“Internet Justice”, Self-Righteous Hogwash and Mob Mentality

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It’s Christmas week, a time we associate with giving, unconditional love, and lots of discount shopping. But instead of the usual press we get on increased retail numbers from year-end bonus spending, news pieces on whatever charities are benefiting from another corporate responsibility initiative during the holidays or even countless newspaper advertorials on 12 things to buy for Christmas (this is probably still there though in some variation), this regular programming was interrupted for a “public service announcement” and the country was abuzz with talk about “The Exposé” and “Return of the Mummy Queen”. Drama lah!

Once again, the almighty top blogger wields her oh-so-powerful keyboard and like from a scene of a movie, lures an unsuspecting business, in need of a big fat slap of justice and punishment, to commit the most heinous of internet crimes: agreeing to ad masking *gasp* in black and white. Commanding a crazy amount of influence, her power fuels our iconic Singaporean internet lynch mob (online chanting and pitch fork waving included) once again to burn yet another bunch of “guilty people” on the cyber stake. In what must be one of the most uncharacteristically Christmas way possible to celebrate Christmas, she served up her own brand of “internet justice” and well… Looks like some people can get away with cyber assassination so long as they do so with a very convenient, passionate cause.

She was applauded for her ballsy approach in an almost David v.s Goliath way (which boggles my mind because seriously… no words) and fearlessly standing up for what she believed in. Her boldness is admirable, but then begs the question don’t we all have courage when backed by an army of supporters? What do we try to prove when we wave an all-righteous finger at someone and say, “You’re so wrong!” Is it an ego-flattering “I’m right!” or is it a kinder message of “You could have done things differently, and I want you to see that” and then proceeding to show them how for a great cause: a better environment for businesses, bloggers and consumers.

And then on the other end, where is the responsibility in all of this? For the company whose ethics are in question, there is no better time for admission and reform. To take responsibility, not just through words, but through action and to become a leader in the midst of tough times. It is difficult to say I’m sorry. It isn’t half as hard to say, “Of course I made a mistake. It’s only human.” What follows after that sets the tone and so far there is nothing but nicely crafted words conveying a passive aggressive message. Isn’t it much better to focus on building a better tomorrow using the lessons from mistakes made today instead of trading barbs and thinly veiled contempt.

Today I’m writing this not for bloody hits or whatsoever. I’m just a nobody and one of many bloggers. I’m not writing this to say what a horrible person so and so is, or what a big mistake such and such has made because you know what. What’s done is done and there’s no point crying for blood, at this moment, over a puddle of spilt milk (and may I add that has been sitting out for over three days). I’m writing this because I am taking a stand.

I want to offer you a different perspective about what is happening online right now, just as you are talking about it with your friends, sharing another whose side are you on blog post commentating on this incident or even cheering or booing people from the sidelines. Because we can all agree or disagree with anything online but at least there is this point of view: something different from the usual focus on who’s right and wrong or who deserves what they got.

As such I have intentionally left out major details like names and so on because, seriously, if you know then know la. Don’t know I also won’t put a link up.

  • Let’s call a spade a spade guys.
    As much as it was for a ” bigger cause”, a smear campaign by any other name still smells as… never mind. Whatever happened to instigate a year-long undercover investigation complete with entrapment tactics, for whatever reason, with whatever motives, isn’t it clear that this is an outright smear campaign? Why mask it as anything else? (Kinda ironic when we’re talking about this in the same breath as ethics and ad masking.)I am not saying that it wasn’t necessary to bring to light unethical business practices. Yes, by all means, this is a worthy cause and there are so many ways to do so and educate the public, businesses and even competitors. After all, the cause was to create a better and healthier business environment for both bloggers (or influencers) and business engaging any social media services. It was clear to me that the central theme of that lengthy exposé was that unethical masking of ads, inflation of readership, and misrepresentation to clients by social media agencies, in the long term, result in ineffective campaigns and damages advertisers’ trust in using social media in future. While no exposés have been in the spotlight until now (other than some grouses here and there) I’ve seen some pretty good articles online such as this piece, Driving Content, Context and Advocacy by my friend Christel, that speaks of “vanity metrics and ego analytics” and how businesses should look at real business metrics when creating online campaigns instead of playing a who has the biggest number game.Businesses are paying through the nose for ineffective marketing online is because there is way too much focus on the numbers, too little on how great engaging content can be created with the use of the right and most effective influencers to create any value to consumers. Industry experts and professionals write informative pieces targeting businesses on social media and these all work in a way to increase awareness and better the online space we advertise, write and buy in. Someone as influential and intelligent as this famous blogger , enjoying the downfall of a competitor in yet another online war of her own making, would no doubt be the best person to advocate better social media practices and educate clients. But perhaps that is not her aim at all. She plays her own game and she plays it well and to her advantage.Right or wrong is really beside the point. She chose what she did, which is to use her blog to call out on a competing business, give them a public shaming and create a smear campaign to discredit them because what they allegedly did wasn’t what she stood for. Like I said, let’s call a spade… a spade.
  • Because bah humbug to this: “If it sounds and looks right, it must be right. So let’s form a mob and rain hate on someone who is wrong.”
    I don’t know if its more malicious to be wrong and make a mistake or to take the high road and hate on someone excessively, calling them names just because it sounds and looks right that the person is indeed guilty. It is one thing to objectively criticize someone for a mistake they have made and to just overkill and cyber bully a person or business in self-righteousness.I get it…we all want justice served! We are only human. We somehow want heads to roll and the world to burn. But before you go on yet another hateful tirade would you consider reigning it in and asking yourself, are you making a difference with your anger and can you actually create what you want in the world. Is this what you stand for? An angry vengeful world? The behaviour in reaction to this exposé is really what you stand for. Don’t lose the plot.We are all such powerful beings and every word, every move offers us the opportunity to create a difference. How are YOU choosing to make a difference and why are YOU joining the conversation. Yes, this issue between so-and-so or company A and company B, why is it important to you? There is something YOU stand for in this conflict and that is why you joined it. It was RELEVANT to YOU. The way you reacted to it? It also showed more about what you stand for than whatever opinions you typed into Facebook.So I’ll not mince words on this. If you reacted with vengeance, then maybe that’s what you stand for – payback. There’s once again, no right or wrong, but a fantastic opportunity for you to take ownership of that stand instead of packaging it beautifully.
  • Let’s not forget, whoever we crucify, may have a different story.
    I will never forget a precious lesson I learnt this year, when runners who took a shortcut were accused of cheating by a photographer and boy did he have lots of facts to justify his assumptions, screen shots, time stamped photos and all. At that point, I shook my head and said, “Only in Singapore do we go for a race not to run but to get a medal.”Imagine the shame I felt when I heard the other side of the story. That those runners “exposed” as “cheaters” were in fact asked to take the shortcut by organisers as roads needed to be reopened by a certain time. But the damage was already done. They were publicly shamed and identified, only one side of a story shown before facts could be verified. Let me remind you…  we bought it. I bought it. Everyone rushed to criticize, once again, angry mob mentality running through our angsty veins. While I didn’t act out on it, I was so quick to jump to conclusions.When the truth was unveiled, all too soon, accusing fingers pointed at the photographer. Did no one take stock of what had just happened? Did no one reflect on how everyone was responsible… Not just ONE photographer. We all had a part in this crucifixion with our self-righteous hogwash.What if there was a different story? And even when there was one, everyone was so quick to find the next person to blame and burn on the stake. What gives?

Please hear me out. I’m not saying, “Oh you nasty judgmental folk. You’re such horrible people.” I’m not writing this to make you feel bad about yourself or to make myself look like Mother-freaking-Theresa. I’m just saying, maybe it’s time we took a step back and take a good hard look at OURSELVES and the part we play in every conflict. What do we REALLY stand for? What’s the message YOU’RE spreading with your actions and not just your words?

Anyway, I can’t help feel that we love rewarding bad behaviour on the internet.

P.S: At one point, I really thought I was too small and insignificant to have my voice matter. Who gives a shit? Who am I anyway? I’m no one important. Then again, if I am able to provide a different perspective for just my friends and the people who visit this small space, then I have done what I set out to do. Then as I was writing this, I tried as best as I could to write it as objectively and yet as honestly with as little sugar coating as possible. I didn’t want it to sound nice or skimming over what I really felt as well. I was actually really scared of posting this of fear of any sort of backlash because there’s too much anger surrounding this issue, but you know what this had to be said.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are not those of my company or brands featured on this blog or affiliated companies. These are my personal reflections and stand on a recent hot topic issue.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Blogging Under the Influence | The Blogfather - January 7, 2015

    […] And as someone who’s now sitting on both sides of this influencer-influenced see-saw, I find myself pondering over a moral dilemma. This “social influencer” issue has affected the integrity of even those unaffiliated with the parties involved, and a number of us find ourselves addressing the allegations in our own terms, whether to ride on the wave of social commentary, or to maintain our integrity despite what has been said. […]

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