By Seana Sperling
In China they call it Human Flesh Hunting. In Korea they call it Cyber Violence. In the U.S. they call it Cause Stalking, Organized Stalking, Organized Bullying, Mobbing and Cyber Stalking. Defined: vigilante groups form online on Facebook, My Space and other social networking sites or message boards to vilify and ridicule someone one of their online friends is mad at.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, some former/current Military personnel are also doing similar things to Peace Activists, Social Justice Activists, Writers and Educators the vigilantes feel are anti-American. The Editor of The Progressive Magazine is calling this The New McCarthyism.
Some of these vigilante groups search for addresses, phone numbers, email, etc. to go offline to punish the target/victim with Tracking/Monitoring (using their cell phones to text the group everywhere the target goes). They film the victim, so they can let everyone know what they are wearing and what the person looks like. They may use PhotoShop to alter the image and use it to smear the Target.
Some vigilantes may also employ Cyberbaiting. Cyberbaiting defined: Taunt the victim; cut the person off; deliberately run into the victim to get him/her to react. Then a collaborator in the distance can film the reaction with their cell phone and post it online. This abuse has become recreation for many who spend a lot of time on the Internet.
If the victim goes into a store, the vigilantes will follow them in and whisper to the clerk that the person is a shoplifter, will short-change the clerk, etc. This makes the clerk fearful and distrustful of the person. Then if the person makes any kind of mistake, like accidentally giving the clerk a ten instead of a twenty, this confirms the slander.
If the person goes to an eye exam, the vigilantes call the shop (sometimes even posing as Law Enforcement) and tell them the person is a (choose whichever is most damaging) sex offender, pedophile, racist, thief, prostitute, lunatic, drunkard, etc. Then the person cannot even get a decent pair of glasses made. When the person complains the Optician promises to make a new pair, but the next pair is either worse or has not been changed at all.
In China and Korea, Law Enforcement agencies have tried to curb the abuses of these online vigilantes. Chinese Authorities worry that it is a return to a Red-Guard type of vigilantism according to: the New York Times article, Mob Rule on the Internet: The Keyboard as Weapon, by Howard French. There are many articles about this type of harassment all over the world, but the harassment against individuals in the U.S. is being widely ignored by Law Enforcement and the mainstream media.
A news article from Korea shows the extent of damage the vigilantes do to innocent people, including driving some to suicide. The International Herald Times, In South Korea, Online Rumors Hit Hard, by Sang Hun Choe www.nytimes.com/2006/08/14/world/asia/14iht-korea.2481503.html
Stalking and harassment by one individual is debilitating, but if a group is involved, it can drive the person to suicide. In some cases it seems this is the intent of the group. 15 year-old Phoebe Prince, a recent immigrant from Ireland, hung herself in 2010 after months of organized bullying and stalking by her classmates in Hadley, Massachusetts. (The Untouchable Mean Girls, The Boston Globe) After the suicide, the bullies continued to post ridicule about her online. They seemed to be reveling in their power.
In 2008 there were two posts on The Stranger Newspaper’s SLOG, suggesting that I “take a leep (sic) off the Aurora bridge,” and also that I “should be put down.” Prior to this I had been getting veiled death threats from bullies on the street, I had been spit on and spat at, and called lewd names. One Neo-conservative Christian colleague in my workplace suggested I commit suicide in 2006. He also made inferences that I was crazy and told female colleagues that I leered at women. The allegations were preposterous, but they did a lot of damage as my female colleagues began acting uncomfortably around me.
How do the bullies recruit so many to the cause? In many cases E-personation is employed. Defined: A person impersonates another online to either get the person into some type of trouble or to create the illusion that the person is someone that should be reviled and driven from the community. Hacking email or other online accounts is rampant nowadays. Way back in 1999 a man impersonated me in the form of a Valentine’s post in The Stranger Newspaper’s free Valentine’s Day ads. Later in 2006 and to this day I have had multiple emails regarding dating site accounts that I have never set up as well as invites to dating/sex sites for “Hookups,” and other things that I have no interest in.
The vigilantes also use set-ups to recruit. ABC News reported that Neo-conservatives dressed as Pimps and Prostitutes to set-up and secretly videotape ACORN and Planned Parenthood workers three years ago. This was an effort to shame the organizations, so they would lose community support. They gleefully shut down ACORN and Planned Parenthood is still under attack.
Our advances in technology seem to be a trade-off for our devolving sense of civility and being able to discern right from wrong. There is no regulation against vigilantes forming online to stalk, harass and even impersonate someone that they think has committed some illegal or anti-social act. The key word is “think,” these vigilantes act without any facts, but only on the gossip and photos spread via message boards. Some just go after people they think are anti-American and if you had an Impeach Bush sign or No War sign in your window, you could come under attack.
In 2006 I was living in an apartment below a white couple who engaged in one of the cruelest noise campaigns I have ever endured. They kept me up every night for months and during the day I was dealing with organized stalking and bullying from the community. One night the husband yelled down through the thin hardwood floor, “How do you like being stalked?” Going to the police did not help as they dismissed the stalking and harassment even though I had plenty of documentation, including photos. (Many Police are former Military.) I moved away from my nightly tormentors, but the slander, set-ups and organized bullying/stalking has continued to this day.
In the 1950s and 60s the KKK used to stalk and harass Civil Rights Leaders and activists everywhere they went. The technology of today, enables the bullies to persecute dissenters incrementally and covertly. Cyberstalking and Cyberbaiting are the new tools used by the zealots to punish people that disagree with their Neo-Conservative agenda.
Naomi Wolf’s, The Guardian UK article: Cheaters and the Sinister Normalisation of our Surveillance Society, raises a timely warning about modern media popularizing punishment, stalking and surveillance with shows like the Reality series, Cheaters. The Show’s description: “Syndicated series featuring detectives with hidden cameras staking out the wayward and amorous.” Undercover Boss is another show that appears to be making surveillance of citizens mainstream. It is also an attack on workers by deifying management and punishing the worker.
This is how some Americans spend their leisure time, by either watching or participating in the surveillance of citizen’s private lives. It’s a gross abuse of the Fourth Amendment.
Mob Rule on the Internet: The Keyboard as Weapon, by Howard French
The International Herald Times, In South Korea, Online Rumors Hit Hard, by Sang Hun Choe
The Untouchable Mean Girls, The Boston Globe
Naomi Wolf, The Guardian UK, Cheaters and the Sinister Normalisation of our Surveillance Society