The Racist New York Lawyer And Internet Vigilantism: How Far Is Too Far?

New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg found himself on the receiving end of an Internet firestorm this week. His case raises some interesting questions about Internet vigilantism.

In addition to all the other news this week, the media has been tossing around the case of a New York attorney named Aaron Schlossberg who was captured on a smartphone video going into a racist, hate-filled rant against a customer and manager at a coffee shop near his Manhattan office because they were speaking Spanish to each other. At first, the identity of the man in the video was unknown, but it didn’t take long for Internet sleuths to figure out that it was, in fact, Schlossberg, whose office is located near the coffee shop in question. The video, which you can watch here as well as any other number of places across the Internet, is about what you’d expect and doesn’t really require any further comment beyond what obviously comes to mind when viewing it. Indeed, at this point, the story isn’t so much what Schlossberg said to these two women, which is apparently consistent with other behavior that has also been caught on video, as it is what happened as the story became viral.

As Molly Roberts notes at The Washington Post, the swiftness and severeness with which the Internet outrage mob descended on Schlossberg was quite sudden:

It’s hard not to shudder with schadenfreude at seeing someone so obviously despicable answer for what he has done. The Yelp listing for Schlossberg’s law firm was flooded with negative reviews (and labeled a “Spanish restaurant”), and now local officials have filed a complaint with the state court disciplinary system. But this man and his mass judging are also part of a trend, and it’s worth asking where that trend is taking us — as well as how we got here in the first place.

Internet vigilantism has been around for a while, whether it’s hacktivism from groups like Anonymous or doxxing by netizens who reveal private information about some enemy or another they’ve made online. But after last summer’s violence in Charlottesville, tactics migrated from the corners of the Web to its center. Accounts such as @YesYoureRacist posted photos of white supremacist demonstrators on Twitter and asked followers for help identifying, and they got results.

Just not always the ones they were looking for. The post-Charlottesville outings provoked more controversy than this week’s takedown because they affected not only the men targeted (at least one was fired, and one was disowned by his family) but for innocent parties, too. An egregious example was a professor who runs a wound-healing research laboratory who had nothing at all to do with neo-Nazis. He was more than 1,000 miles away when the protests took place, but his beard and build were enough to mislead online observers. The debacle harked back to crowdsourced attempts to catch the Boston Marathon bombers immediately after the attack that cast multiple darker-skinned Americans as mass killers based on little more than conjecture.

(…)

Of course, catching a reprehensible viral racist is different from making a totally innocent individual’s private life public simply because of who he or she is — LGBT, or Muslim, or, in the case of Gamergate, a woman. There’s also a difference between linking to someone’s website and scrounging up sensitive information such as a credit card number. And between naming someone so you can sic harassers on her and exposing someone so that elected representatives can kick off official processes, the kind that Schlossberg now faces.

But although the lines may seem clear in a case like that of the viral racist, they blur awfully easily. And if the new norm is to track down those who break our moral codes whenever possible, we won’t always manage it as cleanly as those who wrote up this week’s profile in infamy. (Shaun King of the Intercept, a writer as well as an activist, led the charge.)

Networks such as Twitter give people a power they’ve never had before at a time when those they’ve been told to rely on seem so often to fall short. For every racist in a restaurant whom the online masses excoriate, many more whistle through their days unperturbed. No one has managed to change that yet, so now some everyday folks have taken it into their own hands. Still, it’s important to remember the risks. Those who spearhead these missions ought to take care that the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t turn into mob rule.

This isn’t the first example of social media being used to “take down” someone who says or does something offensive, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

Back in 2013, a woman named Justine Sacco, who worked as a Public Relations executive for an Internet firm, posted a quick note on Twitter that said “Going to Africa. Hoping I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!.” The tweet in question was posted as Sacco was boarding her plane for South Africa at Heathrow Airport and, before she had even landed, the tweet had literally gone around the world and led her employer to fire her before she even got off the plane.

Another woman named Lindsey Stone caused a similar controversy back in 2012 when she posted a photograph of her making an obscene gesture near the site of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary. Stone worked at a non-profit back in her hometown and lost her job because of the incident. Speaking about the incident three years later, Stone revealed that she was still dealing with the consequences of that incident.

One final example of the power of viral responses to offensive action can be found in the case of Breanna Mitchell, an American teenager. Mitchell found herself on the receiving end of a massive social media attack when she posted a selfie she took while standing outside the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mitchell later claimed that she had learned about World War II from her father, who had apparently died several months earlier, and that she was smiling because she had made a trip they had talked about taking many times. While she didn’t lose a job like Sacco or Stone, Mitchell was the target of a rather fierce tweetstorm that lasted for several days at least and, at least for a time, caused her to lock her Twitter account. Judging from the cover photo on her Twitter page, though, it doesn’t appear as though she’s learned much of a lesson about how to conduct oneself online. (By way of disclosure, I should confess that I was among those who jumped on Mitchell on Twitter when the photograph went viral. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t kind.)

In all of these cases, of course, it goes without saying that what the people on the receiving end of the social media-driven onslaught did was offensive and stupid. The same is true of what Schlossberg did in the video that went viral this week, as well as the video of a previous incident where he went off on a similar racist rant. As such, it’s hard to feel sorry for any of them, and one can certainly understand why, in the case of Sacco and Stone, their employer terminated them given the fact that both of them were in Public Relations positions and had demonstrated, to say the least, a complete lack of understanding of how their actions would be interpreted by the public and how that might reflect on their employer. Additionally, as I have said repeatedly in other contexts in the past, while people have the freedom to speak they do not have the right to be free from the consequences of that speech.

Notwithstanding that, though, Roberts does raise some interesting questions that I don’t think we’ve really come to terms with in this new age of the Internet and social media. People did and said stupid things in the past and, outside of their immediate communities perhaps, didn’t suffer nearly the kind of blowback that can come from just one post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any of the other social media sites. In today’s day and age, one bad tweet, or as Schlossberg found out, one racist rant in a coffee shop, can go around the world in an instant and the reaction can be swift and severe. I’m not defending what Schlossberg did, of course, nor am I defending Sacco, Stone, or Mitchell. They all acted inappropriately and it’s hard to feel sorry for them. That being said, I think Roberts raises some questions that we ought to be asking ourselves.

For better or worse, social media is likely to remain a part of our culture and technology for the foreseeable future. Companies and services like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram likely won’t be the same in ten (or fewer) years as they are today, but the basic premise will still be the same, and the extent to which people are sharing even the most mundane aspects of their life is only likely to increase, especially as the current generation of kids and teenagers, for whom these services and others such as Snapchat are second nature, becomes older. Given that, perhaps we need to rethink the extent to which we hold people responsible for something stupid they posted on Twitter at 1:00 am five years ago, or those pictures from Spring Break in Mexico that went up in Instagram. Sometimes, people do things that deserve to be called out, but where does the line begin and end, and what constitutes a reasonable punishment? Should we really be demanding that someone be fired over one stupid Tweet, for example, or threatening boycotts of a business that doesn’t immediately terminate someone who posted something stupid and offensive on Facebook? In Schlossberg’s case, he’s been banned from the building where he’s renting office space, chased through the streets of New York City by reporters, and apparently now being investigated by the New York State Bar over a video that lasted less than a minute. Is that fair, or is it an overreaction? I’m not sure I know the answer, but I am sure that we ought to at least have a conversation about this, and about how we’re going to treat each other in the wild world of the Internet in the future.

FILED UNDER: Media, Popular Culture, Race and Politics, Society, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    In Schlossberg’s case, he’s been banned from the building where he’s renting office space, chased through the streets of New York City by reporters, and apparently now being investigated by the New York State Bar over a video that lasted less than a minute. Is that fair, or is it an overreaction?

    It must be so tough to be trying to just do your job when someone with a political axe to grind starts getting all up in your face and harassing you and threatening to call the government and get them to completely destroy your life. /sarc




    25



    0
  2. I don’t really feel sorry for Schlossberg, he’s obviously a racist ass.

    I do think the broader question of how far this Internet vigilantism should go is one worth considering, though.




    21



    1
  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Putting a picture on a web site isn’t like sticking it on your refrigerator door. It’s like posting it in the town square. And now everybody is carrying a video camera. Act accordingly.




    17



    1
  4. Mark Ivey says:

    Trump can help him out, his legal team is gonna need fresh blood soon..




    6



    0
  5. Modulo Myself says:

    Another video went around of him running into somebody intentionally, threatening to call the police, and then calling this person an ugly f–ing foreigner. You don’t get to go around ranting in public or threatening to call ICE, and if there’s two videos of you doing, it means you do that a lot. So f— this guy–the best part is that somebody a mariachi band to play outside his apartment building.




    20



    0
  6. EddieInCA says:

    1. Don’t be an azzhole.

    2. If you do #1, nothing happens to you.

    3 If instead of not being an azzhole, you choose to instead be a racist, xenophobic, arrogant douchebag – GIVEN WHAT WE ALL KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA – you deserve every bit of what happens to you.

    4. Mr. Schlossberg brought this 100% on himself. I wonder if he would have reacted the same way if the people were speaking Yiddish or Arabic or Indian. Can’t tell you how many restaurants (Arabic, Lebanese, Chinese, Jewish, Japanese, Indian) I’ve been to in NYC where the staff was speaking their native languages to each other rather than English.




    18



    2
  7. CSK says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I wonder if he ever ventured down to Chinatown or Little Italy?




    6



    0
  8. MarkedMan says:

    This is one of those things that is not a left or right thing but rather completely tangential to politics. It is a modern version of the mob mentality.

    I have often told my kids that my generation may have been the freest in the history of the world. You could almost literally start with a clean state just by moving a few states over. But they live in the biggest small town that ever existed. Whatever you did in High School will follow you around for the rest of your life. If someone wants to stalk you or get in your face, it only takes moments to find out where you live, what your phone number is, where you work.




    5



    0
  9. michael reynolds says:

    It is a problem but in the end the technology will decide the outcome and I suspect – as I’ve whined before – that privacy no longer exists as we have come to think of it. But this is not unprecedented, on the contrary it’s the more usual condition of human beings. When we lived in small bands and later in villages, everything we did was known to everyone in contact with us. Then we started building houses and living in cities and we were able to become anonymous, to disappear in effect, to hide.

    Those times are over. It’s back to the village. Secrecy and hypocrisy are increasingly difficult to maintain. This is why I knew I had to wrap up my ‘legal problems’ in the 90’s, and why since then I have adopted a policy of honesty bordering on TMI. I believe transparency, honesty and a willingness to admit past errors is the best strategy. There are worrying aspects of Red Guardism to some of what we see, and we need to pump the brakes on that kind of fanaticism, but the name-and-shame tactic has limited effect against people willing to be honest.

    Just as unsettling, I think, is what we’ve done to time. Past and present are no longer as discrete as they once were, the past can be dragged into the present so long as there is a witness or a writing or something on video – ask Cosby or Weinstein or Trump. And both past and present will persist much longer into the future than was once the case.

    The thing we need to ask ourselves is about the matrix of morality and time. For example, is it the same immorality to own slaves in Roman times as in Colonial times as in 1860 as in modern Saudi Arabia? Does the nature or severity of the offense change with time? How can a slave-owner in BC Rome who has never even heard a suggestion that slavery is a moral evil, be the moral equivalent of a 19th century American who has had opportunity to hear all sorts of criticism about slavery? Is a racist or misogynist remark the same whether it was said in 1960, 1980, 2000 or 2018?

    Beware of quicksand. Religious folk tend to insist that right and wrong are fixed points, not modified by time or circumstance. Secular folks tend to believe that morality evolves. Both are now blithely ignoring their previous positions.




    16



    0
  10. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I do think the broader question of how far this Internet vigilantism should go is one worth considering, though.

    Without wishing to come across as an ass, Doug, I seem to recall you having little patience with the recent European Right to be Forgotten. Somehow, you (rather snidely) felt that whatever Google’s decides to serve up based on algorithms falls under free speech, but here actual speech makes you uneasy.

    I don’t really mean to point the finger, and I don’t have ready answers. But questions such as Internet vigilantism will require us all to rethink principles that no longer quite fit today’s world.




    10



    3
  11. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    I’m generally opposed to these social media lynchings. But in this case it was entirely justified.




    1



    0
  12. lynn says:

    I really liked the mariachis that went to his apartment building to serenade him.




    3



    1
  13. teve tory says:

    TPM:

    Lest this dramatic public shaming inspire a hint of pity for Schlossberg, internet sleuths quickly uncovered that his Tuesday lunch fury was not a one-time incident. Being racist in public is something of a hobby for Schlossberg. He called one Massachusetts-born man who bumped into him “an ugly fucking foreigner.”

    “I’m going to call the police. You don’t run into me. I’m a citizen here, you’re not,” he yelled at 34-year-old tech consultant Willie Morris, according to CNN.

    Too much Alex Jones or Richard Spencer or something in his diet.




    8



    0
  14. James Pearce says:

    In all of these cases, of course, it goes without saying that what the people on the receiving end of the social media-driven onslaught did was offensive and stupid.

    I consider myself lucky that I was born in the 70s, raised in the 80s, and came of age in the 90s so that I can handle “offensive and stupid.” Like, I even believe that “offensive and stupid” can be very, very funny.

    This dude….hilarious. Everyone should be laughing at him.

    @Dave Schuler:

    And now everybody is carrying a video camera. Act accordingly.

    Nah.

    Despite the fact that everyone has a video camera, we are still a guilt-based society, not a shame-based one. And I retain enough skepticism about the surveillance state to be completely and utterly skeptical about an unregulated and amoral surveillance mob.




    1



    1
  15. Gustopher says:

    Meh.

    When I look at the injustices of life, this doesn’t rank high enough for me to be deeply worried. If a white man gets harassed for going on a racist rant, does it compare to a black man who gets shot by the police for nothing?

    I am a serial fuckup in life, but I’m also an upper middle class white man. I have squandered more opportunities than most people get, and I’m doing fine. That’s an injustice far, far greater than this (not that I am doing fine, but that others don’t get as many opportunities).

    Also, Mariachi band, tacos and jarritos — that’s one fun, classy bit of harassment. I wish people would harass me that way. Mmmm.




    6



    0
  16. @Kit:

    And I stand by my position on the non-existent “right to be forgotten.” I don’t see any connection between that issue and the question of whether or not those of us who use the Internet and social media should be less willing to jump down someone’s throat for one stupid tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram photo.




    0



    6
  17. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It is a problem but in the end the technology will decide the outcome and I suspect – as I’ve whined before – that privacy no longer exists as we have come to think of it.

    Beware of quicksand. Religious folk tend to insist that right and wrong are fixed points, not modified by time or circumstance. Secular folks tend to believe that morality evolves. Both are now blithely ignoring their previous positions.

    Nailed it.




    4



    0
  18. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And I stand by my position on the non-existent “right to be forgotten.”

    And there I was thinking that rights were brought forth by political proclamation. More fool I. Care to enlighten me as to how you assay supposed rights and determine which exist and which do not? Natural law? God’s law? I’ve got lots of questions.

    I don’t see any connection between that issue and the question of whether or not those of us who use the Internet and social media should be less willing to jump down someone’s throat for one stupid tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram photo.

    No connection? I recall your trump card being freedom of speech. Why is that not good enough for both issues? Why isn’t “the broader question of how far this Internet vigilantism should go” simply: just as far as people wish to exercise their freedom of speech? After all, it’s a nice, simple solution tailored to nice simple minds.




    5



    0
  19. Todd says:

    I agree with Doug when it comes to the topic of “internet mob justice”. It’s obviously harder to take such a s stance in cases where it appears that the person being targeted likely “deserved it”. But it also shouldn’t be hard to imagine that any of us could end up caught up in in the mob if the wrong careless moment happens to be broadcast to the wrong people … or if the wrong innocent moment is misconstrued by the the wrong people.

    Just the other day, in one of our local Facebook groups a lady came to the group and said that she’d lost her dog, found someone who had advertised pictures of it, but when she contacted the lady (who she named and linked) she was told the dog was already gone (the lady had posted several hours earlier that the dog was “home”). Well, the group members went into action, promptly accusing the woman who posted the pictures of “stealing” the dog. They proceeded to bombard any public posts on her page with nasty messages about how horrible she was, sent her unending private messages, and of course found out where she worked and proceeded to call the manager of the store non-stop. The dog was eventually reunited with its owner, but many in the group still talked about keeping up the pressure on “the thief’s” boss, in hopes of getting her fired. To any rational person, this was clearly just a miscommunication of some sort. But once the mob mentality kicks in, there’s no convincing those who are most passionate about the cause. They want their pound of flesh and they want it now.

    I’m not a fan of “Internet justice”. Too much misinformation/miscommunication out there.




    8



    0
  20. Steve V says:

    This guy owns his own law firm. This is apparently how he wants to present himself. Since it seem there’s a market for just about everything these days I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t have any effect on his business. He’s probably gotten a whole new clientele out of this episode.




    0



    0
  21. LS says:

    @Modulo Myself: so hey, let’s get him!!!!

    He hasn’t killed anybody…that we know of, or drowned puppies…he is a loose cannon racist punk with I imagine mental illness of some sort…but the question is what does it do to us when we embrace a mob vigilante outlook and behavior?

    It scares me…it is a slippery slope.




    0



    1
  22. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m going to go against the grain here and, without commenting on this specific case, come out against this kind of mob “justice”. Michael made the point that we’re back to the village. But that’s precisely the problem. In a village, where you know everyone, you are more understanding when they say or do stupid stuff. If your mother said something racist, you wouldn’t scream at her that she’s evil. You wouldn’t post it on social media trying to shame her. You wouldn’t call her boss trying to get her fired. You’d either ignore it or talk to her about it.

    But our “village” now has millions of people in it. And we can’t process things the same way. Amy Alkon talks about this a lot: that we have stone age brains working in a modern world. And so anyone outside of our social circle of maybe a hundred people is seen as a stranger, viewed with suspicion. And of course, if they do something that violates one of our taboos, we turned on them like a mob, pelting them with metaphorical stones and driving them from our village. The problem is we now have access to the random thoughts and pictures of millions of strangers; and millions of strangers have access to ours. We have a duty to not to descend to our worst primeval instincts.

    All right: one specific case. What exactly did Justine Sacco do to deserve to lose her job, be hounded like she was a child molester and traumatized like that? She made a dumb joke. That’s it. And people were *gleeful* that her life was wrecked. Because she said something dumb to 170 twitter followers. As if 140 characters was the sum total of her life. Was the world made a better place because of it? Did trying to catch a picture of her the moment she realized her life was turned upside down end racism? Or even reduce it in the slightest? We’ve gone from eye-for-an-eye to breaking legs for an eye. And we pat ourselves on the back thinking we’ve done something good.

    Mobs are *bad*. We always know mobs are bad. And I’m backing off participating in them anymore.




    11



    0
  23. Davebo says:

    @Hal_10000:

    What exactly did Justine Sacco do to deserve to lose her job

    She certainly didn’t deserve to be hounded but I’d have fired her. I don’t want to employ a PR exec who is that horrifically bad at public relations.

    If she’d been a baker or mechanic? Meh.




    2



    1
  24. grumpy realist says:

    One does, however, have to wonder about the brainpower of someone who pulls a snit fit about people speaking “furrin lanwiges” in NYC, of all places.

    (I would have screamed at him in quite a few languages Including Japanese. I remember a time when a Japanese friend of mine and I were so sick and tired of the language assumptions as to what each of us spoke that we went around pretending she was a nisei from Hawaii and I would do the translating for her. Freaked out quite a few people. Good times.)




    4



    0
  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Yeah, I could do with a few bottles of Jarritos myself. Knowing my luck, though, I’d probably just end up facing a gang wanting to put a little hurt on a Gringo.




    0



    0
  26. Kit says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Like all metaphors, this one of a village highlights certain aspects and hides others. There is no moving out of this village, for example. In particular, I’m struck by the irreality and the disproportion. The vast majority of these vigilantes used Google, social media and the telephone. One could easily create a game giving the same exact experience. Those giving in the actual neighborhood lived (and will continue to live) a different reality.

    As for the disproportion, the internet gunslingers saunter into town and rain down an ungodly amount of heat on whomever they feel is in need of frontier justice. One size fits all. Once the accused finally starts to dig himself out of the rubble of his past life, he finds that he has been permanently branded on the forehead with a Scarlet A (for A-hole). That poor sap has moved from the village to the zoo.

    As usual, the internet has made good on its promise of changing the world, but in ways we never expected. Where’s it all headed? Dunno, but I suspect that Trump is showing the way, at least in part: a trashing of norms and a further coarsening of society.




    3



    1
  27. Stella says:

    @James Pearce: mobs can hide behind computer screens.




    0



    0
  28. Ls says:

    @James Pearce: mobs can hide behind computer screens.




    0



    0
  29. Lounsbury says:

    @EddieInCA:
    It seems flat out bizarre to engage in such a rant in NYC.
    Never mind the enormous number of Puerto Ricans there making any assumption of Spanish speakers being non-US citizens rather dubious, it’s bloody NYC…

    When I saw this headline I thought it might be a NY suburb, not the city itself.

    Hard to feel sympathy for that person, that’s stunningly bad judgment.

    On the other hand the better example of the dangers of mob justice is indeed Justine Sacco who while an idiot for tweeting, wasn’t by appearances a horrid person

    All right: one specific case. What exactly did Justine Sacco do to deserve to lose her job, be hounded like she was a child molester and traumatized like that? She made a dumb joke. That’s it. And people were *gleeful* that her life was wrecked. Because she said something dumb to 170 twitter followers. As if 140 characters was the sum total of her life. Was the world made a better place because of it? Did trying to catch a picture of her the moment she realized her life was turned upside down end racism? Or even reduce it in the slightest? We’ve gone from eye-for-an-eye to breaking legs for an eye. And we pat ourselves on the back thinking we’ve done something good.

    As a PR exec specifically she probably had to lose her job as…. PR exec mate. Core function, don’t say idiotic things on the record, even as a joke. She bounced back…
    But the mob thing for sans-context is dangerous (however the lawyer’s unhinged completely clearly racist rant pretty much was it’s own context)




    0



    0
  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Hal_10000:

    All right: one specific case. What exactly did Justine Sacco do to deserve to lose her job, be hounded like she was a child molester and traumatized like that? She made a dumb joke.

    She HAD to lose her job, since she was in PR. Did she deserve the rest? Probably not.

    But…. big BUT….. Like the NYC Lawyer, she brought this on herself. If she doesn’t press “send” on that tweet, she’s still anonymous. But she wanted to joke about AIDS to her 170 Twitter followers? If her life was “ruined”, it’s because SHE proactively put something out there that was offensive to way too many people.

    As a sidenote, even though I work in entertainment, I don’t engage in social media. I’m not on Facebook. I’m not on Instragram, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. I have a Twitter account with a few hundred followers (or less, I haven’t checked in many many months.). I say enough stupid stuff on this blog to last a lifetime. Why would I want to amplify my stupidity to the world in moments of anger, depression, ecstasy, and/or hatred?

    If you don’t want to get fired, don’t stay stupid stuff online.




    7



    0
  31. @Hal_10000:

    I think a better example of Internet mob justice gone wrong could be the teenager who took the selfie at Auschwitz. As I said in the post, I was one of the people who criticized her at the time. I don’t remember exactly what I said and my Twitter feed, which goes back ten years at this point, is far too long for me to try to find it, but I think it was just pointing out the stupidity and impropriety of the act. Many people were far less charitable in their comments than I was, though, and engaged in relentless personal attacks on the girl that resulted in her locking down her Twitter account within days after the incident.

    In retrospect, it strikes me that the reaction to what she did was an overreaction especially to the extent that it devolved into personal attacks against her. The better option, perhaps, would have been to use it as a teaching moment to explain to her why so many people would have found the idea of a smiling selfie more appropriate for a trip to Disney World at a place like Auschwitz to be offensive.




    2



    0
  32. James Pearce says:

    @EddieInCA:

    If you don’t want to get fired, don’t stay stupid stuff online.

    But who decides what’s the “stupid stuff” and what’s acceptable? The mob?

    You know what this reminds me of? The Trump-Bezos feud. Trump doesn’t like what is printed in Bezos’s paper, so he’s trying to mess with Amazon, a total abuse of power and kind of a dick move. But it’s very similar (at least in my mind) to the mob not liking what this Schlossberg character had to say and then seeking, in their own way, to ruin him personally.

    The dynamics are different, but the principle is the same: “What you are saying justifies your destruction.”

    This Schlossberg incident may not be a 1st Amendment issue, but it is a total inversion of the free speech ideal, which says that unpopular speech must be tolerated.




    0



    5
  33. Hal_10000 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    She HAD to lose her job, since she was in PR. Did she deserve the rest? Probably not.

    Well, that’s a bit of circular logic: she had to be fired because of the furor that was created for her to be fired. But I wasn’t necessarily talking about the employer here, but the furor that was created that forced their hand. People were *gleeful* about it, wondering whether he’d landed yet and hoping to catch the look on her face when she realized what had happened. To me, that crosses the line from outrage into vindictiveness. It’s the same strain of cruelty you’d see in a cop beating down a suspect. It’s not about reasonableness at that point; it’s about enjoying her suffering.

    I think a better example of Internet mob justice gone wrong could be the teenager who took the selfie at Auschwitz.

    Yep. I’ve been to concentration camps and they are grim places. But … I went when I was in my 20’s. I’d hate to think about whether I would have said or done something dumb when I was her age.




    0



    0
  34. EddieInCA says:

    @James Pearce:

    Wow… Talk about a non-sequitor.

    You’re comparing a case where a NYC Lawyer uses racist language publicly to berate workers just doing their jobs and the public reacting negatively to a situation where the President of the United States is using the power of his office to destroy a private business.

    There is no way these two issues have anything in common. The principle if NOT the same.

    The NYC lawyer used his 1st Amendement rights to say what he said. The responding citizens are using their 1st Amendment rights to complain. Seems to me the system is working as intended. His landlord, not the Government, evicted him. His friends, not the government, are abandoning him. His clients, not the government, are firing him as their lawyer. So there is zero 1st Amendment violations.

    Face remains that if Schlossberg was a racist, xenophobic jerk three weeks ago. But he was anonymous. That he chose – on his own – to show the world he was a racist, xenophoic jerk (in NYC of all places) in public, is the reason we know his name.

    Also, the level if idiocy to do something like this in NYC adds another layer to the stupidity of this lawyer. You can walk blocks through Chinatown without hearing a word of English other than “Come in. Special price for you.” In parts of Queens, you’ll hear more Creole than English. In the Bronx, you might not hear English all day in certain neighborhoods. That’s one of the things that makes NYC NYC.




    9



    0
  35. EddieInCA says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I’ll take your point.

    But let me ask a broader question: What is it about our current environment and Social Media that makes so many people need to impress strangers with a quip or “joke” on Twitter or Facebook? I read the Justine Sacco story in the NY Times a few years ago. She seems like a nice woman. But I don’t think the profile makes her look any better many years later. It still remains a fact that without that tweet – to 170 people who followed her at the time – there is zero issue. You (and she) seem to gloss over that rather large point. This was a self-inflicted wound; an own goal. In the NY Times piece on Sacco, he guy, Biddle, who make the tweet go viral, comes across as truly despicable. He did “revel” in it. And he got his comeuppance a few months later.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html

    I saw how quickly mobs developed back in the day of debating politics on AOL Politics Chatrooms. It’s the main reason I stay off social media. No regrets. And I won’t get fired for posting something stupid.




    4



    0
  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal_10000: Maybe what we need to come up with is an Internet-equivalent of the legal “you’re too young to know exactly how stupid that contract was that you signed, so we’re not enforcing it.”

    There’s a lot of really, really stupid stuff teenagers do. And post on line. It would probably be A Good Thing if said pictures/text weren’t following them around for the rest of their lives ready to be pulled up when prospective employers do a social media search. (Yes, I know that Silicon Valley types talk hopefully of a Time To Come where companies will just pass over such behaviour as teenage hijinks that everyone does, but you know what is going to happen: when it comes to a choice between one candidate with embarrassing teenage hijinks in his/her background and another candidate without such, said employer will go for the non-embarrassing one.)

    After you reach the age of adulthood? Mmm, well, stuff you sign or publish does put your (legal) ass on the line, so I’m not quite as forgiving. If you really need to have pictures/text of stupid stuff, keep it off-line.

    On the OTHER side of things…I’m wondering if the laws of libel need to be updated. Sure as eggs are eggs, at some point some internet mob is going to go after someone who is totally unrelated/innocent of the foul behaviour that they’ve been accused of–and said individual will lose job/house/reputation/whatever. At the moment nobody tries to go after the internet baying mob because it’s too difficult and tedious to track down the individual members of the mob and to link them to the behaviour. But unless we have a way of pushing back on this sort of internet mob activity we’re just going to get more and more of it.

    (And then there’s internet trolls, who don’t even care who they hurt, because to them it’s all “lulz and games”. I’d love to see a few of the nastier ones getting slapped with an IIED–or worse!–charge and have to try to explain to a non-internet-friendly judge how threats of rape and murder are just “having fun”.)




    1



    0
  37. James Pearce says:

    @EddieInCA:

    The NYC lawyer used his 1st Amendement rights to say what he said. The responding citizens are using their 1st Amendment rights to complain. Seems to me the system is working as intended.

    When we’re all tip-toeing around on egg-shells, biting our lips because saying the “wrong thing” will ruin your life, it’s going to be hard to argue “the system is working as intended.” The system will be working as intended when Schlossberg goes off on a rant and nobody cares.

    Face remains that if Schlossberg was a racist, xenophobic jerk three weeks ago. But he was anonymous.

    He wasn’t “anonymous.” He was just another churlish dude living in the world, ranting at immigrants like young lefties rant at college professors. Now he’s a celebrity, followed by paparazzi (I mean, “newspeople”), hated by some, hailed by others.

    That’s a good thing?




    0



    3
  38. EddieInCA says:

    @James Pearce:

    When we’re all tip-toeing around on egg-shells, biting our lips because saying the “wrong thing” will ruin your life, it’s going to be hard to argue “the system is working as intended.” The system will be working as intended when Schlossberg goes off on a rant and nobody cares.

    I don’t tip-toe on egg-shells, and I don’t bite my lips. I’m not worried about “saying the wrong thing”. I treat people with respect. As a person of color, I have a different perspective of language, race and culture than many. I appreciate and enjoy those differences. I, along with most others, would never berate workers like Schlossberg did.

    So.. No. I’ll go back to my original point. Don’t be an asshole – online or in public – and you won’t have to worry about your life ruined by a mob. It’s not that hard.

    Schlossberg deserves everything coming his way.




    7



    0
  39. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “The system will be working as intended when Schlossberg goes off on a rant and nobody cares.”

    Umm, why? Why is it a good thing if nobody cares when someone comes up and screams racist nonsense at total strangers, just because they were conversing to each other in another language?




    6



    0
  40. Gustopher says:

    Here’s another, less fun, example, which has nothing to do with Mariachi bands:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/people-think-shes-a-parkland-crisis-actor-its-terrifying/2018/05/03/28d85f4e-47e8-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html?utm_term=.b6c5aee5f730

    Woman had the same name as one of the Parkland Kids, and the far right decided that she is a crisis actor and people begin stalking her. It’s like a tiny PizzaGate.

    How do you stop it? It’s the same basic problem as the racist lawyer, except this woman had done nothing, and the people are scary as fvck rather than offering tacos.

    Doug wants human behavior to somehow change. But you can’t change people as a whole, you can only redirect their behavior. (People as a whole are like cats, in that respect.)

    On a related note, there were reports recently in a number of media sources that Facebook’s Friend-Suggestion algorithms were connecting terrorists… (I suspect that it is less likely to be finding new terrorist friends for people, than finding connections that are already there).




    3



    0
  41. Stormy Dragon says:

    @EddieInCA:

    The NYC lawyer used his 1st Amendement rights to say what he said. The responding citizens are using their 1st Amendment rights to complain. Seems to me the system is working as intended. His landlord, not the Government, evicted him. His friends, not the government, are abandoning him. His clients, not the government, are firing him as their lawyer. So there is zero 1st Amendment violations.

    On the other hand, this is essentially the libertarian argument for repealing public accommodation laws, which liberals generally oppose on the grounds that coordination among private actors can combine to create coercion that is on the same level as Government action.




    0



    0
  42. Blue Galangal says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Schlossberg was a racist, xenophobic jerk three weeks ago. But he was anonymous. That he chose – on his own – to show the world he was a racist, xenophoic jerk (in NYC of all places) in public, is the reason we know his name.

    Add to this that he was stupid enough to 1) engage in this behavior 2) repeatedly 3) while knowing he was being filmed. If you keep yelling to the internet bull to look at me, look at me, and wave a red flag in front of it, eventually it’s going to turn its head and notice. I disagree this was a mob. A mob would have been what he was part of when he was attacking the Haredi counter protestors, when he was screaming that they weren’t ‘real Jews.’ He looked like he was trying to incite violence there.

    Those on Twitter and other social media who identified him, and connected the dots, did the public a favor by showing that his behavior was part of a pattern as well as identifying him. Doug and others are correct to note that this could not have happened without assiduous investigative reporting back in the day, and it’s reporting that might or might not have been undertaken.

    But I take issue with the assertion that this was a mob. This is the notion currently being pushed by Julia Ioffe, and it’s concern trolling she’s taken to a high art. “I don’t really sympathise with him, or Richard Spencer, but it’s so sad that ‘the mob’ has attacked and outed this poor man as a racist.”

    He outed himself as a racist. He was stupid enough to do it while knowing he was being filmed, and to go on doing it. Identifying a racist offender with a repeat pattern of racist behavior who is threatening people (women) in their place of employment is not an angry mob. Crowdfunding a mariachi band to perform outside his erstwhile office is not an angry mob. His behavior had predictable consequences, and – given the fact that there is no legal recourse for those women he attacked – it was an appropriate response. (See also: Richard Spencer. Pointing, mocking, and laughing at him in public, especially on the internet, has resulted in a peeling away of those who do not want to be associated with him – or outed as his supporters – even while he used the courts – that is, the justice system – to tie up universities in protracted and expensive legal battles with little to no effect on his public support except to provide him with more victimhood soundbites.)

    We may not have a shame-based system of justice, but in reality we have no system of justice at all. Women, particularly women of color, have to live in fear that the way they walk, they way they dress, or even the way they talk – while at work, waiting on customers – will make them a target for an angry individual who feels entitled to have the world be a certain way.

    P.S. I trust and hope he doesn’t have a gun, because he seems to be a prime case of an angry, entitled individual who clearly has problems with both women and minorities who might decide to start shooting up a deli because people have the temerity to conduct business in Spanish with Spanish-speaking customers.




    3



    0
  43. michael reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:
    Actually I know a guy – you’d probably recognize the name – who is having his life and career destroyed because of some mildly off-color jokes. Not racist jokes, not misogynist jokes, just awkward, vaguely sexual jokes. If you don’t think people are walking on eggshells, try kidlit. The entire atmosphere has become stifling and good writers are bailing because they cannot stand to write under these conditions. I’m one of them.

    Any time accusation becomes presumptive guilt innocent people will have their life and work destroyed. It is appalling to me to watch. And in the case of this person no one – not even his wife – can say anything public in support because any support offered to an accused is itself proof of guilt. It’s East Germany in kidlit right now, and I am not exaggerating.




    1



    0
  44. Monala says:

    @michael reynolds: Do you at least think that Schlossberg, who has verbally harassed and threatened people for their race or ethnicity on more than one occasion, is not in the same category as someone who has made a few off-color jokes?




    1



    0
  45. michael reynolds says:

    @Monala:
    Absolutely. But mobs don’t differentiate, mobs are just mobs, they’ll lynch the murderous cattle rustler and an innocent bystander with equal ease.




    1



    0
  46. EddieinCA says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Thanks for the response, Michael. I have no doubt that some people are walking on eggshells. I have no doubt that some people are being unfairly targeted due to the “mob”. I was unable to hire an Assistant Director who is very good because of things he was overheard saying – like your friend – mildly off-color jokes. Not racist, not misogynistic, but definitely sexual. But he said these jokes trying to impress women, and it backfired – spectacularly, unfortunately for him.

    My larger point is that everyone knows the temperature out there now. Is it fair? No. Is it right? No. But it’s the reality. And anyone who chooses to make any “off-color joke” – mild or otherwise – within the earshot of anyone they don’t know won’t be offended, is running the risk of “the mob”.

    Like you, I live in the world as it is, not how I wish it to be. I understand the danger of the random tweet, the seemingly innocuous Facebook post, the stupid instagram post. It’s why I limit spewing my ridiculous opinions to blogs and my wife. 🙂

    Peace.




    0



    0
  47. michael reynolds says:

    @EddieinCA:
    It does rather go to Pearce’s point that we are walking on eggshells. And this stifling atmosphere is a creation of the Left, not the Right, no one in kidlit or any other creative business gives a single sh-t what ‘conservatives’ have to say, we’ve long been immunized against them.

    There are people like Weinstein who are absolute pigs, or like Cosby, a rapist. But there are also people like my friend who did nothing wrong but are being destroyed because of ‘offenses’ committed before the ‘laws’ were passed. I think 80% of people obsessing over ‘PC gone mad’ are racists dying to yell n–er. But there is also a genuine problem, a genuine mob action that is directed against anyone prominent or anyone in the creative world. One cannot have a mob without bad actors using that mob to bad ends, it’s why we have due process. And every bit as appalling as what’s being done to the mob’s victims is the atmosphere of fear caused by those mobs, the clear threats against anyone who so much as utters a word of protest. It is absolutely Orwellian and it is quite real and doing a great deal of damage.




    1



    0
  48. @Kit:

    I am not advocating that anyone should be prevented from speaking, or that anyone should be censored.

    I am saying that people ought to perhaps be more thoughtful in regard to how they speak and most especially to how they react to the latest “Outrage Of The Day” on social media.

    Despite your effort to create one, there is no contradiction between being an advocate for free speech and saying that people ought to be more considerate of how they utilize social media.




    0



    0
  49. Kit says:

    @Doug Mataconis: there is no contradiction between being an advocate for free speech and saying that people ought to be more considerate of how they utilize social media.

    Doug, if your point was just that the world isn’t what it might be, and gosh darn isn’t it a pity that people’s lives get destroyed by internet mobs? Well then, yes, I guess we agree.




    0



    0
  50. @Kit:

    Well it is a bit more complicated than that, but there are definitely legitimate questions about the way some people conduct themselves online.




    0



    0
  51. Kit says:

    We certainly share deep reservations about internet vigilantes. I see them as an eternal type of individual that has been, and always will be, with us. And I fail to imagine any technological or political solution that we as a society would accept. But if there’s no stopping the sh!t show from periodically raining down on new targets, we can make efforts to clean up afterwards. And by that, I’m referring to such solutions as the Right to be Forgotten. Maybe it won’t work, but I’m sympathetic to the idea and hope that it will at least advance the conversation.




    0



    0
  52. Kit,

    And I see the so-called “Right to be forgotten” as a judicially imposed and created “right” that is effectively no different than George Orwell’s “memory hole.”




    0



    0