Scoot: Sexual assault and “the dark side of social media”

July 14, 2017 - 10:42 am

“Once again, we are witnessing the dark side of social media.”  That was the observation made by Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania during a press conference detailing the arrests of three teenagers for physically and sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman in a Facebook Live video.

Chief Papania also said, “I can’t help but be disturbed by the incredible number of shares and views of this crude and despicable event – it speaks loudly about our culture.”

I respect the police chief for addressing “the dark side of social media,” rather than condemn social media in general.  Those who are inspired by the thrill of the technology of sharing a horrific act live are totally responsible for their decision, and the existence of social media is not to blame.

Linking a new technology, or even a new trend in music, as the blame for violent actions is common and seems to support the desperation humanity feels towards explaining the reason for gross violence.  But it is no more fair to blame social media for those who use it for evil than it is to blame automakers for the fatalities that result from reckless use of a vehicle.

Haleigh Hudson, 19, Ezzie Johnson and Kadari Booker, both 17, were arrested and charged with kidnapping and the sexual assault of a 23-year-old female at Hudson’s home.  Johnson was allegedly responsible for the Facebook Live feed.

The live feed of the physical and sexual assault instantly went viral.  Think about that – the live feed of a 23-year-old female being physically and sexually assaulted – and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to envision what they were doing to her – attracted a lot of attention because people were eager to voluntarily watch it.  Those who missed it live may have heard buzz about what happened, and they were quick to find it and view it.

Since the shares and views are the result of the choice of the audience to watch, I think it’s fair to place a great amount of the blame on the audience’s decision.  The reason the three teenagers decided to show this act of violence, and maybe the reason they decided to commit the act, is that they knew it would attract a large audience.

Shouldn’t those who view such videos accept some responsibility?  The question we all have to ask ourselves is if we heard about a video recorded live of a physical and sexual assault, would we be curious enough to watch?  

We all may posses the human instinct of curiosity, but it is the support of violence by the audience that inspires individuals to commit acts of violence to get the attention they so crave.  People have complained about TV shows like “The Jerry Springer Show;” but no one is forced to watch.  The reason that show and other shows like it exist is that people watch.

Do you blame the producers for creating a show that attracts attention, or do you blame the audience that inspires the producers to create the show?

Can we agree that without an audience many horrific visuals on social media would not exist?

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