Fortunately, words haven't lost any of their ferocity since the 19th century; they just changed mediums. That's why I'd like us all to try adopting a new axiom:
We're All Killers Behind Our Keyboards
Part of the reason words are so dangerous in the first place is because they make it tough to fight back. People can wield them from hundreds of miles away without much threat that the person on the receiving end will be able to track them down and push them into a ditch. Everyone on the Internet has sensed this tremendous power and, naturally, exploited it enthusiastically. The new modified version of "The Pen Is Mightier" birthed the Internet Tough Guy into the world, ready to do battle with entire armies, provided he doesn't have to put on pants first or leave the house.
Sorry, I didn't mean to be sexist. I'm sure there are plenty of terrible Internet Tough Girls, too.
But keyboards don't just produce hollow threats. Some people have the capacity to do far more damage than a sword ever could, hacking into government files, taking control of operating systems, and ruining lives. It's all still language, but it's used with a devastating efficiency. But because everyone maintains a cushion of anonymity, it's not always easy to tell the difference between someone who is genuinely dangerous and someone who's just pretending at danger, so we have to treat everyone with the same caution. Everyone's a potential killer when they're on the computer, even the woman from the Midwest who blogs fan fiction about her ferrets. Even that impossibly symmetrical columnist you love to read on Tuesdays.
Soren is a senior writer at Cracked. You can follow him on Twitter or Tumblr.