"The proliferation of mob justice should worry everyone. Because mob justice does not work by any..."
The proliferation of mob justice should worry everyone.
Because mob justice does not work by any consistent system of determining guilt or assigning punishment, in theory anyone can be targeted. Of course, the formal justice system can make mistakes as well. Often, those mistakes are rooted in systemic inequities such as disproportionate sentencing for people of color. But at least the formal justice system is designed to give people the means to redress those mistakes and to reform systemic issues.
The fact that mob justice lacks these mechanisms is not a coincidence. It is built into the very practice, because the mob is not about justice in the abstract sense of furthering society’s collective good. Rather, it is about pursuing vendettas — for example, Gamergate’s fury at the growing role of women in technology, or Reddit’s open hatred of people who are overweight — or about simply indulging the mob’s desire for blood.
If the mob just so happens to pick a target that we find despicable, such as Palmer, that does not make their actions “justice.” Condoning it as such, or even shrugging it off as not such a big deal, allows these behaviors to take root. That has more significant consequences than just convincing more people on the internet that online harassment campaigns are acceptable. These campaigns build on one another as they develop systems of organizing. Their participants have learned to leverage mass community sites like Reddit and 4chan as platforms to launch and fuel mob campaigns, and to learn and disseminate effective harassment tactics. If online harassment is a skill, there are now more and more places to study it.
That puts all of us in danger. The mob is free to decide on its own what does and does not constitute a crime — being a woman who works in technology or journalism, for example, or having the wrong religion —and any one of us could someday be implicated in such an “offense.” And even if the mob targets acts that are indeed criminal, it is all too easy for them to get it wrong.”
This is so incredibly important.
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