In many ways, public shamings in town squares centuries ago had to be somewhat more pleasant than the modern form of mob justice.
Sure, our ancestors were forced to spend time in stocks and pillories and have their fellow townspeople yell at them for how horrible they were for being late to church or riding their horse while intoxicated. But at least it was just their own town piling on them for their minor misdeeds for a couple of hours.
If you make a mistake today, you had better be prepared for the possibility that the entire World Wide Web could make you their victim du jour (or week, or month, depending on how quickly the next person who needs shaming emerges).
Yep, I think the internet mob may be the nastiest type of mob of all time. So nasty, in fact, it almost makes one feel sorry for a rapist and a lion killer. Before you start shaming me, oh vicious internet mob, I said ALMOST.
I am sure someone at some point — if they haven’t already — will figure out how many times the Stanford rapist’s photo, mugshot or a meme using one of those was shared, along with a declaration of disgust.
Please don’t get me wrong, what he did was indeed disgusting and indefensible, and he definitely deserved to go to jail for a lot longer, but I really found the absolute glee so many people got from dispensing their own brand of keyboard justice to him kind of gross as well. And I am sure most of these “judges” lived thousands of miles away, knew nothing about the case and probably didn’t even bother to read anything beyond the headline before they handed down their own “sentence.”
And this ick factor I am feeling is over the e-mobbing of a convicted rapist who attacked his victim behind a dumpster. If anyone deserves to be taken behind the electronic woodshed and beaten to death with tweets and posts, it’s him.
But it’s starting to almost feel more like an organized sport of who can create the snarkiest mugshot meme and get the most shares or likes, rather than heartfelt commentary on a horrible situation. And that’s what grosses me out. Are you really concerned about his victim? Or is there some other motivation at play?
But the sad thing is this shaming doesn’t stop with our most egregious offenders, who arguably deserve whatever gets thrown their way. And that is what is even more troubling.
I do not understand people who want to go out and kill beautiful big game creatures, like lions and tigers and such, on safari. I find it disturbing as well. But no matter how you feel about it personally, it is legal and there are people who pay guides to lead them to do such in countries that depend on the “big game industry” to survive.
Unfortunately a Minnesota dentist paid the wrong guide and essentially had his life ruined. Though he was ultimately cleared from any wrongdoing, the damage was already done. Though you may think he is an a-hole for even having the desire to kill a lion, did he really deserve to have his family threatened and livelihood destroyed?
The most hideous example of this behavior recently — and maybe ever — was the mob’s reaction to the 2-year-old boy who recently was attacked and killed by a gator in front of his parents as he was wading in a manmade lagoon at Disney World. I really can’t think of many scenarios that could possibly be more horrific for parents to endure.
But before they even found the body of that poor baby, the mob was already questioning if the parents were negligent somehow. Why weren’t they watching him more closely? Why did they let him swim in the first place? Shouldn’t they have known that all bodies of water in Florida have gators? Hell, there were even questions about whether the father fought the gator vigorously enough as he tried to save his son.
It was bile inducing.
And these comments were probably made by bored, mindless twits who assume their hurtful comments evaporate into the ether as soon as they hit “post.” They probably stepped away from their computers and went and had their nails done or started playing their Playstations, as a mother and father waited to retrieve their toddler’s corpse from the dark waters at “the happiest place on Earth.”
Do any of these “posters” think about how these poor parents could one day stumble upon all of these horrific comments questioning their actions on the worst day of their lives? I have to hope if they knew that was a possibility it would stop them from making them in the first place. But really I don’t know if it would.
Even here locally, the mob has been in action. While I get the hypocrisy of the David J. Maloney DUI arrest after he flooded the market with ads telling “those who drink and drive” not to call him (and some of the memes were hilarious), it just went on and on and on. The blood thirst for Maloney seemed to be unquenchable for a while, and the mob was aided by some local media who did umpteen stories on it from multiple angles.
It was a valid news story for sure. We did a couple of stories on it, too.
But man, it got a bit excessive. Hey, I agree if you are going to make ads like that, you should probably always have a chauffeur named something fun like Monte drive your Lamborghini (and you and Monte probably should always expect to get pulled over if you are driving said ‘ghini in these parts). And I get you are going to have to take some lumps for getting pulled over yourself, but still, did the man deserve to be piled on like he was?
And now, in the wake of the death of a young black man who was shot by a white Mobile Police officer last week, the nastiness on social media between our own citizens has reached new heights. The investigation is in its infancy and the back and forth between people who I assume don’t even know each other is already beyond ugly. And some of the statements — from both sides — look like they were written only with the purpose to incite more ugliness. I hope everyone will choose to be careful with their words — whether spoken or typed — as we let the authorities investigate this matter. And remember there are real people — entire families — who are hurting because of this.
It’s a mean world out there. And yes, there are mean people out there who probably deserve far worse than an internet shaming. But there are also a lot of people who may have messed up in some small way (or who actually did nothing at all but endure a very public tragedy) who really don’t deserve to be taken down by thousands or millions of people armed with their modern-day pitchforks.
Maybe it’s time to step away from the keyboard. Or maybe it’s just time for me to step away from the modern-day town square. Because I am just sick of it.