Woman Makes Tasteless Joke, Internet Mob Takes Her Scalp
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.
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.