It is a sad fact that in our socially connected and enlightened world that is 2021 there are a few among us that have yet to evolve above the mentality of a Neanderthal when communicating their thoughts online. I am referring to the recent disclosure that the selfless efforts of Sir Captain Tom Moore to raise money for NHS Charities came under fire from trolls sending hate messages to him and his family.
Captain Tom, a British Army officer, served in Burma and India during the Second World War. In the following years of peace the Army veteran set up his own business and his only public claim to fame was to appear on television as a contestant on “Blankety Blank” in 1983. In April 2020, and with the encouragement from his family during the pandemic, Captain Tom was set a challenge to walk 100 lengths of his garden in aid of “NHS Charities Together” with a goal of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday. But little did he or his family know at the time just what surprises the next few weeks would bring. He attracted the attention of the British media and soon became a regular feature on national news networks which made him a household name in the days to come – both national and international. At the closing day of his walk for charity, Captain Tom had raised over £32 million; a sum that dwarfed the intended target.
He was knighted by the Queen and enjoyed a number one single with Michael Ball. The proceeds from the song were added to his fund-raising tally.
During those fund-raising weeks the family also attracted the attention of social media trolls whose sole intent was to spill all their hate and bile on Captain Tom and his family. His daughter said in an interview that she made the decision to hide these vile comments from her father because it would have mentally broke him. And she added “how do you rationalise to a 100 year old man that something so incredibly good could attract such horror?”
Captain Tom died: 2 February 2021. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and treated, but the very thing he had raised all that money to help fight claimed his life in a cruel irony. After testing positive for Covid he died never knowing that he and his family had been sent hate messages; his daughter had wisely spared him this needless heartbreak.
On the day the Moore family spoke to the BBC about the people trolling them, my heart went out to them, but in this increasingly sickening world it did not surprise me. In this age of online anonymity, and all the time people can hide behind an avatar or username, words are easy and cheap to type, so people can say anything they want with the knowledge that they will not be properly identified and rightly shamed. These thoughtless, cowardly acts would never happen in a face to face environment, and it says much about the people who perpetrate such trolling on other people who have nothing but innocent, good intentions in their heart.
This is the world we live in, and we are the people in it, and I find it alarming that a 100 year old man who couldn’t walk without the aid of a frame, and who decided to help raise money for the good of others, could inspire so much hate from people whose actions can only be described as moronic.
In some ways we are not that far removed, or indeed evolved much beyond the Neanderthal after all.