The sum of the crowd’s IQ was far below that of its most modest single member. Mobs have passions, not brains.Dan Simmons – The Fall of Hyperion
We’ve seen it time and time again. Someone takes to a blog or social media to accuse someone of heinous wrong doing and like two magnetic poles pushing away from each other, the internet splits, polarizes, peoples reputations are destroyed and all without a shred of evidence.
The Michael Arrington case which continues to evolve, is just the latest example of the internet becoming the judge and jury for what truly should be a legal matter, and not reported by reputable sites until the facts are in. It’s a “he said, she said” clusterfuck of emotionally charged endorsements, vilification and witch hunting, that would make the Spanish Inquisition proud.
I’m not going to defend Michael Arrington (he is more than capable of that himself – has lawyered up and gotten the authorities involved), nor am I going to say that Jenn Allen is making false accusations. I’m not even going to attempt to present the possibility of a second side of the story – I’ve done that before and ended up being vilified myself.
Apparently even when arguing with itself, the mob is omniscient.
I find it largely depressing , and shameful, that in the year 2013 technological advances have enabled us to come back to mob justice, public humiliation, and public trials without evidence. True, these “trials” do not have any legal standing, but what need is there for a courts justice when a person’s livelihood and reputation can be dismantled by spending 15 minutes at the keyboard followed by smidgen of social sharing?
Jenn Allen may well be truthful in her claims, and now that Arrington has lawyered up, I truly hope she is, but I will never be able to bring myself to agree with the public naming and shaming of people for criminal activities before they’ve had their day in court.
For every truthful accuser there are two opportunists waiting in the wings, who for financial or simply malevolent reasons would be willing to take the internet and destroy a person’s life in order to get what they want, and the mob will embrace them. Truthful or malicious intent, the mob will embrace all, especially if suggestions of rape or abuse of the fairer sex are levelled. Once such suggestions are made most people appear to lose the ability to reason.
Who should be blame for the behaviour of the mob? The accuser, the accused, the mob itself?
Dispassionately, it would be fair to say that the accusers deserve the blame for inciting the mob, however the bigger blame may well fall to at the feet of those in the media who pounce on such accusations with a fervor that would have made pre- epiphany Jerry Maguire proud to shout “Show me the money!”
This is 2013. Nobody, media outlet or individual, can claim that they didn’t realize that a post to their online audience would blow-up. Nobody can claim ignorance of the type of character assassinations and irreparable damage that public claim will do, even if it is later disproven in court.
My grandfather used to tell me that there’s no smoke without fire – except that doesn’t hold true, and unfortunately the nature of the emotional mob and of reputation, means that such claims will linger long after one’s demise.
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.
Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar
I’m not going to name the media outlets that peddle in this dribble, nor shall I name those who through lack of mental capability, or willful ignorance, get incited by the first thing they read online without even asking for the other side of the story.
All I will say, is that I expect better of the media, of publishers, and of people in 2013.