Yet another unintended side effect of the web has been the birth of the Internet lynch mob. Now, everything from child abuse to bad customer service can get the online masses whipped into a frenzy of Old Testament-style vengeance.
Whether this is good, bad, or downright terrifying, we'll let you be the judge.
#8. Sasha Gomez and the Stolen Sidekick
A 16-year-old New Yorker, Sasha Gomez, made the unfortunate choice to steal the phone she found in the back of a cab. The victim had to buy a new phone and when she logged into her account, she found pictures of Gomez along with her AOL screen name, as Gomez hadn't been a criminal long enough to know that you don't put your name and photo on shit you steal.
A friend of the victim, Evan Guttman, tracked down the thief and sent her an IM asking her to return the phone, to which he was politely told to jam his head in his ass and see if he could look out his own mouth again. All Guttman did in response was to make a simple webpage that included the pics of Gomez and a description of what happened. These things always start small...
Next the page was linked on Digg, and Gizmodo, and from there to hundreds of other sites. Hundreds of thousands of people read the story, remembered the last time they fell victim to some asshat with sticky fingers, and started a massive virtual campaign of harassment against Gomez. People from all across the planet were sending e-mails, some of them likely with the most strongly worded LOLcats you can imagine.
Of course this wasn't nearly enough for the more industrious types who tracked Gomez down on MySpace and started to harass her and her friends. Then it was time for the real hardcore avatars of justice (or the insane) to bring it into the real world, actually finding her address in Queens and driving past her home shouting accusations and 4chan memes.
Eventually the thief's brother--a military police officer--got involved and told Guttman to back off, which at this stage would be like telling to butterfly to stop the hurricane it triggered. This incited a new shitstorm and earned the brother a reprimand from his military bosses. Before the situation could get out of hand and martial law declared, the thief gave up and turned in the phone. She was arrested and the story was added to the annals of cyber-mob justice.
#7. Patrick Pogan, Cyclist Abuser
We can probably all agree that things like murder, theft and cycling are wrong. It's hard not to be sympathetic then when you hear about the New York City cop who, during a demonstration by cyclists protesting... something or other, felt the need to pick one at random, on camera, to absolutely blow right off his bike for no discernible reason at all. He just hurled him like a ragdoll into a crowd.
The officer claimed the cyclist had veered into him, and so the biker was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. And it would have ended there, if there was no such thing as the Internet.
Unfortunately for Pogan, the entire incident was filmed by someone who, seeing a whole bunch of annoying cyclists in the same place, knew something like this was bound to happen. The video was posted on YouTube where the whole world could see the officer move closer to the cyclist, the cyclist trying to veer out of the way and then Pogan sending him flying for no reason other than his own terrifyingly poor impulse control.
A few million views later, charges against the cyclist were dropped since it was now clear that Pogan's recollection of events may have been slightly skewed by all the meat in his head. Pogan's badge and gun were taken away and he was given a desk job for seven months until finally he was fired for his actions and now faces criminal charges.
His lawyer says he quit so that he could focus on defending himself, which can't be easy considering there's that whole video thing out there. We're guessing he's either going to go for "it was all done with CGI" or "the NYPD's official policy is to toss around bicycle protesters because they find it amusing."
#6. Her Name is Dog Shit Girl
Let it be known henceforth that if your dog shits on a subway, you damn well better clean it up. You may think the subway is already chock full of human shit so your dog's waste isn't going to upset the fecal balance, but just to be on the safe side you best have some little baggies handy.
Back in 2005, a South Korean woman took some manner of tiny dog on a subway, where it promptly shat on the floor of the car. South Koreans, being polite folks, asked if she wouldn't mind cleaning the steamer up. She declined. One passenger even offered her a tissue. She used it to wipe the dog's ass but left the shit on the floor. South Korean politeness just about ran its course at that point.
A passenger on the train snapped some photos of the woman with a camera phone. Some hours later her photo was on various popular websites across Korea with the label "dog shit girl" attached. Like clockwork, within a few days her name and personal info were posted everywhere as well, the results of Internet users with a lot of time and a lust for shit-free subways on their hands.
Sure do use a lot of symbols just to write "Dog Shit Girl."
The woman herself was harassed on the street and soon requests for information about her family popped up, as people wanted to meet and harass dog shit mom and dog shit dad, maybe see if there were any dog shit babies wandering about. Eventually she was forced to quit her university in shame and issue a public apology online in which she inexplicably threatens to commit suicide if the harassment didn't stop.
She didn't, as far as we know, but the story did make its way around the world, even getting picked up in the Washington Post. What else has this woman accomplished in her life? What are her goals, or talents? We will never know. From now on, she's Dog Shit Girl.
#5. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Hates Children
If there's one thing that unites mankind, it's our all consuming need to get to the can when diarrhea strikes. You can be a Shaolin monk, a soccer mom, a marine or a five-year-old girl, but when that feeling starts to brew down below, may God have mercy on anyone who stands in your way.
Sadly, this credo was lost on the management of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Huntington Beach, who refused to let a five-year-old girl use their bathroom. The result was a child evacuating the troops right there in the store, across herself and her mother and whatever else was in range, while the employees supposedly chuckled and showed the kind of indifference to the suffering of children that only a job like retail can teach you.
Now every time you want to eat diarrhea, you'll be thinking about chocolate milk. Gross.
The mother of the girl called the manager to complain and was told that the employees who refused access to the washroom were in the right, as there were insurance concerns and Lord knows if you let one child with diarrhea into your bathroom, you'll have to let dozens more in, and before you know it the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is little more than a highway rest stop with Mallomars.
Naturally, no massive shit storm like this (see what we did there?) can go unpublished, so the tale hit Consumerist.com as an example of some pretty terrible customer service. The story wound up on Digg and everywhere else and, well, you know what comes next. (We've provided a helpful visual aid below. The boy represents the Internet, and the diarrhea represents this story. See how the "story" forcefully explodes out of the Internet at a dangerously alarming rate? That's what it was like.)
The manager's contact information hit the Internet, including Google Earth shots of his home. That was then used to facilitate death threats and threats of shit being smeared across said home, which is the standard Internet reaction to not only bad customer service but health scares, insurance fraud and Thursdays.
It didn't end until the CEO of the entire company stepped in, personally issuing an apology to the mother and pointing out that the franchise in question was not acting in accordance with company policy, or even state law; apparently it's required that any business serving the public make a restroom facility available. We're assuming over the next week, several hundred random strangers showed up to the store demanding to use the shitter, just daring them to refuse.