The death of Harambe the gorilla is the latest example of trial by social media as the motley hordes of the interweb sharpen their pitchforks and light their torches in readiness to march on the parents’ house in the mood for blood.
Apart from the seething anger and demands that the parents pay for this tragic incident, others have gone further and issued chilling anonymous threats against the couple.
The media joined the feeding frenzy, digging up the criminal past of Deonne Dickerson, father of the four year-old boy whose fall into the enclosure sparked the shooting of the gorilla. What exactly this had to do with the events at Cincinnati Zoo isn’t obvious, but certainly helped fuel the rage of the twittersphere.
Petitions have been started, an innocent woman harassed because she happened to share the same name as the mother and all in the name of justice, or so the perpetrators claim, but you have to wonder whether these expressions of outrage and anger somehow satisfies an need within the outraged.
There is an analysis of the dangers of internet mob justice on Vox (thanks Roger) and whether this selective, random attention is how justice is supposed to work when it is based on any story that happens to go viral.
It treats justice as a sort of random lightning bolt from the sky; one is reminded of the vengeful but arbitrary gods of Greek or Roman lore.
Personally, it saddens me that Harambe had to be killed whatever the reason, but I’m in no position to judge either the parents or the zoo authorities because I wasn’t there. And neither were the millions who have leapt to the barricades of blame
Libby Purves in The Times said: ‘The freedom of nasty people is the liberty of us all’. And she has a point, but I wonder at what point we might ever lose our desperate urge to condemn strangers without pausing to examine our own failings.