“Ah, there’s no justice like angry mob justice.” — Principal Skinner, The Simpsons
Most internet angry mobs are unjust. Small crimes and misdemeanors get blown all out of proportion as they get passed around Twitter and Facebook, with each new addition to the mob more angry than the last. Virtual torches and pitchforks are wielded as they come for their largely female victims… but really, did Justine Sacco deserve to have her life ruined over one drunken racist tweet? Did a small-town pizza shop run by rednecks deserve to be shut down over a relatively mild homophobic remark?
So it is a great relief to see that today’s internet angry mob is fully justified in their wrath. They are after a sadist and monster who might not even be punishable by the law, as long as he stays out of Zimbabwe — Walter Palmer, the vile dentist who decided to show how manly he was by paying $55,000 to kill a lion, with a crossbow and rifle, while assisted by locals, after luring it out of a nature preserve. So not only is the online mob correct, but they also may be the only force able to bring any punishment at all to this psychopath.
His clinic’s Facebook pages was taken down after it was flooded with insults. His Yelp page got the same treatment. He is Twitter’s biggest villain. Comment sections make him roughly as popular as ISIS. All the media sites hoist his image as the villain du jour.
His dental practice now faces financial ruin. He will most likely face investigation by the state dental board, with possible sanctions, which would never have happened otherwise. More immediately, his clients will run and not walk to competing practices to get away from this cruel villain — would you trust this man with your health and your life while under laughing gas?
So, let’s hear it for the angry mob for getting it right for once. Unlike Sacco, their target deserves every last bit of what they are dishing. Every #CecilTheLion tweet and every mention on Facebook, on Kik, on Tumblr, and on WordPress helps further ostracize and isolate this atrocious individual. And not only for his just deserts, but also for our safety — the chilling lack of any resemblance of empathy or humanity that led Walter Palmer down this road makes him far more likely than the average citizen to start hunting the most dangerous game of all… if he hasn’t already done so in his past. (Fortunately, he appears too much of a coward to actually become a serial killer, even if such urges frequently cross the space where his soul was supposed to be.)
It’s not often the internet mob is justified in ruining a man’s life, but in this case, there is no upper limit to the invective which this individual deserves. So, go nuts, my lovelies… just don’t break any laws (well, no felonies at least) while making Walter Palmer about as popular as Electronic Arts, Hitler, and anal warts to internet users!
update: here is Kevin Drum with more discussion on the internet mob mentality, and how it usually dispenses disproportionate or wholly inappropriate punishment. This is true, but this also makes the wholly justified angry-mob response to Walter Palmer all the more fascinating. I expect many psychology doctoral dissertations to touch on this news event in the future.