Oh, what a week it has been with two high-profile incidents from the ugly side of Internet culture. In lighter news, the infamously misogynistic Violentacrez of Reddit has been given his long overdue walking papers and exposed to the world courtesy of Adrian Chen. But on the other hand, there was Amanda Todd’s suicide due to yet another creep harassing her online for lewd images and the ensuing barrage of attacks from the ever-so-considerate cyberculture. Depressingly, the bullies are still out there blaming the victim, because it’s easier on the conscience to believe every wrong committed against someone is their fault so you don’t have to take responsibility, I guess. I applaud the efforts of those who would hold them accountable and show the world how it feels to be forever shamed for something you put on the Internet (and really, it’s their fault for being stupid enough to put their contact information on the Net so obviously. Doesn’t sound so pleasant when the pronoun is “you” rather than “she”, eh?). However, there is something unsettling about the mentality that allows communities to simultaneously defend awful misogynistic users while harassing women who dare to let their presence known on the Net, which brings us to the title of this blog.”
It is not terrible Netizens by themselves which concern me most. If they are not given power, their words are meaningless. The ones I truly despise are the ones who give them power; the sycophantic followers that constantly upvote their deplorable comments and mindlessly enable them to get away with infringing on the rights of others by defending them to the death. Mind you, this isn’t exclusively an Internet thing; it’s called the bystander effect for a reason after all, not to mention the sheer number of people who supported Roman Polanski despite raping a thirteen-year-old girl simply because of his filmmaking reputation.
Speaking of which, that’s the thing isn’t it? A threat to punish a respected member of the community is seen as an assault on the community itself; removing said member would tear the fabric of the community apart. Meanwhile, this means people like Amanda Todd must be in the wrong because if she was the victim of a concerted cyberbullying effort, that must mean that these people bonded over a cause which would be, you know, wrong. That’s too much cognitive dissonance to take for the many narcissists of the Net. All of this is why Aris Bakhtanians (a.k.a. Mr. Sexual Harassment is a Part of the Fighting Game Community) not only still has a place in said community, but retains a support base (choice comment: “yep that’s getting old. it was also overblown by the media and silly and she fed on the controversy. People know Aris and his personality. he is a troll one i find extremely entertaining”; sound familiar?).
The Internet has risen from a simple communication and information tool to a whole new world in which the power of mob mentality, used for good or for ill, has been amplified exponentially. No longer are bullying cases confined to the school yard or public transportation. Now these incidents propagate over a much wider network and whatever goes on the Net stays on the Net. Forever. And yet the solution has remained the same. Stand up for yourself and others. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Internet vigilantism (which has a whole bunch of issues of its own), but when someone is feeling uncomfortable in a community, make sure they know they are not alone. And no amount of upvotes is going to save you from the consequences of being a terrible person, as Michael Brutsch has just found out.