By Seana Sperling
Under the tentacles of the punitive and judgmental Bush regime, our tolerance for cruelty and selfishness grew exponentially. Our Constitution has been turned into a puree of abandoned quotes with a crucifix on top; cliff-noted to suit the needs of the Religious Right. This distortion of our rights has enabled us to become very un-American; the manifestation of the bully nations we used to criticize. Unfortunately today’s technology has made this easier to perpetuate and there is no crisis of conscience when the “righteous” are prescribing punishment via their laptops and cell phones.
Under the topic “Mobbing,” there are a variety of stories on the Internet about cowardly group behavior, bullying behavior, where mobs of people verbally attack public figures or even private citizens. Online and offline summer of 2011, the mobbers went after Dominic Strauss Khan, former head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) based on a sexual assault accusation and this was before the trial took place. What happened to, “Innocent until proven guilty?”(Coincidentally, he had appeared in a 2010 film that revealed the exploitation of derivatives in the housing market that lead to the current economic crisis, Inside Job.) Finally, after being harassed and defamed all summer Khan was acquitted, but the damage had already been done to his career and private life.
Mobbing is nothing new and throughout history there have been self-righteous mobs that go after individuals. Couple our current judgmental populace with today’s technology and you get hoards of people, from all walks of life, even the so-called pious, vilifying and passing judgment on complete strangers in Internet chat rooms. Oddly in the land of liberty, this has become very popular and entire communities are constructed around mobbing. Nothing brings people together like a good old-fashioned witch-hunt.
Like the KKK’s penchant for disguise, the mobber’s identities remain cloaked in anonymity as they destroy their victims from the privacy of their PCs or cell phones. How easy to slander and threaten others when there is little chance of getting caught. They think up cutesy monikers, such as Frank Sinatra’s Reanimated Corpse or Nonymouse and flatter themselves that they are writers, exercising Freedom of Speech or vigilantes punishing an evil person.
Not only do the Blog Mobs rip the victim to shreds on the Internet, some will post all of the victim’s personal information online and then try to rally the other bloggers to track/stalk, and report the victim’s every move to the group. (Organized stalking/tracking—Google: Texas Fred and see what he instigates against supposed sex offenders.)
Stalking and especially group stalking is a horrendous civil rights abuse—it violates a citizen’s right to privacy as laid out in the constitution. Also, slander and inciting hatred towards a citizen violates even more constitutional rights.
Some of these bully groups try to damage every facet of the person’s life by contacting their employer, neighbors and family with false reports that the person is crazy, a racist, pedophile, thief, sexual deviant, under investigation, etc. The accusations the Blog Mobs use to rally the masses are generally so reprehensible and embarrassing to discuss that the accused may never even hear what they are being accused of. Also, if you ask one of the bloggers if they have actually asked the accused if it is true, they just say, “Oh, they’ll just deny it anyway.” Ah, due process of law in action.
Some blog mobs have even used set-ups, complete with photo shoots to make the victim seem like an undesirable. This is later posted on You Tube or My Space or any number of sites. The slander creates conflicts where the victim constantly has to defend themself and thus create more enemies. I know from personal experience about the set ups. In 2006, I would walk through the park on my way home from work. On two occasions, I saw a middle-aged African-American man running ahead in the distance and looking back at me with a look of fear on his face. Then I’d see some twenty-something with their little camera phone, filming the scene. Scenes like this happened a variety of times and I had no idea what was going on until I came across other articles, that shed light on the set ups, which are referred to as “street theater.” There would also be set ups in the workplace where one coworker would try to manipulate trouble between myself and another colleague. I stopped taking the bait finally in 2007, but the attempts are still made anyway. (This is a facet of Workplace Mobbing.)
This cowardly behavior of Mobbing has been popularized and encouraged by mainstream media. In 2007 on Channel Five News, I heard Jean Enerson rally the troops, by saying, “Bloggers tracking pedophiles,” after a story about Jack McClellan, a person who was suspected of being a possible pedophile. Every week the reporters would proudly claim that this man had been driven out of another community. (America—Home of the brave.) I have no idea why this person was appearing almost weekly on the news and why he was perceived as such a threat as he hadn’t been convicted of anything. I do know that Texas Fred (who appeared on FOX news for his vigilante work) was encouraging blog mobs to stalk this man and run him out of various towns. I have little sympathy for real pedophiles, however as one that has been falsely accused of this egregious act on a site called www.rottenneighbor.com I say get some real evidence before you begin to stalk and torture people. Also, do some fact checking and let the accused defend himself. Don’t just take sound bytes from this guy that make him look bonkers.
Since anyone can be accused of being a pedophile and the community reacts with absolutely no proof, innocent Teachers and other’s lives are being destroyed every day. I see these amped up reports on the news almost weekly. Where is our Due Process? Where are the true Journalists that know that News needs to be fact-based and fact checked and not have a lead sentence such as, “A Harper Valley Gymnastics Teacher is being accused of Child Rape,” then cut to a shot of the person’s house and neighborhood. Of course the person’s neighbors will recognize the house and this person is instantly stigmatized.
A 2006 International Times article, illustrates the frenzy of an online mob and the damage they can do to an innocent person. According to the article, the victim was first accused of being responsible for his ex-girlfriend’s suicide. Then the stories began to build. The bloggers alleged she was pregnant and he was trying to force her to abort his child. The mob went crazy, posting all of his personal information on the internet, calling his workplace with demands that the company fire him, forcing him out of his college where he had night classes. Next the mob was reporting his every move–even what he was wearing on specific days. None of the rumors had any basis in fact, but Vigilante Bloggers don’t need any facts. From: The International Herald Times: In Seoul Korea, Online Rumors Can Hit Hard. By Sang-Hun Choe (This type of mob behavior is called Organized Stalking.)
As mentioned above, I have had my own experience with internet smears and organized stalking. In December 2007, I found my full name on a website named www.rottenneighbor.com. These anonymous posts claimed that I was everything from a redneck prostitute to a child molester. They ranged from character assassination to the ridiculous, “She will steal your husband.” I contacted the Webmaster from the site and by the next day all the posts were removed, but the webmaster never responded to my emails. (I began contacting State legal agencies and Human Rights Commissions, but they offered no help.)
In May 2008, I put up a few flyers in my neighborhood offering a reward for information about the Internet smears. A few days later, I received a call from Channel Five Reporter Chris Daniels asking for a comment about the reward and new slander posted on The Stranger Newspaper’s SLOG. I had no idea about this new twist and was shocked when I found 48 postings accusing me of being crazy and a crack “whore,” among other things. (These blogs had been posted shortly after I had hung my flyers and even a photo of one of my flyers was on the site.) I emailed Dan Savage, since I’d met him when I interviewed for a job there in 2002. Tim Keck, the Publisher (or is that just Unseen Hand Productions that controls this media) responded instead and said that he didn’t see anything wrong with the posts. When I checked the SLOG again, the more serious postings, that I was a crack whore and the one suggesting that I be “put down,” had been removed and replaced with the statement, “way too mean.” I had printed the originals however.
Next I discovered I was on a Watch List when I was detained at the U.S./Canadian border in 2007. Why? I don’t know exactly and every FOIA request I submit is denied or dismissed. John C. Inglis from the NSA went so far as to write, “While your appeal clearly states your concern of not knowing whether or not NSA maintains intelligence information on you, I must emphasize that NSA can neither confirm nor deny alleged intelligence activities or targets due to the classified nature of this agency’s signals intelligence mission.“ If my name can appear on a Watch List and since I have done nothing to deserve such a thing, then anyone can be vilified and harassed in this manner.
The CIA has always used slander campaigns against individuals they consider a threat—Activists, writers—so-called Enemy Combatants—Google: Abby Hoffman and Cointelpro. General Motors did the same thing to Ralph Nader—Watch the DVD: Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man. Now it appears they can even do it to average people like me. I guess anyone that stands up or stands out could be a target. Am I just an example to scare the other nobodies?
When anonymous bloggers (who could be NSA or LEIU) can so easily manipulate the public into going after innocent people, then that public can also be manipulated into a totalitarian system–A system where they do not question authority for fear of reprisal. If the government vilifies and isolates all the activists, then the weak will follow the crowd.
Sadly it’s not just the Religious Right that is involved in this (although these are the more serious offenders). Since self-righteousness has replaced common sense, Democrats will vilify other Democrats (Just look how divided the party was in 2004.). Scholars go after each other. (Look at the high percentage of Workplace Mobbing in Academia). Feminists attack other feminists and the rightwing fascists just sit back and laugh at all the mayhem they have caused. They create chaos to implement the destruction of our constitution, our unions and especially our unity. The 1960’s battles were won by many groups pulling together and we are currently very divided. This type of isolation only endangers us. We need to put aside our differences and search for our commonalities.
Throughout the ages Jewish and Roma people, activists, scholars, etc. have been vilified so terribly that entire communities turned on them. Some were driven out of cities, placed into camps and millions were murdered. During the Spanish Inquisition, Village Healers were burned as witches. During the Cultural Revolution, students were manipulated into going after the Scholars because of Mao’s wish to purge any intellectual threat. Stalin did much the same. During WWII, American citizens of Japanese descent were vilified and placed into camps; their homes and goods confiscated. During McCarthyism, suspected Communists were blacklisted, forced out of homes and employment and one couple was even put to death. Currently, in the “land of the Free,” liberal Teachers, Writers, Activists and Whistleblowers are treated as the new threat and can be placed on Watch Lists and harassed by their communities. Read: The End of America, By Naomi Wolf and You Have No Rights By Matthew Rothschild who refers to this as the New McCarthyism.