A Crazed Mob Brandishing Pitchforks

One of the biggest stories of the day is based on a video taken by Christian Cooper. It has received well over 5 million views. Amy Cooper (no relation) acted in a racist, dehumanizing manner on Sunday in Central Park — no question. It’s painful, disturbing, and scary to watch her threats and open racism. We know all too well it could have led to yet another murder of an innocent Black man, adding Birding While Black to the list with no end. It was unjustifiable.

What happened next is awful. Ms. Cooper apologized publicly the next day and Christian Cooper said she leashed her dog and apologized and he didn’t want anything further. Instead, so far she has had to surrender her rescue dog of two years who she seems to have mistreated on the video but had a FB page of, and clearly loved. She lost not only her dog. She was summarily fired from her job. She became a poster woman for racist actions, lost her anonymity and her reputation. She is subject of a petition circulating for charges against her to be filed. Her life in tatters, Christian Cooper has appealed to people to stop making death threats against her.

Something similar happened about two months ago with a man who did something egregious. As soon as the pandemic hit, Matt Colvin quickly gathered and hoarded almost 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer at a time when everyone from front line helpers to stay-at-homers couldn’t get any because stores were sold out. His intent was to price gouge and sell them online. It was a horrible, selfish, greedy act. After it hit the media, Amazon and e-Bay refused to allow him to sell them, and he ended up with no choice so offered them to charity.

Meanwhile, he effectively lost the only income source he had built over the past 10 years. He became a viral villain with his name, home address and picture everywhere. The Tennessee AG looked into pressing charges (not sure what happened with that). He — and his children — received multiple death threats. In this case, not only his life but that of his wife and children ended up in tatters.

If I sound like I’m justifying these behaviors, check again because I’m not. But I’m also not able to justify the results. One more, smaller example.

A friend of mine who is a self-employed single woman, lost most of her income through the pandemic. She struggles with a serious autoimmune illness that has left her deeply immune compromised. She posted an image on FB that compared much of the cavalier anti-mask attitudes to folks on the Titanic. A FB friend, who had never met her and clearly knew nothing about her, went into full frontal attack mode. She posited that my friend was another privileged older white woman who cared nothing for the ‘working poor’ and was obviously enjoying a “perfect vacation.” No matter that she is the working poor and isn’t old and has ended up in the ER during the pandemic.

That one won’t make the news but this kind of behavior is repeated ad nauseum on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.

Do I believe this hate-filled world of social media is fueled by you-know-who, his lackeys and bots? You know I do! Still, would you ever walk up to a stranger and threaten their livelihood? Would you walk up to a stranger who did something you oppose and threaten to kill them and their children? Would you walk into a stranger’s living room and verbally abuse and insult them?

Would you do that on social media? If you’ve ever joined the angry mob and picked up your social media pitchfork, put it down and walk away.

If you’re struggling for a way to help others during this challenging time, dial it back, take a deep breath, demonstrate compassion and support everyone you know in doing the same. There is no way to control what anyone else does. Conversely, each of us is responsible for our own actions.

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Terra Laggner

Terra Laggner

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