I got word Sunday of the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller through Twitter, one of America's lesser trusted news sources. After confirming the news elsewhere, it was right back to the site to see what people were saying about his death. Braced for the worst, I was pleasantly surprised to find a digital vigil full of 140-character tributes. There was sadness ("A man who put women's health before his own safety. He deserved so much better") and outrage ("RIP Dr George Tiller. This country is barbaric"). There were also rallying cries that proposed donations to Planned Parenthood to "prove terrorism doesn't work." And, as with any good memorial, one tweeter with the handle "god" even forced a smile: "Killing abortion doctors does NOT get you in heaven!"
After my quick temperature taking of tweeters' mood, I got an e-mail that amounted to walking out of a funeral to a lineup of protesters. The e-mail linked to a blog post headlined: "Tweets of Hate: The Crazy Right Twitters About the Assassination of Dr Tiller." Yes, hidden among the respectful responses -- from both sides of the abortion debate, mind you -- are dispatches from some profoundly unwell people who see Tiller's death as an opportunity for celebration and proselytizing about the evils of abortion. For example: "George Tiller suffered a delayed abortion! haha," "Doctor George Tiller was aborted today in his 204th trimester - aren't paybacks a bitch" and "How can any self respecting decent person mourn such a despicable piece of trash like Dr. George Tiller? What, was the Hitler tribute full?" There might have been several times as many mourners as protesters on Twitter, but it's good not to forget that vocal minority. If they aren't a rallying point for the pro-choice and pro-life camps, I don't know what is.