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Interesting responses to my post yesterday.  Thank you to those who got the point of my post and saw that I was writing about the commenters, not the story itself.

Whatever the outcome of this particular idiot story, what horrified me was the commenters who decided that the brain-dead neighbours should be punished by the law, and that a law should be made if there wasn't one, because there SHOULD be one, and if that doesn't work, then everyone should go over to their house and work them over in the most painful and violent way possible.  They didn't have any involvement in the matter, but by God, they were going to GET involved and smack a bitch!

This should worry all of you.  It certainly worries me.  Bad judgement makes bad laws, and hasty actions frequently lead to fatal consequences.

When groups say "get involved!", they don't mean that you should leave flaming bags of poo on people's lawns.  Really, that kind of violence (and worse, natch)  is only endorsed by white supremacist groups and the kind of extreme fundamentalists that think shooting abortion doctors is not a violation of the 6th Commandment.  Does anyone want to be like that?  

(If you do, get off my journal immediately.  You're not welcome here.)

Forget about the incident I linked to yesterday.  Go out on the intertubes and find yourself a story about someone who got killed accidentally.  Read the comments section.  It should give you chills, and not good ones.

We call ourselves civilized, yet at the slightest whisper of something unfair, we turn into a raging mob with torches and pitchforks.  Forget facts, forget mitigating circumstances, forget even that being an asshole is not a criminal act; that's not the point.  We are the mob, and we're coming for Frankenstein's monster.  Fuck reasonable response, we want blood!

We all want things to be fair.  Life should be happy daisies, and when it isn't, we get mad, even if we're not personally involved.  It's called empathy, and it's a good thing, but the sense of injustice that comes to the fore when we read or hear about something that seems totally unfair can cause primal emotions to ride to the surface.  At this point, we (as a generalized bunch), throw empathy out of the window and go for the jugular vein.

The thing to remember, especially on the 'tubes, is that stories from one source are always skewed to the viewpoint of the teller.  This is a grand tradition in journalism, dating back to Beowulf, who got his story in to Saga Enquirer's Monthly first because Grendel's mother got held up in traffic.  The phrase "yellow journalism" exists for a reason, and how often do we roll our eyes and tell each other "don't trust anything you read in the paper"?  So why is the internet any less untrustworthy when it comes to reporting the facts? 

It's a bad idea to rush off to administer justice without all the facts, but it happens every day.  Should it?  No.  

Even if they're clearly assholes?  No.  

Please?  No.


No.  And clean your room.

It is normal and right to feel anger when something horrible happens to someone who didn't deserve it.  It is a step backwards in our mental evolution to want to jump in and get involved in a mass beating rather than let the authorities handle it.  Let's go back to yesterday's story (because I know you're all thinking about it still); how do you deal with an incident like this, where the law says there's nothing to be done?

(Put down the flaming bag of poo.)

Raise awareness of how bullying can really hurt.  Help to reduce the stigma of mental illness by giving it the respect it deserves, and encouraging others to do so.  Inform.  Get the facts out there about how young teenagers often don't have the emotional maturity to deal with assholes on the 'net.  Heck, teach parents how to use the parental controls on their computers.  Teach kids that bullying is sleazy and that bullying on-line is the same as bullying in school (I saw a good ad for this on TV the other day).  Do anything and everything you want, as long as it is constructive.

Destruction is for bullies.  And anyone who thinks threatening to harm someone for doing a dumb, unfortunate, idiotic thing isn't bullying, is a hypocrite in the worst way.  Stop cyber bullying.

And keep your kids off MySpace.  That thing rots your brain.


( 57 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)
This is a grand tradition in journalism, dating back to Beowulf, who got his story in to Saga Enquirer's Monthly first because Grendel's mother got held up in traffic.


I'm dying! Oh! *guffaws*
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking that this is partially a commentary on the internet and partially a comment on society. I'm not convinced that society has changed radically in recent years, I think maybe human beings have always been "shoot first, ask questions later", and ready to form lynch mobs at the slightest hint of an opportunity. This is why societies have rules/laws to try to contain that human urge. The dawn of the internet era has given every human being an opportunity to voice their opinions in public. This is something totally new in human history. These people would never have had a chance to be heard other than in their own living rooms before, now they can preach their hatred to the world with a few key strokes. I'm not advocating censorship, but I am saying this is an interesting, if not totally pleasant development in human history.
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)
I find myself agreeing with you. I don't think human beings have changed. But now the internet gives this "mod" a place to meet and fortify itself. Previously, maybe you would be outraged at such a newstory and say to your spouse, "I'm outraged! We should DO something!" But your spouse would mumble, "Don't get your panties in a wad, Martha," and flip to the sports section. But now Martha can go on teh intrawebs and garner the support of hundreds of people who are similarly outraged. And it's really easy to sit behind a computer screen and make judgements and attack people you'll never meet.

I mean, you've seen it, right L? People who wouldn't dare say anything in front of a person will hurt them deeply and intentionally on their LJ.
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 21st, 2007 12:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kass_rants - Nov. 21st, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - landverhuizer - Nov. 21st, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 21st, 2007 12:45 pm (UTC)
Humans, particularly first world humans, tend to think we're very civilised and evolved. But we're not. We're animals who very recently (evolutionarily speaking) were recently living in caves eating our kill raw and grunting.
It takes very little to get even the most apparently civilised of us to turn into an hysterical mob.
Our so-called leaders know this. The media know this. And they play us like a fiddle.
Nov. 21st, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
I think it's more that they pander to our every whim to make sure they stay in office.

...though that might be the same thing. 8/
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 21st, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 21st, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
They address this subject in the children's books, "A Series of Unfortunate Events" The children end up at a carnival and the bad guys want to throw one of the sideshow freaks to the lions, one or two people planted in the crowd start shouting "yeah!" and before they know it the "Mob Mentality" has perfectly normal people shouting for blood. It's pretty absurd, (and rather funny) in the story, but sadly quite real on the internet.
Nov. 21st, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
It's terrifying to me (and to many people I know) because we're smart enough to think "what if I'm next?". If all you knew about me was what you'd heard from my ex-husband, you'd think I was vile; one should always look for both sides of the story, no matter how cut-and-dried it may appear.

For instance, the neighbour mother's (now) infamous quote about how she doesn't feel as guilty - was that said in a sad resigned tone? A smug one? Was anything else said? The story manages to put the worst possible spin on it, but we can't know - all we have is what the writer chose to show us, you know?

And the mob roars, just like he wanted it to.

(no subject) - cathgrace - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kass_rants - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 21st, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
having missed most of your post yesterday...

the problem as i see it, personally, is that the laws are not taking internet action seriously. there are laws against stalking, there ARE laws against fraud, and civil remedies against "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and "intent to cause harm" and slander and much more... but when it goes on line, suddenly the authorities dont want to handle it.

Nov. 21st, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
That's because the internet is not owned by a country - it's outside the jurisdiction of the law for many purposes. If you want to carve up the 'net and make sites only accessible to people in one country, then we could talk law enforcement. Companies change their policies because their subscribers demand it, but it takes a lot of people wanting that regulation, and most people don't.

When it comes to death threats and violence, if the threat is deemed serious *and* both parties are in the same country, then something might be done. But we can't keep people safe from real-life stalkers and threats.

...But I'd miss my overseas readers. :(
(no subject) - mistressrhi - Nov. 21st, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 21st, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
There oughta be a law against too many laws.

I'd settle for a personal responsibility law, though. "If you are injured or killed through personal stupidity - tough."
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Maryland has a "contributary negligence" clause. If you are in part responsible for what happened - say, you ignored all the signs and slipped on a freshly-mopped floor in a supermarket, you could not sue that supermarket.

In the cruelest terms for the current furor, the fact that the parents let their under the age limit child go on MySpace in the first place woudl make them fall under that clause.

(I'm going to get flamed for this, but why, oh *why* did they not stand there while she disconnected if they didn't want her on the computer? And why didn't they keep her off MySpace in the first place?)
(no subject) - jljonsn - Nov. 21st, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - lorebubeck - Nov. 26th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
And clean your room.
You've been peeking again haven't you? Do you really expect me to undertake this Herculean task the day before Thanksgiving?
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
I see all through my computer screen.

...you have crumbs on your chin.
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
Bad judgement makes bad laws, and hasty actions frequently lead to fatal consequences.

This is an excellent summation of the situation. Brava!
Nov. 21st, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
MyBob says there's a saying in law: "Hard cases make bad law". It means (obviously) that emotional thinking leads to some bad, bad shit.

Would I like people to be nice on the internet? Sure. I'd also like them to be nice everywhere - the Buddhist ideal of Bodhicitta (ultimate compassion) is a splendid ideal. Summed up by Bill and Ted: "Be excellent to each other".
(no subject) - cathgrace - Nov. 21st, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lorebubeck - Nov. 26th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
Your bit on bullying... thank you. That says what I intended far better than I actualized my own statement.
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks!
Nov. 21st, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
I have a secret vice in that I like to read Hollywood gossip sites on the internet. Harmless petty vice. But I learned quickly not to read the comments sections on them, usually posted after a particularly scandalous picture of some star sans panties. They...umm...scare me. My current fave is the movement afoot of all these people who think that what they read on gossip sites is gospel info and they want to start some sort of grassroots movement to make sure Britney Spears never gets her children back. And the commenting is complete with bad grammar, punctuation and spelling - the sort of text talk that is so prevalent now. To misquote you...who's got the tar...feathers? Anybody seen the movie Idiocracy? It painfully sums ups what I feel the world is currently come to....This particular story scares me in so many ways. A)We don't know all the facts and the story was so horribly skewed as to be laughable B) The parents of the little girl who committed suicide clearly bear some culpability, but god forbid anyone point that out. They've lost a child! Poor them! Ish.
Nov. 21st, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
And keep your kids off MySpace. That thing rots your brain.

And while you're at it, keep them off my dammed abandoned amusement park!

Meddling kids!
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:32 am (UTC)
Other Damage
It isn't just the mob mentality that scares me. It's the continuation forever and ever.

My life in the SCA has been spent listening to people who can't get over that someone at sometime in the past did something 'mean' to them. Believe me, trying to pour oil on those troubled waters would require more than the Persian Gulf produces. :(

It's taken a toll on me that I never would have thought of, way back in the distant past. I've put projects on hold, spent hours online, on phone, on site trying to talk someone down from the 'let's get all of my friends together and go get the (fill in the blanks, yourself) and give her her Due!'

I've tried to talk them into a more balanced view of the situation, tried to sympathize, empathize, compromise. It doesn't work. We will still hear it at every gathering, mundane or SCA. The old catalog of hurts. Nothing is ever mended.

It's hard enough to belong to a group that does little research, though people can be quite well read about their specific hobby horse, but know nothing about the time period or the society at all. It's hard having to spend hours defending your right to do your thing, having to explain it 75 times for one event, or having it deliberately sabotaged because we 'shouldn't do things that are Period, they're boring.' Our people are so insular that if you are outside of this click or that household you can't get help to do an event.

The last Event I hosted I had to HIRE mundane people to dress up in my rag bag costumes and serve, police, and run the event, in spite of promises of help from the people I had spent all of my time listening to and trying to help solve their 'situation'.

I was pretty socially immature back when I started and thought because we were a "Chivalrous" Society that we were going to be better to each other than the rest of the world. Silly me.

I thought that I was helping, just by trying to be the caring, honorable one, the one that you could count on.

This whole idea of 'she hurt me so let's destroy her' is a folly that I've seen several age groups indulge in. I know someone old enough to be my grandmother who would do something as stupid as the My Space routine at the drop of a hat...and has.

It's often over something totally unimportant. This Laurel wants to give constructive criticism but is really rude in dealing with people in general. Her constructive comments end up coming across like hate mail. She meant well, but she spoke poorly. It happens. Take the good and leave the bad. No, No, she's a Laurel and they are all hurtful, hateful people.

There's this Gentle doesn't believe that we should be interested in Elizabethan anything, 'she's the daughter of a whore'. It might be personae, but when you are trying to lecture/demonstrate to a bunch of teenagers in a class it's highly inappropriate. And it's rude. Our Hosts were bewildered, but one member of the Demo team has never forgiven the man. Result, No more DEMOs!

It's Beyond stupid to actually grab a newbie at a fighter practice who came in her mundane costuming and speak furiously at her because she didn't do her hems by hand, the girl was wearing a very credible Wheel Farthingale and it was her first contact with the SCA for pity's sake! She left, never to return. The Person who grabbed her gloats about it to this day, while across the feast hall, her friend who invited her every day for six months, glowers, grimaces and raises her hackles. Result, no new people, no new ideas, more clicks and more internal division.

A moment of pure emotional stupid behavior breeds pain,then these people who were hurt, rightly or wrongly, go out and spread the poison. We are banned from sites (though it's not said why to officialdom) because of stupid Mob behavior.

It doesn't just poison the well for one, it does for all. I wish that personal responsibility was the reality, but I've lost four organizations to the Mob mentality previously discussed here.

I watched in horror as one man gathered his mob for the most imagined affront that I could think of and harangued them while standing right next to a news crew at a Convention. It was funny, it was sad, it was stupid...he did it anyway and he ended up the loser.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:35 am (UTC)
Other Damage, continued (Sorry So very Long)
I'd like to believe that shunning was an effective way to deal with this, but It never seems to work out that way. Just more grievances for the wheel, more grist. The only person who ended up being shunned was yours truly for listening.

This all ends up as a self perpetuating emotional Vampireism that never ever goes away. Go to the event, household meeting, Fighter practice and wait ten minutes. There it goes again.

They're still arguing about things that happened in 1978!

I'd like to do something constructive. I'd like to finish my research. I'd like to actually make something of myself rather than wearing the worst throw-together garb to events at the last minute, because I've been 'listening' again.

I've started a project, one to pull all of my years of lost research together and make something of myself, and I'm in a panic about it.
I'm waiting for the knives to come out, just because that's what seems to happen to everyone around here. The idea seems to be that if someone actually does something that they are trying to be better than everyone else.

We don't have Arts and Science competitions anymore, they're too filled with acrimony. (most of the complainers couldn't spell that word, but they sure do know the meaning) I can't find help on my project from any of my so called friends, even a little encouragement would do. They're too busy ruminating about what an uninformed SCA judge said at a competition 10 years ago.

I need new friends, apparently :0 But more than that,I need some hope! I'm a little scared to have posted to this journal, the very familiar names here are VERY intimidating. I've read most of the websites of the people here, long before I found this Journal.

Years ago, I jumped to conclusions based on something I read, and I did stupid things too. But I was very young. And I LEARNED from it.
It's hard to watch people make the same mistakes that I did. It's even harder to watch the stories go and grow and ensnare new people into the web of hate and anger because of a moment's emotional stupidity.

Mistress T, who doesn't believe, will have to forgive me, but I believe in a Dream, still. I believe in Chivalry, even as worn out and down as I am. I really do think that people can be good to each other, if only they would think.

But that ends up being an If only!
Re: Other Damage - turdoken - Nov. 26th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Other Damage - falerina - Nov. 30th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC) - Expand
( 57 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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