There is a great article on CNN about the power of the internet mob. The mob can of course use its powers for good – crowd funding, reaching out to those in need, celebrating powerful moments, giving voice to the voiceless etc.
But the mob can also turn, in a virtual, and sometimes physical way, on those undeserving of such treatment. We have of course come a long way from a physical mob destroying another human, which happened far too often in our history, but we have not moved on from the mob mentality.
On line, at least, the mob virus still exists. Keyboard warriors bent on the destruction of another.
In this case the mob was out to destroy a Chipolte worker, a Mexican-American college student named Dominique Moran, living in St. Paul, MN, who had the misfortune of being filmed while dealing with some guys known for coming in and dining and dashing, then posting their exploits on Twitter.
She got caught in a short video telling them they had to pay, she got called a racist, the video got published, and boom, internet mob. Chipolte fired her, press statements were issued, the national media picked up on it, and she got tossed into the pile of racists being outed on video.
Except that was not the case.
The staff knew these guys, and they knew, some at least, liked to dine and dash, or steal their meal if you like, and post it.
It does have a happy ending of sorts, but the mob doesn’t care. It will be on to the next viral video, a dust-cloud of half cocked opinions and threats, eager to spread righteous indignation and furious anger.
Over a 30 second clip.
Which is why it would behoove oneself to keep his wits about him, and when we see a video, or a PHOTO, of something that on the surface looks bad, even racist, we take a second to ask a simple question.
What am I looking at?
Sure, it might be some racist apartment manager giving #$%%# to an African American resident by the pool, in which case good, the power of video has prevailed, which in times past didn’t exist. Far too many people paid a price for something they didn’t do, when video, or a photo, might have exonerated them.
But we can take it too far, too quick, and people get hurt that way too.
So next time someone shares a video or some hysterical story about well, anything, look at it with a discerning eye, maybe research it a second before you start screaming “ditto!” And I mean this no matter what angle you are initially coming from, what political angle, anything. Start with a blank slate. Just ask, don’t assume, “what am I looking at?”
Dominique had no social media presence. she was just filmed doing her job. and it nearly cost her everything.
There is real, tangible power in a digital mob.
Next time, it could be you.