A week ago, I published a post “Why rioters should not use social media” it was more about the St.Patricks day riots in London Ontario than social media, but I included the question:
- Will social media become the tool of choice for vigilantes in the 21st Century?
I did not realize that within just a few days we would see a very clear indication that it already has.
My original post raised the question from the perspective that social media would assist a vigilante type campaign to spread when the authorities would not take action against major examples of unlawful activity.
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has set the social media platforms on fire. At this stage the only person who really knows what happened in that incident is George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guard who allegedly shot him and who is now in hiding in fear for his life – it appears with good reason.
Whether he was or was not justified in pulling the trigger, whether the police have acted correctly in not arresting him or not are all at this stage, conjecture. No one, least of all the mainstream media, the thousands on twitter or face book or any one else KNOWS the real story.
The killing of a teenager under any circumstances is tragic and I can understand his parents demand for justice.
My concern is not with the incident itself. I am not going to fall into the same trap so many others feel comfortable with. Until the authorities have completed their investigations, none of us should be acting as judge, jury and executioner.
My difficulty is that this is a blatant case of the power of social media being abused for political ends. The announcement of a bounty for the apprehension of Zimmerman, howls of racism hurled at any one daring to suggest that the real story might be different to the politically popular one. Selective reporting and usage of photographs purposefully chosen to show the victim looking younger, all add fuel to the flames of potentially misplaced indignation.
As a relative newcomer to North America and a victim of serious racism myself, I am not yet sufficiently cowed by political correctness to be afraid to ask the question that no one else dares.
- What would have been the situation if the races of the two had been reversed?
- What if the victim had been a Native American and the alleged shooter a Black person?
- What if both had been from minority groups much lower down the scale of political sensitivity? – Few will admit but most will recognise a scale does exist.
- Why do I not recall anywhere near as much hysteria after OJ Simpson was acquitted?
I am always ready to criticise big government, political correctness and run-a-way socialism, I believe social media is a useful and legitimate tool to publicise that criticism, as it is for those at the other end of the political spectrum to attack the policies and causes I support. Criticising the actions of people is one thing, using social media to offer bounties and call for direct physical action against them before they have had their day in court, is only one step removed from the hanging tree of the wild west.
Most responsible people condemn vigilantes, we need to remember the dangers before we jump to conclusions, pass judgement and demand retribution without knowing all the facts.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Wishing you success in all your endeavours.
p.s. have you discovered the homeless van man’s secret to internet success? (affiliate link)