Monday, November 24, 2014

Internet Lynching - Efficient Yes, But Fair?

" some cases, the accused are actually innocent"

With Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi and the two yet un-named Liberal MP’s being the latest of high profile sexual assault allegations, maybe it is time to take the typical Soapbox sideways observation of this media circus.

I have written for several years now, how the internet, although much more than a household word now, has crept into our lives, not only providing endless new applications, and value to near every man woman and child one earth, it has without much fanfare, fundamentally changed us as a society, and crept into, and not always to benefit – who we are, how we behave, and decisions we make.

Would the four people that I referred to in the introduction of this article still be scrutinized in an world without the internet, no social media, no instant multimillion person audience? I would say yes, the traditional media I am sure that these are significant enough public personalities that the accusations against them would be made public. But possibly the life span of the news coverage would be much shorter in duration, and the thousands of “experts, analysts, pundits” would be limited to a select few in covering the story.

I do think the value of the vastness and instantaneous sharing of information is a significant benefit of uncovering unscrupulous law breakers and even more so, of those creating criminal acts relating to sexual assault, as the accusers can see that they are not alone as victims in regards to specific criminals, as well as the anonymity of the internet allows accusers a voice, in the safety of remaining nameless.

Each day, there is a release of a new asshole who has abused women and children, some with public personalities and others, just sick spineless loners that have taken advantage of individuals.

But like anything progressive – this is a double edged sword. As Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi and the two Liberal MP’s, this mass of humanity that is within data reach, has deemed them guilty of all charges. Their careers are destroyed, jobs lost, dragged through the mud. Families destroyed.. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But, with the viral accusations, of dozens, maybe hundreds, and the acceptance of their guilt – where is their right to defend themselves, where is the reliance on evidence, where is the judge and jury.

There has always been, guilty until proven innocent back to the days of drowning witches. Even traditional news has “hung” many a person well before they have had their day in court. It is a flaw we all share of assuming guilt, leaving the onus on the individual to prove his/her innocence. It is a shame but it is true.

With the social media afire with accusations and support for the accusers.. this guilty before proven innocence is outrageous. The speed and breadth of being deemed guilty will thoroughly destroy the defendant almost immediately – financial, professions, social and family destruction.

I think for the guilty – this destruction is a risk and deserved result of committing the crime, and punishes far beyond a few years in prison.


What if, just if, the defendant appears to have enough evidence against him/her, and stands trial. And in some cases, the accused are actually innocent of the crime they are accused of. The result being found (in a courtroom) innocent, changes nothing.. Their lives are still ruined, the public still hold them guilty. Yes, this horrible situation has existed from the beginning of law.. but the damage was localized, the defendant still stood a chance to regain some form of life, by relocating, starting anew. But if, just if Bill Cosby or Jian Ghomeshi or the Liberal MP’s are found innocent.. They will never have opportunity to start anew – they are already being punished and a courtroom is nowhere in sight.

What if you, as a reader of this, was accused of a sexual assault, (or any crime actually) and before you even have your first cup of coffee – your name is associated with a crime – on Facebook, on twitter, in the news. You have accusers who are nameless, and there is no evidence. You are helpless, your job will be in jeopardy, the momentum of accusations grow out of control.. you can defend as much as you wish but you are completely unable to defend against the barrage of accusations against you.. A person or persons who may have a vendetta against you have had you declared guilty.. and you may never have a day in court, as your accusers are anonymous.. a nightmare.

As public personalities continue to be added to the list of alleged scoundrels – maybe a proper trial should be our time to place judgement – not before.

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