There’s an episode of Black Mirror where a designer for electronic bees programs them to obey people’s “Death to” tweets and kill the person they threaten, causing the person extreme pain in the process. With this power comes great responsibility, and it does not function well; the populace begin tweeting “death to” to anyone who does a semi-offensive behavior, whether it was interpreted incorrectly or not. Soon, the entire nation is swept in an uproar of wondering who will die next…only to find the next victims are the enraged users themselves.
Though this entire scenario may seem outlandish and impossible, it’s not too far from the truth; often, whenever a shady action from someone online surfaces, however separated from context it may be, castigation and social suicide is soon to follow. For users like Pewdiepie, or Felix Kjellberg, for instance, who was recently accused of being anti-Semitic, the very tell-tale clips themselves were from a video parodying how news sources rip his quotes out of context. In one instance, Kjellberg explains his “Hitler salute” was merely him pointing in a certain direction. Ethan Klein of H3H3, a Jew himself and friend to Felix, posted a video denouncing the ridiculousness of these claims, saying “This is the problem with this manufactured outrage: people getting offended for people who are not offended. You don’t need to get outraged on my behalf.”
This statement takes specific potency in the realm of “appropriation,” in which people–the majority of them white–are offended at what they deem “racist” behavior that may not be racist at all. For instance, there has been a considerable amount of flack given to white people donning kimonos–when in reality, Japanese and Japanese-American commenters have mentioned they have no issue with this.
From accusing wrongfully to defending unjustly, the limits are endless for bringing flack, public scrutiny, and even career death to those who have either made a simple mistake or made no mistake at all. When does this behavior end? And who will end it?
In Garret Scholes of Black Mirror’s opinion, the only way to end the cycle is to kill those who begin it and, out of fear, no one will follow. But by killing the killers, Scholes becomes one of them himself. While man should be responsible for the words they utter, do they deserve death? What crime does verbal abuse commit? How do we determine the punishment for a public mistake? These are questions the populace must answer–and answer quickly–before murder machines become reality.