats of rape or murder on social media. Gaming and Gamergate, I'm looking at you.
You don't lurk anonymously in the dark corners of the internet, stalking people with whom you disagree, and then relentlessly bullying them in every digital channel possible using your inordinate amounts of free time. Internet trolls, I'm looking at you.
And you don't establish businesses that help people act out their worst or most immoral selves simply because there's a market for it. Ashley Madison, I'm looking at you. (Although, it feels like we have to give a nod to everything from Yik Yak, to Girls Gone Wild to the Dark Web drug-trading site the Silk Road on this one, doesn't it?)
To Donald Trump, I don't have much hope you'll change. But to everyone else, here's an idea. Stop on your own. Do it right now. You don't have to be a jerk. So just don't.
I guess we actually have to say it out loud.