The Social Media Lynch Mob

You left the house looking particularly haggard today. Slippers, that shirt with a torn sleeve, no deodorant. But you’re in a hurry and it’s just the market you’re going to after all. So who cares? You’ve been procrastinating about a couple of personal errands. And now you’ve got to get it all done in the next 24 hours.

Here you are on a dusty street in Mushin. Your feet are ashen with dust, you look parched and in frustration, you’ve run your hands through your hair a couple of times so that it now looks unkempt. You notice one of the items not on your shopping list. You’re making your way to return the item when suddenly, you hear three words that will destroy your life forever.

“Ole! Ole! Ole!!

You look around bewildered, wondering where the sound is coming from, and then a hot slap lands on your face. You crouch on the floor. By the time you regain your senses, there are six sweaty, half-naked Agbero boys huffing and puffing around you. They speak Yoruba but you can’t understand the language. One knocks you on the head. You’re shocked but a little angry.

You spring to your feet. Offended that you could be treated with such disrespect. Clearly, there’s a mix up somewhere. You tell them as much. They wave your arguments away with “See this Ole dey form fonneh”. Now a larger crowd has gathered, a mix of people some of them well mannered and educated. You feel you’d be able to reason with these ones.

“Please, I came to the market to buy goods. I haven’t done anything wrong. Help me tell them.” The people frown their faces and don’t look you in the eye. You know what that means, they’ve cast you out, you’re not one of them, you suddenly feel less than human.

One of the Agbero boys clear you and you fall on your bottom onto the ground. A rather guttural scream leaves your mouth. Now not only do you feel less human, but you also sound less human as well. A flurry of hands land on you like you’re a talking drum. You try to protect yourself and wonder how none of the bystanders have come to your rescue. You peek, some of them have brought out their phones to record, the rest cheer the mob on.

Everywhere hurts like hell, you can’t tell if it’s sweat or blood or both that’s running off your head onto your lips. In that moment your world has shrunk, your entire history, the fact that you went to school and had good grades. The fact that you pay your tithe. The fact that you’re somebody’s best friend and child. None of it matters. Your existence has been reduced to that one small moment of a mix up. The entire earth, to you, has become the circle formed by the feet of your accusers.

You’re too weak to defend yourself now. Too numb to feel any pain. Vaguely you hear someone ask for a tyre. You smell kerosene. You are bound, liquid rushes over you. Someone strikes a match.

What if I told you that you’re not the person being lynched in this story? You’re not. You’re the person doing the lynching. You could never be that barbaric right? But barbaric is just another word for a savage. And on Twitter, being savage is all the rage.

Are you rolling your eyes right now? Don’t. Because that’s exactly what the people passively recording the lynching with their smartphones did. Passively rolling their eyes at a vicious public execution. In real life, it’s called a lynch mob, on social media, they are Twitter ‘warriors’. People who, like Agbero boys, pick up on an injustice, and without proof or due process, begin to attack a person who may or may not be guilty of crimes that may or may not have happened.

Think about it. Asiwaju, Johnny Depp, Chris Brown, Berger to Ajah, Jussie Smollet. Twitter explodes with unverified information. Incensed by something they have every right to be incensed by, but no right to be judge, jury and executioner of. You cancelled Johnny Depp because he allegedly beat his girlfriend, you mocked Chris Brown because he allegedly raped a woman, you believed Jussie Smollet before any concluded investigation. You tweeted a hashtag, with your own version of well-crafted insults and ended somebody’s life forever. People have committed suicide over these things we do. Johnny Depp endured an induced career suicide only for it to turn out that supposedly, it was the woman claiming abuse that was the abuser all along. And now Michael Jackson is being accused once again of sexual molestation and your hands are, of course, itching to weigh in, to condemn the deceased legend. All with absolutely no proof and less than credible accusers.

You’re a Christian, you’re driven by a difference. You’re better and smarter than this. Fight injustice, but don’t fight people. Challenge institutions, but don’t scandalize strangers. Not when you don’t have all the facts yet. Because today, you do the social media lynching, but tomorrow, you might be the innocent one on the other side of that hashtag. Remember with whatever measure you mete, it will be meted back onto you.

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