The Lynch Mob Mentality
“C’mon boys. The sum a bitch is guilty. Let’s string ‘im up.”
“But he hasn’t had a trial yet and …”
“We don’t need no trial. We know he done it. No need ta waste money on a trial where some slick willy lawyer will only get ‘im off.
We need to see justice done and string the sum a bitch from a tree.”
Sound familiar? It should, it’s pretty much the kind of discussion that you see across social media just about every day. This powerful and potentially connecting medium that could be used to inform and promote understanding is degenerating into little more than a lynch mob mentality by too many who scream for justice while ignoring the very principles on which justice is founded.
In Canada, the prevailing social media wisdom is that it is impossible that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives aren’t behind the RoboCon scandal. It doesn’t matter that no one knows who is behind it. “We don’t need no trial to know who’s guilty, let’s just string the sum a bitch up and get it over with.”
This mirrors the same online ‘wisdom’ that assumed it was the NDP who were behind the recent VikiLeaks website. The CPC, the mainstream media and even the Liberal Party joined with the social media lynch mob in blaming the NDP.
Oops. It turns out it wasn’t the NDP or even an NDP supporter at all. It was a Liberal Party researcher. We didn’t learn that until the Parliamentary investigation was completed but that didn’t stop the mob from presenting opinion and suspicion as fact.
You would think, if nothing else, this might slow down the rush to judgement until after the RCMP and Elections Canada have completed their investigation into RoboCon but, of course, it hasn’t. The same presentation of suspicion we saw in VikiLeaks is once again presented as evidence and accusations are cobbled together with the few facts that are actually known to draw the mob conclusion as to who is guilty.
It’s the same in democracies all over the world. The hysterical rhetoric, the allegations and the accusations go beyond debate and are nothing more than the same mob mentality that fuels riots and lynchings; the lack of tolerance and respect for law that feeds hatred and ugly things like racism and related crimes.
It doesn’t seem to matter to the people in the lynch mob that they don’t really haven’t very much real evidence, all that matters is that they’re filled with self-righteous anger which is all that’s necessary to justify lynching those suspected. They read stuff online, hear more allegations and accusations from the current target’s political opponents or from others who share the same bias and that becomes ‘evidence’. There’s no need to wait for a trial or even for the official investigation(s) to be completed. “We know the sum a bitch is guilty.”
It is not part of what constitutes a true democratic society built on a foundation of justice. In Canada and the United States, all accused are presumed to be innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On social media, all it requires to find someone guilty is lynch mob courage where a whole lot of biased opinion, accusations, half truths and a wee bit of what is actually currently known are slung around the saloon in advance of the lynching. The mob worries this stuff over like a dog working a bone. It works itself up until it is positively frothing at the mouth and all reason has fled.
I often wonder how many who are in such a rush to judgment would feel if they were the target of the mob. I wonder how happy they would be to see democratic fundamentals and principles of justice so quickly tossed out the window as they so easily do now when it someone else under attack.
I’ve been accused of defending the CPC. I am but not because I support them and certainly not because I’m not suspicious of the truth behind RoboCon. I defend them, as I would anyone, against uninformed mob-mentality attacks and allegations because that’s all they are, attacks and allegations. I defend them because I believe in the presumption of innocence until all of the facts are known and charges laid. I defend them because I am tired of a lynch mob mentality doing as much damage to my society as corrupt and cynical politicians.
In Canada, like all democracies, we don’t hang people based on suspicion, innuendo and opinion. Only lynch mobs unconstrained by decency or respect for the rule of law do that. I defend the CPC simply because I am tired of seeing my society, my country and my democracy undermined by a shrill, ill-informed and self-indulgent social media lynch mob.
Let the police and Elections Canada do their work. They will uncover the truth of what happened and when they do, they will determine what charges, if any should be laid against those responsible. That is how our system of justice works and it works well when given the opportunity. It protects the innocent while bringing the guilty to justice. If we had left it to the mob, it is the NDP who would have been hung from a tree for something done by a Liberal staffer. There is no justice in that.
I consider this rush to judgement and self-righteous presentation of suspicion as fact to be every bit as corrupting to our society as anything our political parties are doing; and our political parties are corrupting our political system at an alarming rate.
Justice makes every effort to be blind and objective. Lynch mobs don’t. They are self-righteous, sanctimonious accusers led by their prejudices, their bias and speculation presented as fact. They are unconcerned with things like presumption of innocence or the rule of law, they let anger and suspicion lead them on. The argument could be made that Lynch mobs are efficient and git ‘er done quickly, often before the evidence is in or the trial has begun but in the end, that is every bit as corrupting to a democratic society as anything the mob thinks it’s defending the society from.
We got rid of lynch mobs many years ago when the Wild West was tamed and civilized by the rule of law and order, true democracy and allowing the justice system to do its work. Unfortunately, we didn’t eradicate lynch mob mentality.
It’s back, alive and well and spreading like a diseased virus across social media.
The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic and mass delusion
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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