Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Internet and Mob Mentality

Recently, I've been saddened by some of the things I've seen online. Scratch that. For a long time I've been saddened by some of the things I've seen online.

There's a mob mentality that can come with things that reach popular culture status. As an example, let's talk about say... boybands. Back in the day, a million years ago when I was a kid, I loved Take That. They were HUGE. In a very Beatlemania way, teenage girls screamed and cried when they saw them, they put their posters up, they discussed which member they liked the best with their friends. When a member of that band got a girlfriend and it made the news, people just had to deal. Not saying there wasn't a degree of, "Hey, Robbie Williams is dating another pop star, we hate her now." It happened. But that was it. Because there was no Facebook or Twitter for people to spew their outrage into the world.

These days, One Direction (for example) haven't had the same level of privacy. One of them gets a girlfriend, and all of sudden that girl is getting messages of hate, and teenage girls are yelling their frustration into the Twittersphere because... they can. And when one person sees another person with the same thought, they retweet each other. And then someone else who agrees sees it. Another retweet. And then another, and another until people start thinking, "Well, if this many people agree with me, a) I must be right and b) it's okay for me to verbally attack a person I don't know just because I have a platform to do so."

Most recently, Liam Payne of 1D (allegedly) began dating Cheryl Cole. The abuse she received about this is mindblowing.

Now, let's swing this around to my new favourite subject: Making a Murderer. 

I have said before that it's important to remember that the people in the documentary are REAL people. This is not a fictional story. They are real the same way One Direction and Cheryl Cole are real. Yet somehow, just because they are in the public eye, suddenly they are fair game to be attacked by anyone with a social media account.

We all have our on theories and opinions, and it's absolutely okay to talk about them and discuss them. But what I'm finding more and more frustrating is the amount of certainty people are throwing their theories around with.

Let's look at some instances of things that came up since the documentary that relate to Steven Avery. Those who think he killed Teresa Halbach became obsessed with the evidence not presented in Making a Murderer. They said the fact Steven Avery used *67 when he called Halbach meant he was trying to hide his identity (how that would even work is beyond me. If she answered the phone, what was he going to say? If he wanted her at his house, he'd have to tell her where she was going, and since she'd been there before...). They said that the documentary hid the fact that Avery once opened the door to Halbach only wearing a towel so that must mean something horribly sinister. And then the infamous thing about "sweat DNA" which meant the documentary purposely tried to hide this thing that isn't even a thing.

If you look at any evidence, you can twist it any way you want to make someone LOOK guilty. "Steven Avery gave a false name to lure Halbach to his property."
"Steven Avery had leg irons and handcuffs in his room so he must have planned to do this all along."
"Someone said Avery planned to make a torture chamber so he could torture women."
These are just a few examples of things that could make him appear guilty if nobody bothers to question them properly.

What was Making a Murderer about? Wasn't part of it about the unfairness? About how the police leapt to conclusions the second Steven Avery's name was linked with Teresa Halbach, and the damage this has done to two men?

So... knowing how enraged people are about this, why are so many piecing together information they've found and saying, "THIS PERSON DID IT! I CAN PROVE IT!" Well, if you actually can prove it, great. But unless you have 100% solid evidence that puts that person in the frame, you don't have proof; you have an opinion.

I could give a list of names of people who could be suspects, but they can't all have done it. That means that 99% of that list, and maybe even 100%, would be innocent. People's reputations are being dented on maybes and what ifs.

The presumption of innocence is what Steven Avery never had. That's one of the reasons people were so upset by his story. So why are people treating others the same way Avery was treated?

And now you're thinking... what does Making a Murderer have to do with all that crap about Take That and One Direction? Well, it's this. When people club together to throw insults and attacks at a celebrity, it can lead to a massive snowball of hate which gathers more and more momentum until people notice, and until people start to believe. The same thing is happening with MaM. One person says, "I have found a piece of evidence that says (insert name) killed Teresa Halbach." And another person sees it and says, "You know... I thought that too." Retweet. "Oh my God, them too?! Wow, maybe there's something in this." Maybe a quick internet search to dig up some other "evidence" to back it up. Retweet. "Whoa... this is looking like it can't be a coincidence now." Retweet. And so on and so forth. Before you know it, someone who may be perfectly innocent is being pointed out as a murderer, and when they're harmlessly wandering down the street, people are shouting things at them accusing them. Damaging a reputation that shouldn't be damaged.

If people throw stones, others get hurt. Except accusing someone of murder is less of a stone and more of a gigantic rock. So before you pick up your next rock, ready to hurl it at some unsuspecting victim, you'd best be sure you're throwing it at the right person, and that you have more than hearsay to back it up.

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