Thursday, October 13, 2011

Again with the Angry Internet Mob . . .

Fury, the old saying goes, is a woman scorned.

Fury, then, is Victoria Liss.

Liss, a bartender in Seattle, launched into full-bore linear hate mode on the Internet after a man stiffed her by leaving no tip except for the “you could stand to loose (sic) a few pounds” scrawled on the bottom of his sales receipt. She ranted, found the offender on Facebook, then poured out even more rage as news of the stiffening spread and blogs and other media outlets picked up on the story.

But she outed the wrong guy – instead unloading an Internet’s-worth of hate on some poor guys in Texas who had no idea anything untoward was happening until he wandered over to Facebook.

The worst part of the story is that Liss and those who hopped on the bandwagon with her likely haven’t learned a thing from the episode. They’ll eventually find the correct individual and unload an Internet’s worth of hate and rage on him, without realizing that this kind of vigilantism is just as objectionable as the scrawled note that started it all.

I’m not saying that she was wrong to get upset. We all get upset, and this episode is certainly something worth getting upset about – what the man did was rude. But to fully unload the Internet on the first guy you find who has the offender’s name without really checking that it was the right guy was dumb. To even try to hunt the guy down in the first place was even dumber.

Yeah, we can rant and rave. But it’s appealing to the better part of human nature to get over the rant and chalk it up as just one of those things that life does to you, then move on. Liss, apparently, couldn’t do that – and once she fed the Internet Mob, there was no turning it off. Where cooler heads could have prevailed, a mob mentality took over, sweeping in people who really had no business getting involved except for some vague ideal of crowdsourcing justice over an event so insignificant it would have been better ranting over it in private, then leaving it at that.

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