Woman Makes Tasteless Joke, Internet Mob Takes Her Scalp

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This will be quick and appropriately profane.

Seriously, enough of this shit.

I know you’re as tired of hearing me complain about the same things over and over again as I am of complaining about the same things over and over again. But at some point we have to at least try to move toward becoming a culture that doesn’t want to rise up and thoroughly annihilate anything it finds offensive. Maybe by now you’ve heard about the latest installment in the ongoing social media series, “I Will Kill You If You Say/Do That,” but in case you haven’t let me go ahead and make you weep for our nation and what we now allow to irritate its overworked sense of outrage.

Last week on Halloween, some 22-year-old from Michigan named Alicia Lynch — a name that will become comically ironic in a second — tweeted a picture of herself at work dressed in a t-shirt, running shorts, and sneakers, with a marathon number across her stomach. She put burn marks and some fake blood on her head, arms, and legs. Obviously, she was supposed to be a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. Was it tasteless? Sure. Should she probably have thought the better of it? Yeah. Was it maybe deserving of a good “too soon” or two? I won’t argue with that. But of course a simple reminder that the wounds of Boston may not be ready to be poked just yet, even in the name of a Halloween gag, wasn’t what Lynch got. No, she got the kind of reaction we’ve come to expect by now. She got eviscerated by the mob.

Actually, I take that back — what she got was in some ways beyond what we’ve come to expect. Alicia Lynch received death threats almost immediately. She had people circulating her home address and promising to send her a “special delivery”; digging up compromising pictures of her; threatening her parents. She of course had her job contacted and within 48 hours was fired, despite the fact that she’d worn the costume to her office. She apologized over and over again on Twitter and begged for the abuse to stop, but it didn’t. Some tweeted about the need to keep “bullying” her, others to “make sure she fries”. It was unimaginable venom, unforgivable hatred, and unconscionable vengeance all directed at somebody who wore a stupid fucking Halloween costume. It happened quickly and mercilessly. This poor, dumb girl never knew what hit her.

Jesus Christ.

I’ve written about this kind of thing so often that it should be rote by now, but for some reason this particular incident floored even me. Maybe it’s because it’s the clearest example yet of how, in the age of social media, people you’ve never fucking met and never will meet and who know nothing at all about you — despite the snap judgments that lead them to think they do — can take it upon themselves to be your judge, jury, and executioner and rip your goddamn life apart all because you’ve done something that offends them. The rage of a few can spread like wildfire until it’s white-hot and widespread enough that it burns everything in its path to the ground.

There are those among us who believe they’re owed satisfaction at the slightest hint of an offense — even if that offense is only taken on behalf of others — and that see no irony in responding with disproportionately despicable actions to actions they see as despicable. The ferocious mob, confident in its moral authority and secure in its numbers and relative anonymity, will not be denied and cannot be stopped. Its wrath is meant not only as punishment for this insult but as a warning to others who might consider one day making a joke it doesn’t approve of; wearing an outfit it doesn’t like; doing a supposedly hurtful thing that can only be dealt with through hurt administered on a vast and crushing scale.

Maybe the most telling and singularly unsettling reaction fired in Alicia Lynch’s direction came toward the end of the feeding frenzy and was offered as a show of “mercy.”

“As a Bostonian, I forgive you. I am glad that you have not killed yourself, and I seriously hope you learned your lesson.” — @TheTwidster

Oh, I’m sure she has learned her lesson. As have we all. But here’s the thing, pal: It wasn’t your lesson to teach. And it was never your forgiveness to offer. You’re not special. You’re just one more asshole who jumped on the outrage bandwagon rather than shrugging off the behavior of a nobody you’ve never met and never will and getting on with your fucking life.

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  • FA Q

    this is why most people of my generation dont want anything to do with the people of this country you all are fucking crazy and no wonder the rest of the world hates us..not to mention the other fucking list of shit that we have done and continue to do that could wrap around the globe…

  • Pope Ron Polyp II

    There seems to be quite a bit of tacit support here for exactly the sort of righteously-offended lynch mob mentality the article was complaining about.

    I guess all of you have long since burned all your South Park, Mel Brooks, and M.A.S.H. DVDs. I’m sure your Vonnegut, Pynchon, and Jonathan Swift collections have found happy new homes.

    Keep your pitchforks pointy and your torches dry, you noble warriors of orthodoxy, you.

  • Jared Moraitis

    God bless you for writing this article. I despise these sorts of people with every fibre of my being.

  • condew

    Very little on the internet is truly anonymous. All death threats should be followed up by law enforcement and prosecuted to the maximum. I think it’s called assault.

    Tracking someone to their home, or threatening their parents is stalking, not just persistent suitor stalking, this is the kind of stalking that requires mental health care and monitoring by the authorities.

    People who get other people fired because they took offense and contacted someones employer should be fired.

    This story is outrageous.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    People do really stupid things when they’re teenagers through 23 or so. That said, I thank the Sky Fairy that the internet was not around when I was that age, although I would not have done what she did, I absolutely did some really dumb things.

    That out of the way, the reaction by the mob was typically over the top heinous, and I personally appreciate those who stand against it, so thanks, Chez, for your wisdom and insight.

    • fojap

      I’m not religious, but that “throwing the first stone” line comes to mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

    There’s this weird disconnect nowadays. We’ve had a whole generation grow up on super-outrageous humor like ‘South Park’ and ‘Family Guy’. They have internalized it so much that they don’t understand that the “humor” comes from outraging people and offending their sensibilities. They now try to claim the right to make offensive jokes and blame the people who are offended. But, if you try to pretend what you say or do isn’t offensive, then there’s no actual joke there either. And that’s what they don’t get; they basically want to say, “No, I’m not being offensive, it’s funny because it’s offensive, which means it isn’t actually offensive.”

    It’s exactly the same as the blackface thing. They want to impress people with how edgy they are, but don’t want anybody to judge them negatively over the fact that they are so insecure that they wear offensive costumes to prove how edgy they are.

    So, yeah, I don’t really have much sympathy here. She doesn’t deserve “death threats”, but this is the Internet, I think you have to do more than merely say “You deserve to die” for it to be any kind of actual threat.

  • formerlywhatithink

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

    A women wears a costume that lampoons? satirizes? pokes fun at? of a deadly incident and so the ensuing outrage, that someone would so cavalierly handle death, is handled by issuing death threats?

    Anyone else see the cognizant dissonance in this?

  • js hooper

    What’s next, mocking 9/11 victims?

    How ’bout victims of Sandy Hook?

    People who do this shit deserve what they get. (with the exception of death threats & stalking)

    • Freibiergesicht

      I guess you don’t hang out in the rowdier parts of the Internet, because 9/11 and it’s victims have been mocked on the Internet for the last 11 years or so.

  • dbtheonly

    So Chez,

    Can anything be done? Is the Djinn out of the bottle?

    • petesh

      It’s fraternizing with the tonic

  • fojap

    The fact is that the response has nothing to do with what she did. People don’t bully someone because they did something wrong. They bully someone because they can. No one on Earth would really think that a death threat is an appropriate response to a tasteless costume. However, once the piling on starts, people pile on to pile on. It’s the thrill of causing harm for the sake of causing harm. Besides, this is a Halloween costume. People are supposed to dress as something macabre. I remember someone going to a party as a Tylenol capsule in 1982.

    It’s too bad she lost her job. The nasty tweets will stop. Losing your job can be a real problem depending on your situation.

    • dbtheonly

      Indeed.

      But I think Chez’s point is that none of us, ever, can count on privacy. With the threat of such bullying; how are we adjusting our lives? With “Social Media” can anyone’s life be destroyed almost at whim?

      • fojap

        I don’t know. I’m not on social media and I think anonymity should be the norm on the internet. Whenever I see something like this it just reinforces the desire to avoid exposure and I start asking myself whether or not I’m a fool just for leaving comments like this.

        Once I recieved a threatening email from a man on Craigslist who apparently hates, I mean really hates, women who have sex. It gave me a jolt momentarily, but then I realized that he had no way of knowing who I was or where I lived, so his threat was… ahem… impotent.

        I’ve posted pictures of myself years ago, then I stopped when I realized that women can get ripped apart for not looking like a Playboy centerfold all the time, and if you do look like a Playboy centerfold you can get ripped apart, too.

        Then I think her costume has little to do with the response. It was just an excuse. She drew attention to herself. When I was in high school, back around 1980, I dyed my hair hot pink. That was odd back then. Within a couple of days, I was surrounded by a group of black boys who threw rocks at me and called me a “white bitch.” I dyed my hair back to brown and never had that problem again. That was just about the only conflict I had in which race appeared to play a factor the entire time I was in school. So, I think it wasn’t really about race. I had set myself apart from the pack, so to speak, which either makes you look powerful or vulnerable. I looked like an easy target. Punks weren’t exactly drawn from the ranks of the popular kids.

        Then again, I’m really cynical. I see most human behavior as being about jockying about status and power.

        • dbtheonly

          If you’re suggesting that these attacks were more or less random; that’s scarier yet. If the attacks were a response to the costume; I could console myself that I & mine could avoid the thing by not wearing such a potentially offensive costume. If there’s a potential mob out there just waiting for the flying fickle finger of fate to point at me; there’s no escape or avoidance.

          We had a discussion a month or two ago about the pros & cons of anonymous posting. I among others stood for having as little personal info out there as possible.

          • fojap

            I remember that discussion. According to the one article, Lynch had previously posted a photo of her driver’s license, so that probably made her an absurdly easy target.

            Would anyone even want to live a life that’s so anondyne that you offend no one anywhere in the entire world.

          • dbtheonly

            “Would anyone even want to live a life that’s so anondyne that you offend no one anywhere in the entire world”

            No, but at the same time we’ve seen two examples in the past week when women have lost their real life jobs because an internet mob took umbrage at a Halloween Costume. Now their names are forever linked with these events & any future employer will have access to this information. I recall several recent articles about potential employers researching their potential hires on the internet & the argument was whether the Employer demanding access to the Employee’s Facebook Page was legitimate. This is the internet age. Nothing goes away.

          • fojap

            I didn’t mean to imply that I was blasé about the situation. I think the best solution would be if people learned to not give into these mobs, and threats of violence should be taken more seriously than they are. No one should lose their job over an internet mob. Everytime someone does, it increases the probability of a mob rising up again, and then they won’t be satisfied until they get the result they want.

            I should add, that I wrote that fully cognizant of the fact that there are things I deplore and make me furious. I’m not an even tempered person by a long shot. But no one should lose their job over my particular set of triggers. At the same time, I can think of some things I’ve done, trolling for one night stands on Craigslist is a good example, that would trigger righteous fury and anger on the part of someone else. There has to be some level of understanding that we can settle these issues, even when we’re angry, without taking it to the level this has risen to. …or maybe not settle these issues, but still not harm each other.

            It’s funny, someone on this thread referred to ‘white knights’ defending her. I don’t see myself as doing that at all. If anything, I’m defending myself. I can be a total jackass sometime, and a completely arrogant twit, too. I’ve said and done stupid things in the past, and I’m sure, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll do it again.

            You know, something just crossed my mind – I think it would be entirely possible for Twitter to implement something that detected mob-like behavior and would shut down tweets. That still leaves many areas of the internet, but Twitter seems to be big in many of these incidents.

          • dbtheonly

            I agree with everything except the part about you being a jackass. We can see the polarity of the discussion even here.

            So I’m lamenting the lack of calm moderation.

            I’m also struck by the almost Greek or Hitchcockian idea that the Fates can reach out & destroy anyone’s life almost at random.

          • fojap

            It might be more like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

          • dbtheonly

            Sorry, don’t know the reference.

            But hey, Hitchcock made a number of good movies out of the idea.

          • fojap

            From Wikipedia:

            ‘A ritual is a ceremony performed in accordance with tradition. The “lottery” of Jackson’s story is a human sacrifice ritual where a community member is chosen by random chance to be stoned to death. The purpose of rituals of this kind is to transfer the sins of the community to one of its members, who is then killed, thereby purging the sins, and bringing good fortune to the community.’

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery

    • Nick L.

      It is too bad someone couldn’t sit her down and tell her how upset and disappointed they were in her behavior and given her the chance to fix it without such extreme consequences.

  • ranger11

    I don’t completely understand all the ins and outs of twitter but is her username really SomeSKANKinMI? If so, that’s pretty unfortunate.

    • moelarryandjesus

      Seems like she’s pretty self-aware.

  • KarenJ

    Too bad that level of white-hot wildfire rage didn’t do more than singe that POS George Zimmerman — not enough after he murdered Trayvon Martin and not enough after he threatened his wife with a bullet-riddled target pasted on her bedroom wall.

  • moelarryandjesus

    She’ll get over it.
    The dead and the maimed from the finish line?
    Not so much.
    She chose to post the picture. She’s got her moment of fame. It’s not a comfortable moment, but for some reason my heart is not bleeding for her.
    Not even with fake blood.

    • nerdnam

      And you, my friend, will never not be an asshole.

      • Nick L.

        Eh, not going to weep for someone who decided to mock victims of a bombing. I wouldn’t take to the internet to exact vengeance either, but I will not wring my hands for her.

        • Frank McCormick

          I don’t understand the “she was mocking” attributions.

          Halloween traditionally has been about defusing the scary!

          In 1982, just one month after the Chicago Tylenol murders my partner at the time dressed as “Dr. Feelgood” with pocket fulls of extra-strength Tylenol and was a hit at a party.

          In the late nineties friends dressed as Asian Longhorn Beetles just after an entire ares in Chicago had nearly 100% of the existing maple trees cut down due to the pest infestation scarring the neighborhoods. I’m sure if this happened today they would be plastered over Facebook and Twitter as everyone had to stop and take their picture.

          But my partner and my friends were not “mocking” anyone. They were displaying frightening images on Halloween causing both frisson and a relieving laugh.

          We all can’t be sexy nurses .

          • Nick L.

            She dressed up as a victim of a crime, not the perpetrator. Did you think that the guy who wore blackface as Trayvon Martin was just trying to address the angst he feels as a nonblack man in the world? She exploited a tragedy to get herself attention, which is pretty reprehensible.

            Maybe if you had dressed up as a child who was killed by bad Tylenol the analogy would fit a bit better. Trivializing the fear and anguish that someone else felt is not the same as defusing your own fear.

          • Freibiergesicht

            I think part of it is timing. The bombings happened months ago. If she’d done this a few years down the line, I doubt the outraged mob would’ve piled on.

            I few years ago, I went as a “sexy unibomber”. I thought it was a pretty funny costume, and obviously I wasn’t mocking the unibomber’s victims but the concept of “sexy whatever” but I was worried that somehow a picture would get on the internet and someone would take serious offense and start posting it around. That didn’t happen, probably because we’re far enough removed from those tragedies that it seems laughable that someone would get really upset. But my instinct: that it could happen – was sound.

        • nerdnam

          You don’t have to ‘weep’ for her. Many of the victims of lynching were in fact guilty of the crimes they were accused of. However that in no way justifies the horrendous pain and torture that was visited upon them, and the way all of that was treated as public ‘entertainment.’
          The issue here is mob behavior. Probably nothing human beings can do is more disgusting or more frightening. Or more worthy of condemnation.

          • Nick L.

            Where did I justify the actions of her attackers? Where?

          • moelarryandjesus

            You didn’t, of course. Neither did I. But apparently we’re not sufficiently supportive of this idiot and her flock of White Knights.

        • moelarryandjesus

          Exactly, Nick. No one will remember her in a year. Big deal, she’s on the internet shame list along with George Tierney, Jr and those morons who named their kid after Hitler. Oh, the humanity!

      • moelarryandjesus

        What, you’re dumb enough to think she’s suffered some eternal wound?
        Fuck you, you’re the asshole. I expressed an opinion. Your parents raised a scumbag, just like hers did.

        • WhittakerWalt

          Wow, you should probably STFU right about now.

          • moelarryandjesus

            You should probably choke on your own vomit. I was called an asshole by a moron, and I responded accordingly. Mind your own business, pissant.

          • Lady Willpower

            Looks like we got us a Keyboard Commando right cha.

          • grapes

            You’re making comments on a public forum. You don’t get to tell somebody to mind their own business when they respond.. well, you can but the rest of us will just laugh at you. And just what kind of special snowflake do you think you are that you can say whatever crap you want about anybody else but freak the hell out when anybody throws some of it back at you?

          • moelarryandjesus

            Go fuck yourself. Someone told me to STFU, I told them to mind their own business. What’s the difference, needledick?

          • grapes

            Apparently you are a full bore imbecile. Go back and read my comment. You are on a public forum spewing your nonsense. You have absolutely NO right to tell somebody else to mind their own business. Are you truly so colossally stupid that you don’t understand what it means to put your comments out there to the public at large? You have no right to privacy and you have no right to curb the opinions of others.

          • MoeLarryAndJesus

            It took you a year to respond. It’s too bad people who have sex with puppies don’t serve longer sentences.

          • grapes

            I very rarely use this and happened to see it finally and, well, you are such worthless scum and it was such an idiotic response on your part, I couldn’t resist. It is unfortunate the sentence isn’t longer and you are back out trolling the internet already. Dipshit.

          • MoeLarryAndJesus

            Dipshit describes the circumstances of your conception, chuckles. DIAF.

          • grapes

            You know, you’re really bad at this trolling stuff. Maybe if you had made it past the 3rd grade you might do a little better at it. In any event, you are an incredibly boring waste of time. Try not to choke on your own bile.

          • MoeLarryAndJesus

            I’m being called “bad at trolling” by a guy who got out of prison, looked up year-old comments, and is just now responding to them.
            Stay away from playgrounds, chuckles. Your parole will be revoked and you’ll be back tossing salads all day again.

          • grapes

            Oh if you only knew how far away you are from the truth. A word of advice: you should be a lot more careful with your personal information online. Just sayin’…

          • grapes

            Oh and by the way, needledick is so inapplicable it is hysterical.

          • WhittakerWalt

            Wow, I’m totally convinced that you’re NOT an asshole now.