The witches of Facebook – lynch mobs dribblejaws’ style

If Facebook is the new global village, it’s a village full of fucken’idiots, simpletons and dribblejaws (with the honourable exception of all my friends of course).

One of the people accused of lighting some of the devastating fires in Victoria has had his lack of education and sad love life splattered across the news pages in a way that doesn’t appear to advance the story at all.

Accused arsonist angry at girlfriend’s rejection.

Now this has turned into a vigilante exercise in witch burning. A number of people have started Facebook groups that have, despite the protests of the founders, become lynch mobs. This group, Make it know B****** S****** is the man who was arrested for arson, is the most prominent. Here’s what founder Yvette Langstaff has to say:

People need to put a name to the crime, not be left in dark. This site is for people to vent thier frustrations of our legal system, for people to grieve & leave messages of support to our hardworking firefighters and volunteers.

Please do not post photo’s of suspect on this site and we do not condone lynch mob’s..

“Vent their frustrations of our legal system”? What the hell is this? What has the legal system done? Nothing except follow due process. A suspect has been charged and is in custody. He will face a trial on arson and possession of child pornography (if there’s a link there I can’t see it). What is there to be frustrated at? What’s with the wandering apostrophes?

(Interlude) For new readers, let me briefly explain: a “dribblejaws” is someone of socially-retarded manners and limited intelligence. A dribblejaws believes in conspiracies, is generally attracted to the politics of the lunar right and will tend to lurk in cyberspace dribbling their noxious bile. They tend to gather in packs and can be relied upon to express moral outrage over anything they don’t fully comprehend (which is most things).

[update 3.30pm] Well, I didn’t know when I wrote that definition, but it seems that one of the founders of the Langstaff group is a well-known Australian “patriot” called Darrin Hodges. He’s since removed himself publicly from his admin role on the group pages. Darrin is a member of several far right groups in Australia. On his Facebook page Hodges lists German rightist philosopher Oswald Spengler and British National Party leader Nick Griffin as his heroes.

Darrin also posts on the AUSSIE PRIDE – We grew here, you flew here group on Facebook. Dribblejaws all.

aussie-pride-on-facebook

There you go, who’d have thunk it!

Thanks to the anti-dribblejaws group that has sprung up on Facebook for this information.

For example, a dribblejaws would be outraged at  the fact that the legal system prevents the village idiots from forming a lynch mob armed with pitchforks and firebrands and from tieing the alleged arsonist to a stake and having their own human BBQ.  A good example of the dribblejaws mentality is this thoughtful comment posted on the Langstaff group Facebook page:

The people that died in these fires never had a chance so why should this sick perverted peddo bastard be in protective custody…He’s getting 3 meals a day a nice warm bed 2 sleep in and can sleep at night knowing hes safe where he is,,while the poor buggas that have lost everything including loved ones probably cant even sleep at night…The law stinks and gaol is a 5 star resort for these bastards…Also to think that its a criminal offence 2 have groups like this is disgusting,,the public need to know because the scum will probably be let out of jail 2 do it again!!!!

That one’s actually quite mild. While I’ve been writing this post another comment has appeared and I managed to grab it before the moderators took it down:

burn the prick on the stake…. The impact that these fires have had on the people fighting it, the people living it and the families of the people killed by it is un imaginable. this guy needs to pay. i’ve been out fighting this(bunyip & churchill) for a while now. remember these fires have been burning way before 7th feb. my husband and i both have lost our job in this last week because we werent availiable to work as we were out fighting the fires.. make him suffer as we are all doing now!!

I sympathise with people like this poster who bravely faced the fires. I’ve been through my own bushfire at close quarters and I know the fear and loathing they inspire. In my case the arsonists were the bushfire brigade who back-burned in the middle of the night without telling us and then the fires came back up the gully towards my house. But “burn the prick on the stake”? This is irrational and the result of emotional tiredness. We are going back to the Dark Ages with this “Witches of Facebook” mentality.

While I’ve been composing this post another Farcebuerk loonytoon has established a new group: Arsenist B****** S****** should get maximum penalty. You see the trend, poor spelling and grammar, a dribblejaws’ hallmark.

I am constantly frustrated about “our” legal system too. It doesn’t let me smoke dope or drive really fast while I’m pissed and my civil liberties are curtailed in many subtle ways every day. But online lynch mobs are not the answer.

It seems that some of the Facebook sites might be in breach of a supression order and that the founders/contributors could be liable for contempt charges. How dare “our” legal system try to protect the rights of the “peddo bastard”. Well, fuck you dribblejaws.

But hang on, it gets worse, now the supposed ex-girlfriend of the alleged arsonist is also being outed on social networking pages. Do you bastards have no sense of moral boundaries? Do you not understand the fundamentals of privacy.The Inquistr site (their spelling) has published this little snippet and a photograph:

If anyone knows anything more, let us know. There’s two possibilities here: S****** [my edit]  lit the fire to get back at her, given she may have been on call with the CFA at the time, or possibly she has a fire obsession as well (birds of a feather).

Jeezusfuck what is this shit – more inflamatory village gossip. I know, let’s have a romantic double burning, you bring the faggots, I’ll bring marshmallows [faggots is a word that upsets the dribblejaws as they can't use a dictionary]. In the interests of completeness I am linking to the site, but you’ll get no further details from EM. The Melbourne Herald Sun is also publishing pictures of the young woman, even though her mother said that any relationship she had with the accused ended more than a year ago.

I’ve written previously on the booming practice of news organisations plundering Facebook and other social networking sites for images and copy. It’s an insidious practice that violates all rules of decency and any privacy that people might have. There is no reason for the frenzy that attaches to this cheap and nasty way of news-gathering. It’s a huge intrusion and I think it should be stopped.

I keep returning the the idea of moral panic here at EM and with good reason. The use of emotional fear is a great way to generate hysteria and mass anger, particularly at false targets. [links to EM posts on moral panic at the end]

What these village idiot schmucks don’t actually realise is that by going bonkers and howling for “justice” they are actually playing into the hands of the very legal system that they claim to despise. The Victorian police are already calling for blogs and other social networking sites to be closed down – “banned” is the word they use – for publishing details of the accused. Go figure you numbnucks. Why don’t you sit quietly in a dark room until it passes. You could, with luck, be out by Easter.

Better still, and easier for your limited intelligence to comprehend, why don’t you take a leaf out of this sensible person’s post on the Langstaff site and just go away:

I am utterly shocked that friends of mine have joined this group.

Has he been convicted? No. Has he had a trial? No. Basically, even though he probably did do it, this is all based on hearsay. Not exactly conforming to the rule of law or tenets of democracy or even the old catch-cry ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ And if he did do it, then it is likely to go through the proper channels and he will face imprisonment – – unless you guys have jeopordised the process further with this group.

The fires were awful, heartbreaking, traumatic, and caused completely unexpected devastation in this day and age, in our context. But this kind of utterly thoughtless mob mentality is hardly the answer.

Linking the arson suspect to child porn charges is a great way to inflame the dribblejaws. I know nothing of the suspect, except what I’ve read in the excitable press coverage. In this case it seems that the media is like a pack of vultures. Now that the village idiots have let loose to chase the monster down, the MSM can join the hunt. They bray and bay from the edges of the ruck, goading and encouraging the mob.

One such is the New Zealand Herald, which published a story and a photo of the accused in its print edition today (Tuesday 17), but has not put it on the NZH website.

It’s a pity that this comes on the heels of  a thoughtful piece in the Dominion Post on Saturday about the emotional impact of covering human tragedy. Unfortunately, the piece, Witness to tragedy, does not appear to be available on the paper’s website.

It is a pity because Michael Field’s summary of the emotions churning through many news stories is a sober reminder of the dilemmas confronting reporters when they are sent to cover events that involve the tragic loss of life.

However, it seems that not all journalists share Field’s concerns about the ethics of intrusion and gossip. Plenty are willing to salivate alongside the leaders of the Facebook rabble calling for more blood. In particular the blood of the “accused firebug”.

Previous EM posts on moral panic (so I don’t have to explain myself again)

16 Responses to The witches of Facebook – lynch mobs dribblejaws’ style

  1. matt says:

    I’ve been giving this issue some thought since the lynch groups emerged following the Westgate Bridge Tragedy. Thank you for taking the time to express this in detail, very well put.

    I doubt that any of these people would have it in them to make good on their threats given the opportunity. It’s easy to spout hatred and death threats on a website…still there is always that one nutjob who probably would.

  2. yeah Matt, it’s the lone nutjob with a grudge you have to be wary of.
    cheers
    EM

  3. rob says:

    I think the most worrying aspect of this is that many would see groups such as this as aberrant. Just as many see the accused as aberrant rather than ‘one of us’.

    Unfortunately I view it as normal. Get a few of these folk together, add alcohol and a lack of education, and you’ve got a Cronulla-style party in the making.

    “I’m gonna get me a pickup truck an find some ethic people.”

    My question is what if he’s acquitted? Or just found guilty on the porn charges?

    Can he sue Farcebook?
    Can he sue Yvette Langstaff or Darrin Hodges?
    Can he burn down their houses for defaming him nationally?

    I think back to the ‘Mr Bubbles’ case – another juicy number with kiddie sex and satanic rituals…The Derens weren’t charged with anything. Justice Wood did not find any prima facie evidence that abuse did occur. And they were ruined.

    These sites are Just another example of literally ‘everything’ being on the net…all the good…and all the bad.

    At times it seems like there’s way more bad…but hey, The Daily Terrorgraph sells more and reality tv is the ‘genre dejour’, so go figure.

    We all need to “get a whole lotta gone” between us and these websites and their creators…and think

    ‘There but for the grace of the mythical sky deity, go I.’

  4. Medusa says:

    After reading your post I checked out news.com.au and found an article at 4.45pm today re the death threats & Facebook sites, etc after a court hearing – “Most of the Facebook pages relating to Mr Sokaluk have since been removed and the accused arsonist’s MySpace page has been taken down.”, although it still refers to Victorian police wanting to ban messages being posted on internet blogs about Mr Sokaluk (excuse my technical ignorance but how do they control or police that??).
    The accused mans’ solicitor said there was a “very ugly aspect” to the media reporting in the case, and identity could also be an issue at any trial of Mr Sokaluk. The court case to decide whether Mr Sokaluk’s image can be shown will return to court on Friday.

    btw: the smh site from 8.50am today states “A court has already banned the publication of Sokaluk’s street address and his image but members of the public have been publishing those details on the internet.”

    …who do I believe now?

  5. [...] vigilantes “just can’t get enough” The Witches of Facebook [so you can read [...]

  6. Anna Campbell says:

    Ah yes. The illustrious Miss Yvette Langstaff . Self appointed mouth peice of the fire victims “looking for closure” as she herself was quoted as saying on news.com.au, smh.com.au and the Sun.co.uk! For from removing ANYTHING she’s still hard @ it, “bringing justice to the victims” and whipping up her drooling mob. When politely asked on her Farcebook group site whether she realised that there was an order in place she answered: “F— of I can do whatever I want!” Really mature.
    What we have here is a bored little Attention Seeker with too much time on her hands using the horrible tradgedy of the Victorian Fires and the anger over the arrest of the alledged arsonist to get her LOOK@ME fix. And she’s getting it unfortunately. She allows NO debate whatsoever. Not ever any question along the lines of, “Don’t you think the fine Victims may be upset or worried that your actions may ruin the case?”. Langstaff cares not one bit for the Victims. Its all about the attention, her 15 minutes of fame, her name in the papers, her Farcebook Groupies, basically the Buzz!

  7. [...] after public outrage over cyber-vigilantes baying for blood and revenge in the most obscene ways. [The witches of Facebook / Facebook [...]

  8. Angella says:

    I am a family friend of the Girlfriend outed in the herald sun and see her as a guillable unworldly person who needs the protection of her family and friends. I will forever be grateful to her for the care and concern she showed to both me and my elderly mother whom she cared for.

    The family of the girlfriend and the girl herself did not need the media attention nor did they need the abuse that they have suffered. A quick look in any magistrates court on an ‘intervention order morning’ would show that many people make mistakes in relationships. Thank you for pointing out that her profile was indeed violated.

  9. [...] is a sick joke. Within hours of being charged, he was viciously attacked in the media and in social network sites to the point where some have questioned whether he is capable of getting a fair [...]

  10. [...] me there’s little wisdom in crowds – as the Facebook vigilante episode suggests – and there’s a danger in surrendering journalism to technological [...]

  11. [...] is another darkside to social networking, perhaps not as bad as the Witches of Facebook, but disturbing, [...]

  12. Luke says:

    Hey EM,

    Interesting post and topic.

    Unfortunately, I have also noticed the rise of the un-educated internet lynch mob, which as you say relies solely on what it hears from various news reports and word-of-mouth.

    But I also notice newspapers are getting more wary of the whole web subjudice bit.

    This reminds me of the Judge David Harvey case of August 25 last year in which a NZ district court judge ruled that the accused should not be named on the internet, for fear of a viral spreading effect, and prejudicing potential jurors.

    The judge believed the temptation to google an accused during a trial would prove too strong for some, thus biasing the juror.

    Turns out that both the NZH and Dompo un-wittingly broke the ruling when their digital replicas were uploaded following the print version, although no web article was produced. I wrote an article about it for NewsWire, not sure if you saw.

    I believe the dom removed the article from their online replica, but the Herald consulted their legal team before putting it back up.

    I think NZH’s decision came down to the fact that the replicas are in a format un-searchable by google (it is a pay service, google will not index secure encrypted content) and is provided by a Canadian host server (PressDisplay).

    From what I saw, there were no legal consequences for either outlet.

    But, that precedental case showed that even with a DC ruling in effect, bloggers and net-users were driven to reveal the name, which they did, as they believed it was the just thing to do.

    You tell the blogosphere not to push the button – and someone will push it.

    If someone in Australia didn’t publish the name (or wasn’t allowed to), someone outside of Australia’s jursidiction probably would have.

    Steven Price told me an individual (or government) can only ask for content they object to be removed from a foreign server. The discretion to do so sits with the server’s owner, and the government of that country, as they are not governed by our laws.

    I believe there is a time-law gap which needs some attention here. The exponential increase of blogging and social network is posing some tricky questions which may eventually lead to legislation.

    If the accused is acquitted, I would think that (if he had the money) he could sue for defamation any outlet or person who named him as an arsonist, or otherwise commented resulting in lowering his estimation in the minds of ‘right-thinking individuals’.

    Sorry about the mammoth comment – should have been a post I guess!

    Cheers

  13. [...] like the Witches of Facebook, Twitter can be a platform for [...]

  14. [...] media opens up this whole world for our participation. I have noticed this trend and wrote about The Witches of Facebook at the beginning of last year and also other media outlets using social media as a way of [...]

  15. Tashara Roberts says:

    I believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion! But bad mouthing people because you don’t agree with their views or beliefs is no better Martini! ‘Witches of facebook”village idiot schmucks”numbnucks’???? Your as bad as they are!!!

    Those people were affected by those bushfires, (whether it was directly or indirectly)and they were clearly upset. Those people lost homes, belongings family and friends!!!

    As I am sure you are aware, emotions can sometimes cause people to react irrationally! Sure maybe they could have reacted better, but they certainly had a reason to be emotional!

    Whats your excuse, who gives you the right to be so judgemental? Who are you to judge the victims?

    [Tash,
    IMHO, most of those who were the witches of facebook had nothing to do with the fires, they were exploiting other peoples' anxiety for their own twisted needs. Check some of the links.
    EM]

  16. At least some bloggers can write. Thank you for this read!

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