The internet is a weird place. People like to go on witchhunts and bandwagon onto the next person they assume is shitty.
Someone comes forward with their own story about this person and these allegations are immediately taken seriously by anyone involved without any sort of proof. Everyone then says that they always felt like there was something wrong with this person but they couldn’t say anything. Then people bully, shame, attack and harass this person because they’re shitty and they deserve it.
The topic is quite difficult.
On the one hand, I’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt… on the other hand, though, victims of abuse are always the ones getting shamed first and foremost. By coming forward publicly, they end up putting a target on their back, essentially taking a huge hit to their reputation for coming forward with allegations.
What is this post?
This post is…
- an exploration of the topic of allegations and public shaming.
- some thoughts on internet vigilantism.
- some thoughts based on my own experiences with the topic, as a bystander.
- an attempt to answer the question “how do we act when we hear a victim’s story?”.
This post is not…
- an attempt at defaming abusers and victims alike.
- an attempt to discredit testimonies or stories shared by victims or perpetrators alike.
- a rant or vent or whatever.
- a definite answer to the question of “Who do we believe?”
We should (initially) believe victims.
We should hear them out, let them tell their stories, and we should assure them that they are valid.
But that’s sort of where it gets tricky. There are times when the only proof people have is images that can be doctored of a conversation on Discord – something I could fake within minutes. I’d just need a co-conspirator.
Other times, they do have solid proof but context is important and we don’t know what went on in voice calls that were not recorded.
And then there are times when based on a person’s gender people are disregarded completely.
Male victims coming forward are at times ridiculed. Female victims are being believed immediately.
The whole Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial shows that popularity takes a big part in it as well. Depp celebrates his return to the theatres. Heard talks about a step back for women.
The one thing I got from the trial was that both were being really toxic to each other and Depp was trying to defame Heard in the trial just as much as she tried to defame him. Proof that was originally not accepted and then sealed even shows how Depp tried to paint Heard as a “prostitute” for sending him nudes… that he wanted to showcase as proof in court… which didn’t get accepted but if it had been, those would be leaked to the whole world, essentially.
He Said She Said
It gets even trickier when a person makes such allegations and the other person tells their own story.
The first person is believed. The second person takes a hit. Suddenly, it’s a mud fight.
A while ago, someone made allegations against a friend of mine, painting him as a manipulative abuser and some other things.
Naturally, he eventually made a statement of his own, with proof.
In this case, I believe him and I support him because a lot of her story didn’t make sense and a lot of it involved a third party that just didn’t make a statement at all… and that always felt dodgy to me. He has proof but I don’t want to see it. Frankly, I just believe him. More on that later.
Another while ago, a man came forward with his story on his last relationship and how it was toxic and abusive, effectively painting himself as a victim and publicly defaming another person, his ex. She denied the allegations in a short statement.
When I talked to her, I heard lots of things about all of this and frankly, I believe her. Her story makes a lot of sense to me and his story felt like he was being jealous, insecure, toxic, and overly possessive all while rushing into things and putting her onto a pedestal, practically pressuring him.
Frankly, he was sharing intimate details that seriously damage someone’s reputation – and we don’t even know if they’re true. Honestly, I thought he was an asshole for sharing them even if they were not important to his narrative.
So, this would be a case where I believe her over him. Gender really doesn’t have anything to do with it, in my opinion. Anyone can be a victim… but we shouldn’t just assume based on one side that that side is the right side just because there is no other side.
Here we go, the Vigilante arrive!
This is basically where internet vigilantes come in.
I hate the way the internet works. One person makes allegations, without proof on a throwaway account… and now everyone attacks the alleged abuser. That’s horrible.
I think it doesn’t matter who you believe as long as you’re civil about it. Don’t attack and harass people over what you think is right or wrong. That’s common sense, isn’t it?
If you like red as a colour, I don’t throat punch you for it. I mean, yes, purple is obviously a much better colour but again, I shouldn’t shame, harass or throat punch you because of it.
But people on the internet don’t feel that way. They hand out throat punches all the time.
Recently, people came forward, on Reddit of all places, publicly shaming Dave from BoyInABand, a YouTuber I used to watch that really helped me learn about critical thinking, LGBTQIA+ topics and mental health stuff.
In those allegations, they paint him as an abuser, manipulator, and a hebephile. All of this is based on “proof” in the form of second-hand reports by a lot of women that are anonymous. They could be the same person for all I know. We wouldn’t know. There isn’t any proof (as far as I am aware of) that they were in fact together with him because they’re not sharing pictures or don’t have any.
Meanwhile, Dave is staying silent. Not because of this but rather because of them being away from the internet for two years now or something?
That doesn’t stop the internet vigilante though from attacking them, leaving slander under their comments and just being horrible human garbage over allegations that aren’t proven at all.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Again, it’s like throat punching a random stranger on the street because another person you just met told you that they’re a child abuser.
People want blood.
It gets even worse when there are events like bombings and school shootings and people suddenly know who it is based on a source that is its own source, essentially.
Ironically, I can’t find the exact event at the moment, but there was a case a while ago with a false report on the perpetrator of an event whose family got seriously attacked because of the allegations and the false report.
Then, they killed themselves… and a while later, the real perpetrator was found out.
Similarly, suspects get targeted for things even though nothing has been proven… and people just enjoy jumping the gun a little, coming to a conclusion before anything is concluded.
Is there a right course of action?
This is a question that I asked myself a lot.
If you just blindly believe people without asking for proof, then you’re naive.
If you question every single victim’s story though, then you’re an asshole.
No matter what you do, there will be people telling you that you’re the bad person here.
I think the important bit is that it’s a difficult situation because there are two philosophies here at work:
- Guilty until proven innocent
- Innocent until proven guilty
Some people believe that people are guilty the moment they are accused and then they jump the gun and attack them. There was no judge or anything involved. It’s just public finger-pointing and death sentences.
It’s literally someone pointing a finger at a person and stating that they’re a witch. And then that person says “no, I’m not” and then they have to prove it by burning or drowning or whatever. If they don’t burn, they’re a witch. If they do burn, they’re not.
The logic checks out.
The other party believes in the innocence of any given person until proven guilty but that’s a difficult stance to uphold as well because it’s not always about whether or not someone is guilty.
The Depp-Heard trial was about defamation. It wasn’t about abuse, right? Depp winning only means that Heard tried to defame him. It doesn’t mean that he’s not an abuser,… from what I understood.
Still, people see this as a win for Depp and the aforementioned case of him trying to shame Heard is just… irrelevant in their eyes.
How about this?
Let’s believe victims… without taking action. No witch hunts, no guns, no threats, no witty comments mocking people’s work, and no accusations. Just believe the victims… but also take it with a grain of salt.
Then you can decide if you want to listen to what the other person has to say. If you do, think about what each person said and choose who to believe – without taking action. Don’t just attack people.
If you don’t decide to listen to the other party, how about just not taking action… like death threats and verbal abuse and hate speech… sounds good?
My core issue with the whole He Said/She Said topic is that people go out of their way to attack others based on what one person said, a person they don’t even know. Even if you know all about it and even if there is solid proof or a trial or whatever… don’t attack people.
It’s revolutionary! I know! Pay me later.
This may sound like a very foreign concept but I think it’s fine to believe one side and not believe the other. It’s fine to believe both… it’s fine to not believe either.
Just don’t shame others and attack them and like, don’t be an asshole.
This isn’t a definitive answer to the problematic nature of internet vigilantism and people being assholes on the internet… but it’s an attempt to answer a question that I thought a lot about (and I still do) and attempt to share some initial thoughts on it.
What I essentially wanna say is:
- Don’t assume.
- Don’t attack.
- Be nice.
- Listen, think, don’t act.
And I know that depending on what a person has done (murder, child abuse, gaslighting, etc.), your image of them is damaged or completely changed. They’re scum now, you may think… but you’re not the law. You’re not Batman either. Heck, even Batman’s an asshole, so don’t be like Batman.
Instead, support people affected by this. No matter who you believe, people are still people and stuff like this can seriously fuck up one’s mental health.
I think a big part of this is that you also shouldn’t try to get involved if you’re not actually a source or someone immediately affected. What you can do is reach out and lend an ear. You can send cute “hugs” gifs to the person affected. You can report hateful comments without engaging with them.
It’s a complicated topic and I think it will take a long time before I have sorted all of my thoughts on it, but I just figured it’d be good to write something on the matter, for now, as I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the topic. What do you think about internet vigilantism or accusations and the topics surrounding them?
Note: Given that the topic is quite loaded, please be civil when discussing this in the replies. Always be respectful.