LYNCH MOB 2.0
What are mobs? Merriam-Webster defines them as: "A group of angry and violent people who are difficult to control." I am not lumping large, peaceful demonstrations into this definition, nor am I associating with mob actions sit-ins or peaceful civil disobedience. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and the crowd that tore down great chunks of the Berlin Wall are great moments, not mobs. I also realize that in the UK, 'mob' might simply mean crowd, but in the United States, a 'mob' means something entirely different.
In 2014 in Pakistan, village men gang-rape teenage girls as civil punishment for dating outside their religion. In Africa, tribes kill hundreds in rival clans with machetes, or by setting fire to individual men, women and children. Football “hooligans” stain the name of England. In America, a long, disgusting history of lynching leaves in its wake a shameful stench. Germany will never live down Kristallnacht and the mobs of Brown Shirts that destroyed Jewish shops and Synagogues. The United Kingdom suffered from sectarian Irish mobs which would descend on individual soldiers or people of other religions and simply kick them to death in the name of God.
Mobs are the ultimate anarchy, and they require:
- Dissatisfaction with the status quo; whether the status quo be political disagreement, perceived unpunished crime, substandard social and economic conditions, or even the weather
- A perception that “they” are right, regardless of evidence.
- Perceived Entitlement
- Group power
- Hatred of another gender (misogyny), or sexual preference
- Hatred of a different race
- Hatred of a different religion
- Hatred of another nationality
- Hatred of an individual
- Mobs are senseless. They are the very definition of “insanity.” They exist in a world where all reality is—at least for a time—abandoned. They therefore tend to attract the senseless and the emotionally damaged. They are bent on “justice” and will stop at literally nothing to get it. Every mob, however, defines "justice" for themselves. Hence, lynchings. Justice for mobs usually consists of vengeance or bile spewed on people they hate—frequently for irrational reasons. If the justice system under which a group lives does not deliver the verdict, the penalty, or the speediness the group requires, a group of people who perceive that they have been wronged or disenfranchised can transform into a mob in an instant. It doesn’t matter to a mob what is truly right, what is legal, what is actually true, what is important or what is sacred.
I have had experience with mobs. During the riots following the Rodney King verdict in 1992 in Los Angeles, I watched the TV in real time, and in real horror as a close friend filmed Reginald Denney, a truck driver, as he was pulled from his truck by an angry mob and beaten nearly to death. Denney survived, brain-damaged and impaired for life.
THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF ANONYMITY: Earlier, we discussed the essentials of mobs. But we intentionally left out the one key requirement for a mob until now: Anonymity. Anonymity is guaranteed by mob action. Being one in a group of thousands makes one's identification and prosecution almost impossible.
The latest mob venue is the Internet. It provides like-minded people a platform, a means, and a mask with which to do as much harm as they can to people whom they hate. And most of all, it provides anonymity and freedom from accountability.
The serial abuse the McCann’s have been subjected to on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and others, has been withering, cruel and sadistic. Realistic threats on their lives have been received. An hour does not pass that hateful missives are sent up for thousands or even millions to see. A mother and father who have never been charged with a crime and more than likely lost their first born daughter to a monster, have been burdened with the added torture of being hated for it and publicly pilloried by an anonymous mob on the Internet.
“To Kate and Gerry, you will be hated by millions for the rest of your miserable, evil, conniving lives, have a nice day!”
The Sky News reporter confronted Leyland—on camera—at her home in Leicestershire. When accused of the hateful tweets, Leyland appeared stunned that she had been found out, and replied about the tweets; “I’m entitled to do that.”
But apparently, having to take responsibility for her vile statements was more than she could live with. Four days after her identity was made public, she killed herself in a hotel near her home.
Internet mob trolls guard their identity with their lives. Why? Because their lives would change forever if their secret hatreds were made public. They are like the Klansmen in the United States who wore hoods to hide the fact that many of them were local sheriffs and preachers. The shame of who they secretly are is more than they can risk. But yet they do, because they still believe (incorrectly) that they will never be found.
I am sad that Brenda Leyland is dead, and so wish she had gotten help before doing something as horrible as she did. Or even as horrible as killing herself. Not surprisingly, there is a movement now to force Sky News to fire the reporter who exposed the troll. Mob action. Where? On the Internet. And of course, most of those involved are....wait for it.....anonymous. Anyone who removes the cloak of invisibility from one troll is an threat to all trolls.
Those who hate Amanda Knox and her followers long ago abandoned trying to prove her guilt. Now, realizing that she will never return to a prison (for a crime she didn't commit), the mob's tactics have changed from libel to punishment. Really, all they had as evidence is what Leyland had against Kate and Gerry McCann; Amanda “didn’t act” as an innocent person would. There is no book on how a mother should act after realizing her daughter has been kidnapped, no website to teach one how to react when your friend and roommate has been raped and her throat cut. If they cry too much, it’s "an act," if they don’t cry enough, they’re “cold as ice.”
My wife and I have taken a lot of abuse, though not nearly as much as Amanda or other people in her camp. The vast majority of hatred comes to me in criticism of my height, my weight or my intellect, much like a kid might hear on the playground in both maturity and topic. Michelle and I are the recipients of several dozen attacks a day, something that, ironically, reassures us that we are on the right path.
Michelle, however, has taken the worst, because she has been more involved with the public fight for Amanda's vindication, and because she has been open about her faith. The vitriol runs the gamut from mocking God and religion to to ridiculing her for 'hypocritically' "defending a murderer." But mainly, she is criticized by women and men for her looks. Yes, her looks. In their eyes, Michelle is an ugly woman. Why should I be surprised? They also think Amanda Knox is guilty.
Obviously, for this photograph's sick author, several things are true: He hates or completely disrespects women, he is not interested in the facts of the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox, and he needs help. Amanda Knox haters frequently defend themselves by saying that they are fighting for the victim, Meredith Kercher, who was 19 when she was raped and her throat cut by a known burglar. One wonders how the memory of a beautiful young woman slaughtered in the course of a rape, is advanced by this photograph. And why this particular troll is drawn to that particular case.
What is even more horrendous is that two trolls "retweeted" the post, and 2 (one hopes the same two) "favorited" this obscenely-intolerant and hateful post.
Whether or not these people are disturbed is no longer a question for conjecture. Psychologists are dealing with this behavior as a new psychosis. People who send or re-transmit 25 - 100 angry, abusive social messages a day, (especially if to the same group of people) regardless of how right they believe their cause, must come to grips with the fact that they need help. Certainly, there are those people who transmit or forward more than 50 messages a day because they are committed to a valid cause, and they do so without vitriol, hatred and venom. These are not the people about whom we are speaking. A trolls' online purpose , like a the purpose of a mob on the street, is to hurt others. They find satisfaction causing others pain. It is a thinly-veiled form of sadism.
Dr Arthur Cassidy, a British psychologist who specializes in social media, has advised, "trolls seek and enjoy a response from their victims."
So what to do?
If targeted, do we respond to their sick vitriol? Well, to quote a great line from the movie "Airplane!,"
"No....that's just what they're expecting us to do!"
I'm even reticent to be discussing them now, as they are probably getting satisfaction from it, somewhere in Britain. Obviously, as far as legally allowed, spend your efforts not arguing against or refuting these mobs; but on identifying them and collecting screen shots of every bit of hate that spews forth from their fingertips.
Contemplate the validation you receive when a fool criticizes you. It confirms you are not on a fool's path. Realize that it is the trolls' own misery that provokes them to want to hurt others. If possible, prepare your legal options against those you can identify and lobby your congressman for laws that would protect Americans even from mobs and trolls in other countries.
Never answer a troll with troll-like behavior or words. As I learned in the FBI, a mark of the guilty is that they "Deny, Confuse and make Counter-Allegations." A basic tactic of the troll is to say or post something horrible, then screen-capture the angry response and report the victim as the troll. And more important than anything else, as Dr. Cassidy said, Ignore them, no matter what they say. It might provoke them to more vile messages, but then, that helps your civil case.
Carole Malone of London's "Mirror", recently described the trolls who are trying to destroy the lives of the McCann's:
“The people making these threats are cruel and devoid of humanity – much like the people who abducted Madeleine. But they’re also cowards, too scared to say to the McCanns’ faces what they say anonymously on Twitter.”
And now I prepare for the onslaught of online hate that usually gushes forth after I disagree with trolls. But that's okay: I'm never bothered when criticized by fools. Amused, but never bothered. When they desire to speak to me, they know how to find me. My name, my contact information, my address, my E-mail information, the town I live in, my resume, my family's names, even a book about my life are online and in the public domain.
Finally, if you are attacked by anonymous trolls, know this: They are afraid of you. If they weren't, they would not hide their identity. Take comfort in the knowledge that they fear you, and they live in the shadows because they are terrified that one horrible day, they may be exposed and have to take responsibility for their words.