Digital Manhunts: No One is Safe in the Digital Age

Something that worried me as I scrolled through social media today was how many witch hunts there were online to discover the true identities of the “White Nationalists” who attended the botched protests in Charlottesville yesterday. I saw random friends from school posting articles and pictures identifying people who had attended the protest, urging employers and the state to take action against these individuals. I racked my brain for an instance where an event like this happened for protests on the left, and I realized the parallel here is how that professor in California was identified as being the infamous “Bike Lock Attacker” who was part of Antifa and the violent protests they started. I thought further about how almost every member of Black Lives Matter is public about their violent demonstrations, live streaming themselves as they torch and burn businesses and destroy neighborhoods in the name of equality, yet none of these members face any sort of public shaming or retaliation. I find it interesting how we see before us a spectrum of extremists in our nation, some who cover their identity, some who don’t, some who get reprimanded or ruined for their actions, and some who are publicly celebrated. It would be fascinating to me, if it wasn’t also incredibly worrisome.

On a less extreme, yet still important level, we constantly see people lose their jobs and reputations these days because of things they say. In a nation that values free speech and diversity, we have so many instances lately of the opposite ringing true. Just recently, a Google engineer was fired for stating scientific fact and trying to reduce inequality in his company. The other month, students were rejected and expelled from Ivy League schools for being part of private meme groups that posted somewhat  offensive content. I can’t even count how many famous entertainers and YouTubers have lost their jobs or scores of fans because of comments they made on social media, sometimes in as little as 140 characters. It’s ludicrous that words have such a damaging impact on our lives, but it points to a fact often overlooked. In the modern world, a person’s value isn’t in the work they do nor is it in the quality of their total life. A human’s value in 2017 is based purely on reputation, and once you’ve damaged it, you’ve essentially ruined yourself for good.

As someone who values free speech and freedom of thought, no matter how offensive or horrible, I worry about the future constantly. I hate that somebody can get denied access to a school, despite being qualified, just because they have a dark sense of humor. I hate that normal people are spending their time exposing and hunting down extremists, purely because they think that what they said was inappropriate. The White Nationalists had no justification to march yesterday, yet they have the right to do so. To ruin people’s lives over that seems ridiculous, imagine if an employer fired his staff after learning that they had gone to a Bernie Sanders rally, because the employer had escaped socialism in the USSR when he was younger and found supporting those policies disgusting. You would see nothing but outrage over that situation, which is hilarious as Marxist ideology has caused more death and destruction than the Nazis managed. At the end of the day, everything in politics is a slippery slope. The internet has proven time and time again to be nothing but a force of pure democracy, with all the mob mentality to be expected from such a thing. This mob constantly roams, looking for something to be mad about, one day feeding on Trump emojis, the next day about the Emoji movie, and the next about Charlottesville. Be wary of partaking in this public ridicule, as before long you might find yourself on the destructive end after society deems your one accepted behavior as a sin. We’ve all seen how the Church treats sinners. 

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