Curt Schilling hits cyber-bullies with some chin music

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling can do no wrong in some folks’ eyes around here for his performance in the team’s 2004 World Series win that fulfilled a generations-old quest. For others, his staunchly right-wing ideology and willingness to speak his mind makes him a target for many Democrats and liberals in the state who dismiss him as a bloviating and pampered athlete disconnected from real-world troubles.

But both sides of the political spectrum are holding Schilling up as a role model for his no-holds-barred, flamethrower response to a bunch of idiots (not the ones who were his teammates) who thought they could send vile, threatening messages through the anonymity of the Internet without fear of repercussions. Think again.

It started last week when Schilling, now an analyst for ESPN, sent out a message on Twitter congratulating his 17-year-old daughter for being admitted to a Rhode Island college where she will pitch on the school’s softball team. Though Schilling sent it out as a proud father, he expected some personal attacks on him because of his fame, his politics, and his business troubles in Rhode Island, as well as some probably frat-boy tweets about dating his daughter.

But it quickly went down the gutter when more than a handful of Twitter users, mostly young and mostly male, tweeted out messages containing graphic descriptions of rape and threats of sexual assault. The tweets upset Schilling’s daughter but they incensed her father, who launched an effort to out the worst offenders.

Schilling identified at least seven of the tweet senders and publicly unveiled two of their identities. One, a DJ at a community college in New Jersey, was suspended by the school, which is conducting an investigation. The other was a part-time ticket seller for the New York Yankees; the team quickly canned the recent college graduate.

Several were college athletes whose coaches kicked them off the team immediately.

All the Twitter accounts have been inactivated, though not by Twitter, which told Schilling there was nothing much they could do because it was protected speech. The tool that fueled their anonymous attacks – the Internet – also brought about their downfall and a warning from Schilling.

“If I was a deranged protective dad I could have been face to face with any of these people in less than 4 hours,” Schilling wrote on his blog 38Pitches. “I know every one of their names, their parents, where they go to school, what they do, what team they are on, their positions, stats, all of it. I had to do almost nothing to get ANY of that information because it is all public.”

Schilling’s efforts are being hailed as the opening of the door on one aspect of cyber-bullying that too often goes on undeterred.

At WEEI, John Tomase writes that Schilling is just the latest target of the online trolls but the first to fight back in a public way, mostly because he has the cache to draw attention to it. Tomase cites recent incidents regarding a video game developer who was a woman who received so many threats she withdrew from the PAX East gaming convention in Boston, as well as the sick photo-shopped tweets to Robin Williams’ daughter after her father committed suicide.

“When did this become OK?,” Tomase asks in his column. “The lack of civility, of basic human decency, isn’t just depressing, it’s demoralizing. There’s a generation being raised to believe that anything said online, no matter how rotten, mean-spirited, or repellant, somehow qualifies as none of the above.”

Some critics say Schilling should have seen it coming and the best way to prevent it is to turn off Twitter. Schilling and those who back him dismiss that completely, saying it’s like blaming the victim for being attacked and the passive approach is what has allowed cyber-bullying to get to this point.

“For all you tough guys out there who piss and moan with the ‘just turn it off’ or ‘just block’: Why on earth would I allow someone with zero honor, zero integrity and zero morals to dictate even 1 minute of my life?” Schilling wrote.

Some say it’s Schilling’s celebrity that is fueling the backlash, that if he was a retired plumber with a 17-year-old daughter, it would be no more than a blip to anyone outside their family. But, say many who are praising him, that’s what was needed, someone to draw the line in the sand regardless of who they were. The fact that it is someone who is well-known makes it all the better.

“Thanks to the unlikely arrival of retired pitcher Curt Schilling, there is now a spotlight on the kind of abuse many women endure as they participate in social media,” writes Jane McManus at ESPNW, the network’s site for women’s sports. “Women themselves have been trying to turn that light on since the early days of the listserv, but Schilling walked over and found the switch right away.”

–JACK SULLIVAN

MARATHON TRIAL

The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins with a simple, but startling, three-world admission from his lawyer: “It was him,” declares Judy Clarke, making clear that the defense effort will center on trying to reduce Tsarnaev’s culpability by arguing he was under the sway of his now-dead older brother, not by contesting his involvement in the April 2013 week of mayhem that left four dead and more than 260 wounded.

Kevin Cullen paints Tsarnev as a cold-blooded killer by considering the four minutes he spent standing on Boylston Street after placing a bomb near the Richard family, whose son Martin died and daughter Jane lost her leg, knowing that “BBs and tiny pieces of metal” would soon “be propelled, like hot razors, into those kids.”

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker releases his first budget proposal, a $38.1 billion plan that reins in spending in a host of areas in order to address what he calls “unsustainable spending patterns that we inherited.” CommonWealth‘s Bruce Mohl writes that Baker missed an opportunity to explain his budget philosophy and was frustratingly foggy in detailing how he is achieving the savings in spending that he says are needed. The MetroWest Daily News argues that the budget shows “some political craftiness.” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni calls the Baker budget troubling.

Movie industry boosters say Baker’s proposal to end the state’s film tax credit would be devastating, but the administration says there are better uses for the limited dollars, pointing out that it costs the state $108,000 a year for each of the roughly 700 jobs created by the program for Massachusetts residents.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A fight is underway in Roxbury over bringing union jobs to a proposed hotel development.

Pest control had to be brought in after bedbugs were found in the Quincy Police headquarters, forcing the dispatch center to move to Milton while the area is being fumigated.

CASINOS

The Brockton Enterprise has a Q&A with the developer behind the proposed casino at the Brockton Fairgrounds. Some city officials, meanwhile, are expressing concern that the proposed gambling parlor will be within shouting distance to the high school and a middle school.

MGM Springfield plans to break ground on March 24.

OLYMPICS

Mayor Marty Walsh delivers his most passionate case yet for the city’s Olympics bid. A copy of the speech is here.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Politico runs a lengthy profile of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, dubbing her “The Outsider” who “wants to be the most powerful Democrat in America without running for president.” Time says Warren’s “modulated anger” is the key to the senator’s ability to make boilerplate material go viral. The substance of the video analyzed by Time was first reported by CommonWealth after a visit by Warren to a meeting of editors from newspapers in Gateway Cities.

Gov. Charlie Baker and other leading Bay State Republicans sign onto a national GOP brief filed with the US Supreme Court in support of ending bans on same-sex marriage.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issues a jurisdictional ruling signaling his interest in allowing states to tax Internet sales made to their residents even if the seller doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar presence in the state, Governing reports.

The US Senate fails to override President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XLpipeline bill, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

In response to public pressure, McDonald’s plans to phase out using meat from chickens treated with human antibiotics. The company also plans to stop offering milk that contains artificial growth hormones.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus will drop elephants from the performances by 2018 amid growing concern for how the animals are treated.

EDUCATION

Parents and education leaders say they are eager to work with newly-appointed Boston school superintendent Tommy Chang. Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham says he has his work cut out for him.

The day after a police presence was beefed up at North High School in Worcester, a student is injured in a fight, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Teachers at the Bentley School in Salem visit their students at home to build better relationships with them and their families, the Salem News reports.

Quincy is the latest district to be denied a request for a waiver by the state from the 180-day school year mandate, meaning the system has to make up 11 snow days by extending to the end of June, going to classes on Saturdays and holidays, or eliminating April vacation.

HEALTH CARE

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is greatly expanding its reimbursement system of paying doctors for the quality of the care they provide, not just the volume of their services.

Southcoast Hospitals Group, which includes hospitals in Fall River, New Bedford, and Wareham, posted a $30 million loss last fiscal year.

TRANSPORTATION

An MBTA bus driver is facing assault charges after allegedly pummelling a man who knocked on the window of a bus wanting to board it and, the driver says, threw a snowball at him when denied entry.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Lynn sees its recycling rate go from 7 percent to 21 percent after limiting how much trash residents can put out at the curb, the Item reports. CommonWealth’s recent report on trash disposal in Massachusetts noted Lynn’s new approach was a step — but not a very aggressive step — in the right direction.

Rats are gunning for the Berkshires.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A veteran court officer in Lawrence District Court is charged with raping a shackled prisoner five times, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A former gang prosecutor in the Suffolk District Attorney’s office has filed a wage and gender discrimination suit against DA Dan Conley, and she alleges she was fired in retaliation after complaining about the disparate treatment.

Dianne Williamson, a columnist with the Telegram & Gazette, spotlights a sex offender whose job as a photographer may deliver more than photos for his clients.

MEDIA

Starting this spring, the Associated Press plans to use software that willautomatically generate stories on collegiate baseball games. The AP already uses the software for corporate earnings stories.