Lynch Mobs in the Era of Social Media
This case has a deep and embedded social media history that spans from almost the first moment the McStays went missing through trial, to post-trial. What brought me to post originally was concern about the relentless cruelty I observed directed toward family members of the McStay victims. People on various forums went after Joseph’s mother and brother as if these two and entered their barbecue, insulted their partners and called their children ugly.
The attacks were vicious. I had only a passing interest in the case prior to witnessing this, and as a non-millennial I was stunned by savagery of it. I’d never realized before that there were so many people who wanted to verbalize a hate for someone they didn’t know.
And posters were cruel without any provocation or viable reason for that cruelty. It reminded me of those cheesy driver’s education videos, where a person would seem civilized until they got behind the wheel of a car and then would suddenly transform to a bug-eyed potential serial killer. Social media, it seems, became the vehicle for otherwise polite, decent people to morph into monsters, without care or concern for what damage they might do to others.
Irony was that most of those posting were pretty damn old. These were not millennials. And most professed a love of God, a devotion to their faith, but apparently this devotion did not carry over to basic human decency when they settled in behind their computers and clicked their way onto a forum discussing this case.
So justice warrior that I am, I joined the conversation hoping that I might quell the ravenous beast, devouring all social tenets of decency. I do think it did some good. I think there were many of us who shared the same concerns, and once these were vocalized (or posted) on at least many (not all) forums, the attacks against family members of the McStay victims subsided. There were, of course, those whose addiction to brutality by way of internet posts, couldn’t be tempered, but for the most part people were not as unkind as before. But here I am now, posting about a wrongful conviction, not what I intended or ever guessed I would be discussing about this case. I don’t take lightly the true issues of justice at play here, but I think there are lessons to be learned that transcend the trial and even the wrongful conviction that all this “sound and fury” resulted in.
Social media is bleeding into our lives in a way, as someone pre-millennial, I never would have guessed it would.
And most remarkable to me, I viewed what I am convinced was a bleed from posts on this case into our actual courts, entering trial, even. #notwhatIexpected. I can’t tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing, or it-makes-no-real-difference thing.
To be continued…