Annapolis newspaper shooting reveals the dark side of Facebook

Sometimes a blast from the past is the last thing you need:

In what a judge called "rather bizarre" behavior, Ramos used Facebook to contact a woman he knew in high school and then sent her threatening emails, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself, court documents and the article say. "If you're on Facebook, you've probably gotten a friend request or message from an old high school classmate you didn't quite remember," the article begins. "For one woman, that experience turned into a yearlong nightmare."

The article says Ramos contacted the woman and thanked her for being kind to him in high school. She wrote back, and they emailed. She suggested he see a counselor. Then, he lashed out at her. She "lived in fear for her safety for months," the article says.

I recently told a small group of people if they really wanted to use social media to advocate for a cause, they needed to let down their drawbridges. Make their posts public, so they can be shared and/or found in searches. And we discussed the positive and negative aspects of increased exposure. At one point I told them that "stranger danger" is a virtually non-existent threat, because most Internet trolls are basically cowards at heart, and stifling your advocacy is their main goal. This horrible incident does not change my views on that. She knew this guy from high school, he did not fit the classic definition of "stranger." And after he got in trouble over harassing her, he transferred his rage to the newspaper that told everybody else about his obsession:

The man suspected of killing five people and injuring several others at a Maryland newspaper had a "vendetta" against the paper and had made threats on social media, officials say.

Jarrod Ramos, 38, is accused of opening fire at the Capital Gazette newspaper building in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday. He is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to court documents, and will have a bail review Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Annapolis.

Former editor of the Capital Gazette Tom Marquardt told News4 that Ramos threatened him and a former reporter numerous times during the years Ramos pursued the defamation suit. Marquardt said they were so afraid that they reported the threats to Anne Arundel County police, but officers didn't believe there was enough to charge Ramos.

"I thought the guy was a physical threat and the police didn't. The police didn't feel like there was enough there that they could pursue it so I'm disappointed, angry. I'm angry that this guy was still walking around and making all these tweets," Marquardt said.

Ramos took to Twitter, where he routinely harassed journalists from the newspaper in scores of profanity laced tweets. One of those tweets targeted one of the journalists killed Thursday, Rob Hiaasen. In another tweet, he discussed how he'd enjoy seeing the paper stop publishing, but "it would be nicer" to see two journalists "cease breathing."

And once again, we are forced to ask questions about why somebody who exhibited such threatening behavior on a regular basis remained free to (finally) carry out his vengeance. Is it because he was so litigious? He not only sued the newspaper, but he filed suit against a judge, too. Did law enforcement decide to take a "hands-off" stance in order to avoid legal hassle?

I wrote this diary for two main reasons: To explore the Facebook interaction angle, but to also answer questions readers may have about the "why." Because right now, my Facebook feed is (probably) full of memes about Trump and Milo comments leading directly to this massacre. I say "probably" because I haven't looked yet this morning, but it was full of them last night when I signed off. Don't get me wrong, the comments of those two idiots are inexcusable and disgusting, but making that connection with literally no evidence to corroborate it is not just a logical fallacy, it clouds the real reason these journalists died. We owe them better than that.