Teaching Examples

Citizen journalist, citizen vigilante?
November 25, 2006, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Doesn’t anyone think this is terrifying? A woman is attacked on the subway in London. I believe her. She’s right, it’s awful; it should not happen. It’s scary, and you’d think there would be some kind of protection.

That’s not what scares me, though.

She snapped a photo of one of the men who allegedly assaulted her. She posted the photo on her blog. And on Flickr. And now more than a dozen other bloggers have linked to or reposted the picture of this young person. He might be guilty — but doesn’t Britain have courts to determine that?

I live in a country with a long and horrifying and all-too-recent history of lynching. This viral photo manhunt in London scares me down to the marrow of my bones.

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9 Comments so far
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I know Jackie, so I trust her on this case. Note that she is asking for people to contact police, not take matters into their own hands. It seems reasonable to me that we crowdsource crime fighting if done responsibly.

That said, I agree there is a real danger with unfettered ability to publish. This situation is ripe for abuse and misuse. Vigilante abuse is only one of the dangers. I’m not sure I have an answer for that. I would rather maintain the freedom and work toward a wide and deeper understanding that with great freedom comes great responsibility.

Comment by Howard Owens

“Lynching?” Why, because he’s black? It’s not like she selected him to attack her. It’s just what happened.

And like Howard said, she’s not organizing a mob to hunt him down. She’s asking anybody who can identify him to call the police.

Comment by jim treacher

I did not mean to imply that Jackie did wrong in this case. What scares me is the idea of other cases, in the future, where someone might post a photo of someone (black, white or green, no matter) and say the person did something vile. More vile than this. And in a matter of hours, what might happen?

Lynching happened when people became incensed and angry — often based on false information. Again, there is no sign that anything is false in this case. But when people get angry, violence happens.

That’s all I’m saying.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I am with you on this, Mindy. It is interesting to see how many (well-meaning) bloggers are prepared to jump to a conclusion just because they trust Jackie. In day to day relations this is great, but when people are using a ‘trusted’ blog post to justify fairly serious allegations, well, I think there is cause for concern.

The problem is that you can’t take Jackie’s post in isolation – lots of others have amplified her position, and by no means all of them have any idea at all how reliable she is…

Comment by Philip Young

Philip, this is not about a trusted blog post – a post is only text on a screen. I’m a person.

Comment by Jackie Danicki

“Lynching happened when people became incensed and angry — often based on false information. Again, there is no sign that anything is false in this case.”

Then why make the comparison?

Comment by jim treacher

Jim, I’m making the comparison because I have an imagination, and I often think about the future implications of current uses of technology. All of our tools can be used for various ends. I’d rather discuss this today than in the future after some person gets killed because he looks like some guy in a picture on somebody’s blog.

Jackie’s photo is clear and sharp, but I don’t feel certain that I could identify the real person accurately from it. People can look different face-to-face.

Sure, today nobody has been killed because of a photo on a blog. (At least, not that I have heard.) I mention lynching because none of those people should have been killed. But they were.

Sure, you and I would never try to kill a guy who allegedly assaulted someone. But many Americans were lynched for alleged assaults. Some people don’t like due process. Some people are looking for any excuse to commit violence.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

If showing a criminal suspect’s picture is lynching, then the news lynches people every day.

Comment by jim treacher

I dunno. The thing that really worries me in this case is that state of crime and policing in London.

Comment by Michael Blowhard

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