Dear reader, there's a trend I've noticed on social media lately, and it's becoming a bit worrying. Let's begin with a picture. A simple picture, a picture of a dog:
Have a problem with it? Speaking personally, I don't, but then again, I am an emotionless robot. I can understand that some people would be sympathetic about the dog - I mean, the poor guy's obviously been injured. Yet, where this gets bizzare is that this picture was shared over 10 000 times on Facebook, with the original poster claiming that this dog was being abused by its owner - a pet store. Now, whether you agree that this is animal abuse or not is up to you - however, the RSPCA have decided it's not abuse (their exact words were "They've done everything right" - source). Admittedly, putting an injured dog in a store window was pretty stupid move the first place, but worries me is the "mob justice" that emerged when the photo was posted.
According to The Courier Mail's article on the incident, ...some [Facebook users] even suggested putting the shop owner in a cage. Yeah, 'cause that seems like a logical punishment for bandaging an injured animal instead of just shooting it. Now, call me naive if you will, but we have a body responsible for preventing the cruel treatment of animals, and it should be up to them - and only them - to decide what punishment (if any) this pet shop owner receives.
"Oh, come on!" I hear you cry as you flick your dreadlocked hair off your tattooed face. "We're not suggesting he actually be put in a cage!" Yes, I realise that. But what worries me here is that the public seems to want to use Facebook as a way to punish this owner without even hearing his side of the story.
I first noticed this trend a few months ago when Derryn Hinch (a radio host) went to jail for revealing the details of the killer of Jill Meagher (the ABC woman who was murdered in Melbourne). The police were unamused by this serious breach of the law, so he was fined. But because Derryn Hinch thinks he's a slightly hairier version of God, he refused to pay, so he was thrown in jail for contempt. However, it didn't take long before stupid groups like this appeared on Facebook...
"BUT FREE MAN!" I hear you cry again. "HE WAS NAMING A MURDERER! A MAN WHO KILLED ANOTHER PERSON! THIS MURDERER DESERVES NO PRIVACY!" My response? I don't care who he's naming, or what his motivations are, you do not take the law into your own hands. Ever.
We live in a society of rules and law. While the 32 000 people who've liked this stupid page may not want to admit it or not, Australia was founded on the principles of democracy and fair treatment for all. I'm not for a second saying Jill Meagher's killer is anything but a bad person, but the simple fact is that in Australia, there are people whose job it is to enforce and interpret the law. Educated people who understand why laws are in place and how they should be applied. Just because you feel what Hinch did was right, doesn't make it so. Unless you're seriously suggesting you know more about the law than the Supreme Court of Victoria? Again, call me naive if you want, but I have faith in our justice system and that whatever punishment it decides upon - for Jill Meagher's killer or for Derryn Hinch - is appropriate. You do not take the law into your own hands. Ever.
(If you're interested in the specifics of Hinch's crime, The Dark Side of the Blog's old friend, Media Watch, had a segment on Hinch's sentencing)
Dear reader, if you start taking the law into your own hands, when does it end? While Hinch may have "only" named a killer, then when does it stop? Is beating up a person accused of committing murder okay? Is burning down a business that destroyed the lives of people okay? If everyone took the law into their own hands, before long we'd be in a society with no law, ironically the opposite of what all the Hinch supporters want. History has consistently proven that mob justice with so-called good intentions - like the Salem Witch Trials or the Klu Klux Klan - are wrong. Hell, one of the oldest examples of bad mob justice was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ instead of a murderer! Though I'll admit that it's hard to tell which aspects of Jesus' crucifixion story are true, the fact remains the mob in that story had been swayed by opinion and refused to listen to the wiser words Pontius Pilate, who wanted to spare Jesus.
Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever used the values in the Bible as an argument. I hope this doesn't mean I'm turning into Tony Abbott.
But it gets worse. If you live in Australia, chances are you've heard the sad story of Daniel Morcombe. For the uninitiated, a young boy named Daniel was abducted in 2003 and his disappearance was a big mystery in Australia for about a decade. But recently, his remains appeared, then the police started to get some suspects, and finally, they put a man named Brett Cowan on trial for the murder of Daniel. Cowan was found guilty, and sentenced to jail. Justice had been served, right? Right...?
Oh dear. Notice the typo?
"Bring back the death penalty and save our kids"? How will killing a man who's already killed a child save kids? I know, the point these people are making is that executing Cowan will deter other criminals from doing the same thing, but in actual fact, the death penalty is not a deterrent. While you or I may see death as the worst possible punishment, I'd argue that the sick, twisted mind of a man like Brett Cowan (or Derryn Hinch) is not afraid of death. And besides, how are we setting an example that killing is wrong if our only response to a killing is more killing? We teach children that responding to violence with more violence is wrong, yet it's a bit of a contradiction when we murder our murderers - exactly what we're telling the children not to do. Not only that, but the United Nations has specifically said that "Everyone has the right to life" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Claiming you know better than the UN is hugely arrogant. Australia - and indeed, most of the world - has abolished the death penalty because it simply doesn't work.
Mob justice is wrong. The death penalty is wrong. We have laws in place that protect us, and if you're reading this, it's because you live in a society where people obey the law and don't take it into their own hands.
And hey, if you truly believe Hinch was unfairly punished, or Cowan should have been sentenced more? How about getting off your arse and lobbying government to change the law? Because believe me, simply bitching about stuff on Facebook - or your blog - rarely changes anything.
© 2014 by The Free Man