In some ways, I’m just not like other people.
“What?” I hear you cry, your shock and alarm carrying across the interwebs and back in time to my unusually spacially and temporally receptive ears. “You, a socially awkard bloke with not many friends who spends a lot of time on the internet, are telling us that you sometimes feel that a yawning gulf separates you from your fellow men? I find such a notion to be utterly preposterous.”
First of all, learn to talk proper. Second, I have something specific in mind, so pipe down.
This is a photo that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook lately:
The two men pictured have been implicated, in some way, in the disappearance of 12-year-old Tia Sharpe. [Edit: No they haven’t; the one on the left is Ian Huntley. I’ve been writing while sleepy again.] To my understanding, nobody has yet been charged with any crime relating to this case, and the body recently found at Tia’s grandmother’s house has not yet been positively identified.
The above image is among the more subtle and tasteful of the numerous calls for these two men’s execution that have appeared on the internet recently. It looks restrained next to some of the sentiments that have been expressed:
get a 20ft rope tie it to him pour petrol over him and the rope set fire to te rope at the end and give him 1 of those hand held plastic fans make him feel how that poor girl felt b4 he killed her.
This kind of reaction strongly demonstrates two things in particular. The rush to judgment is quite alarming, given the tenuousness of any such certainty about a man’s guilt based solely on media reporting in the early days of an investigation, something which has gone badly wrong in the past; and the absolute spitting fury and hatred is as pure and untainted by understanding as it gets.
The first of these is somewhat relatable. I’m hardly free from guilt when it comes to making my mind up too quickly about something based on preliminary evidence, even when it seems like there’s good reason to have strong suspicions.
But the fury and hatred… I just don’t have that. Not even something similar to the above but with better spelling.
It’s not like I don’t get that murdering a child – if, indeed, anyone’s actually done that in this case – is about the most terrible crime there is. But because it’s so obviously an unspeakably appalling thing to happen, I’m not sure I see the point in anger.
When people feel compelled to pour out reams of creative abuse at someone who they believe has done something terrible, it can prompt the question of what they’re trying to prove, and to whom. Apparently it’s important to Lynden Hadley that everyone be clear that he’s totally not on board with this whole child murder thing. But does that really need pointing out? Why would anyone have doubted that about him in the first place?
I suspect that Lynden would share the view of another commenter on that first picture, who opined: “They are not human”. Which is simply empirically incorrect. People who commit horrible murders absolutely are human. Deplorable atrocities are well within the bounds of feasible human psychology.
Distancing yourself from evil-doers is one thing, but denying a similarity of species is a dangerous road to go down. Once you’ve decided it’s only non-humans who do terrible things, it stops being important that you treat those people with humanity and refrain from doing terrible things yourself. It nicely justifies anything you do, since obviously you are a human. Not like those monsters.
People who wish painful, agonising, brutal, violent death on someone they’ve never met and who may well be innocent of any crime are humans too.
But they do make me angry.
I’m not the only one in my online social group, such as it is, to have exhibited greater rage over these pre-emptive calls for a person’s murder, as over the murder that may have actually been committed. If I were a proper blogger, I’d have done some intelligent self-examination and be able to explain why that is. I think the level of my creative output for this last week rather well refutes that possibility, though.
But here’s a poorly thought-out guess: When a crime is committed, there’s a criminal justice process to deal with it. It’s universally accepted that killing people is not okay, so literally everyone is unified in wanting this girl’s disappearance investigated, and action taken against anyone guilty of a crime.
But the mob justice has a sheen of social acceptability. It’s not just one wacky individual calling for an exception to the “killing people is not okay” agreement, and it’s not something the police are probably going to deal with. Large numbers of people believe that treating people like this – with unnervingly sincere threats of inflicting pain, and claiming to act in defence of moral propriety – is appropriate and justified. Perhaps that’s far more offensive than simple, obviously evil, child murder.
Of course, I also get angry over incredibly petty things which have almost no real effect on anybody’s lives, which barely rise above the level of minor annoyance, and where there’s not even a worthwhile current of opinion to take a stand against. The rogue apostrophes on the “GOOD’S INWARD’S” sign on a building I walk past on my way to work make my blood boil. How much must you have misunderstood even the most simple workings of the English fucking language to cock something up that much?
That’s a ludicrous point about grammar. I didn’t get that sweary when discussing the very real chance that a 12-year-old girl was murdered. And my main complaint seems to be with the mob justice crowd’s self-righteousness, more than with the actual ending of people’s lives. Maybe it really is me that’s broken.