By now, almost all of us here on the Internet will know the name Jover Chew, thanks to the satirical Facebook page, SMRT Ltd (Feedback). Before Jover, there was Heather Chua, who offended a whole lot of people after posting on Facebook about how ‘her’ (this person turned out to be a 22-year old man) wealthy Raffles Girls School disgraced herself after marrying an ITE student. Around the same time, Anton Casey was famously driven out of Singapore after getting trolled by the same page, due to his insensitive comments about “poor people” taking public transport.
Some (such as Second Minister of Home Affairs S. Iswaran), would say mob justice has gone too far in revealing the personal information of the people related to these cases. A majority of netizens, though, are saluting the efficient and effective means in which these online vigilantes brought payback to the people involved.
How far is too far? Many argue against criticism of mob justice by saying that these people started it by making comments or taking actions bordering on ridiculousness, and that they deserved every bit of humiliation they’ve got. I can’t deny, there’s also a great sense of… theatrics involved in these cases of mob justice. I’m guilty of religiously following these sagas with glee, glad to see that they have gotten their just desserts.
For instance, there have been cases of the public handing out justice to criminals who escaped justice the legal way, such as castrating a rapist that was caught violating a young girl. However, in the same way, mob justice can also be dangerous as there is no definite way of knowing if the accused is really guilty. A man in South Africa had to spend more than a week in hospital after a lynch mob beat him up after he was wrongly accused of being a serial killer.
While in all the three local cases mentioned, it’s quite clear that Jover, Heather and Anton are all guilty (seeing that it’s all caught on video and/or their personal social media pages), should there be a line drawn?
This form of mob justice (or some would call, cyber-bullying) is definitely more efficient than the legal way, since there are so many red tapes that have to be respected and thorough investigation to be carried out. It’s more effective, too – a man might commit the same transgression after being jailed (that’s why our jails are full of repeat offenders, after all), but humiliate him in front of his entire country? He’ll toe the line for fear of the same retribution.
Just take the example of Mobile22, Jover’s neighbour at Sim Lim. Apparently, upon noticing they had an audience to their treatment of their customer, they gave in and refunded the money that the customer had almost had to forfeit. If this is not effectiveness compared to the numerous complaints that have been lodged against the shop with CASE, then consumers have more to fear.
In all three cases, the trolling only continued because the people involved showed no signs of remorse. Jover continued his questionable business ethics and scammed a Vietnamese tourist of hundred of dollars, Heather continued with her insults about HDB dwellers and ITE graduates, Anton posted a video in which he arrogantly taunts his critics. Had they shown some remorse, would things have gotten so out of hand for them?
At the end of it all, like it or not, there is no denying that mob justice does work, if in somewhat ambiguous and vague morality. If people are fearful of being called out in public for their actions, it is less likely that they will transgress.