“Sentence first, verdict after!” cried the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
The Queen would fit well in cyber-world.
In the fast-paced online courtroom of social media and the Internet, there’s no need for witnesses to actually be present at the scene of the crime, and they don’t need to be troubled by cumbersome facts that haven’t been proved! Everyone gets to be judge and jury meting out sentences from the comfort of our homes. We have a swift court of public opinion, and it’s cheap too — no lawyer fees necessary to participate in publicly shaming someone.
There actually may be a benefit in some of these cases. Raising public awareness about injustice, prejudice, cruelty to animals, and the greed of big banks, etc., can and has helped bring about needed change through the power of social media.
But when does it go too far? When does the punishment of public shaming exceed the limits of the crime? Where does mercy fit?
Is this a good time to quote the book of James, “be quick to listen and slow to speak . . .” or should we try to figure out why we are so hard on each other in the first place?