The Inevitable Post-Tragedy Witch Hunt: 'Mass Effect' Facebook Page Attacked Because Of Link To Misidentified Shooting Suspect

from the a-whole-bunch-of-'wrongs'-in-search-of-a-'right' dept

Whenever something truly horrific happens, there's a good chance that people will find someone or something to hold at least partially responsible for the atrocity. The most immediate reactions are often the worst… and the most misplaced.

The recent school shooting in Connecticut led to just such a reaction. As news began to spread about the tragedy, some Facebook users began lashing out at a couple of targets. One, a user named Ryan Lanza, felt some immediate heat and hatred soon after police mistakenly named him, rather than his younger brother Adam, as the shooter.

Soon after discovering the wrong Lanza's profile, the attack moved on to Mass Effect's Facebook page. According to commenters, Ryan had “Liked” this page at some point and to many of those looking to blame someone, anyone, it was all the justification they needed. A game with guns had to be partially responsible for the horrific event.

Here's a sampling of the first post-tragedy comments, where you can see the tide change from Mass Effect fans to misdirected anger:

It's ugly and inevitable. Any sizable tragedy usually results in some form of backlash or witch hunt. Social networks and forums where reactions can be instantaneous and numerous lend themselves to this sort of unfortunate behavior.

And as ugly and inevitable as it is, it's also understandable. Situations like these tend to make people feel both helpless and angry, a combination that lends itself to taking it out on the nearest proxy as the perpetrator is dead or in custody and thus, unreachable.

Bioware, to its credit, has made the wisest choice. It has not responded to any of the comments blaming its game for supposedly developing a killer. It has also allowed the comments to remain posted on its page, where they can speak for themselves.

As for Ryan Lanza, things went considerably worse. Fortunately, most Facebook users were unable to do more than send him messages and Friendship requests, thanks to his privacy settings. But even with these limits curbing the collateral damage, Ryan ended up deleting his Facebook account. The hate that was directed towards him was slightly more “justified,” as law enforcement had named him as the gunman before issuing a correction. Unfortunately, since the crowd was unable to attack Ryan directly, it turned on his “Friends” list, sending completely uninvolved people “hundreds (literally) of hate-filled messages.”

This won't be the last large-scale tragedy we see, or even the last misguided witch hunt. We can only hope that it will be very long time until see either again, although I'd rather see a million misguided torch-carriers burn half the internet to the ground than see a repeat of the Connecticut tragedy. But, despite that fact, I would sincerely hope that those who harassed innocent people in response to this horrific event choose not to repeat their mistakes when the next tragedy inevitably strikes.

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Comments on “The Inevitable Post-Tragedy Witch Hunt: 'Mass Effect' Facebook Page Attacked Because Of Link To Misidentified Shooting Suspect”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

What I found disgusting is the media churn running around wondering why this happened.
Even after they were talking about there might have been mental health issues, they still were trying to keep the video game narrative alive.
Its the fault of violent video games!

Pay no attention to all of the coverage we give them.
Pay no attention to the availability of high powered multiple shot weapons.
Pay no attention to the stigma society still places on people with mental health issues, how the support system was gutted and never rebuild to be what it needed to be.

We are now so focused on assigning blame, we ignore the actual problems.

Burn the video game it had to be responsible!
He was named, go after everyone who knows him it must be their fault!
So few of them want to look in the mirror and accept their role in being at fault in this. Society failed, not one single point caused this… but we need to blame something and then focus on that and nothing else.

Facebook – where people are STILL threatening to burn the Abortionplex to the ground.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You think it was bad in the media? You should see what it’s like “on the ground”. I live within 15 miles of the school and had to disconnect for a good portion of the weekend. The rampant speculation, fear mongering and general bad information was hard to deal with. So many people spouting so much crap.

I’m just glad my kids were able to handle a rational discussion of what happened and aren’t falling into the general atmosphere of panic that seems to be surrounding the area. Heck, just this morning schools in another town were put on lockdown because of a “stranger walking with a rifle”. Turned out to be an umbrella. Imagine that – a guy carrying an umbrella on a rainy day…

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And how much of it was just from people trying to parse a situation that they couldn’t and how much was driven by the media outlets running with every scrap they could lay hands on. Then a long game of telephone across Facebook and suddenly a story about a cute kitten is merged with the shooting and the killer was seen using kittens to bludgeon his victims before he shot them!

My current favorite was Faux News using this shooting to remind everyone how the head of FRC was almost killed by a crazed shooter in their building and so he had some sort of special understanding.

Stranger with a rifle is going to be the new “anthrax on the counter” flip out.

Something horrible happened, but we’ve been trained to respond by assuming it will happen again and again unless we stay vigilant. We have to suspect everyone and everything… its working so well for air travel now. I think our time would be better spent dealing with the multiple things that combined to allow this to happen, and looking for actual solutions rather than short term fixes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I hear ya – I have 3 kids – and everywhere we went this weekend, all we heard were people whining about “do something!”.

Got a recorded message from our kids’ school this morning notifying us that they will have police stationed at all schools in our area (middle-of-nowhere California), and all I can do is shake my head.

What a fucking waste of resources… they’re also talking about putting up a perimeter fence around the entire school now. It’s ludicrous what a single incident does to people.

FauxReal (profile) says:

We’re always looking for someone to blame other than ourselves for our problems. This is exacerbated by media sensationalism and the current political climate of demonizing anyone who even thinks a little differently. I don’t understand how it became “law” that everyone had to be in lockstep agreement on all issues. That’s obviously not how we are on a personal level when interacting with each other.

I suppose this has always been a long standing culture war.

sgt_doom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t understand how it became “law” that everyone had to be in lockstep agreement on all issues.”

Aaaahhh….because there now are only five corporations, highly financially interlocked, which control the bulk of the so-called media in America, whereas back in the early 1960s there were over 1,000?

The herd concensus movement really became apparent around 1990, when douchetards began wearing casual corporate shirts to announce who they worked for.

I certainly don’t take the blame for problems foisted upon myself or others, FR, so I’m not sure about the logic of such a remark?

Back in the 1960s, before the absolute consolidation of the media (for which we have to thank Presidents Reagan and Clinton et al.), publications as disparate as Vogue, Ladies Home Journal and Reader’s Digest would run highly analytical and questioning stories about the super-flaky Warren Commission Report, and murders surround the Kennedy assassination.

Today, all the Corporate McNews religiously covers only those stooges illiterately referring to all facts as “conspiracy theory.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But, of course

Would a lack of (semi) automatic weapons significantly changed what happened? Would a pump shotgun have been any different? Or a couple revolvers?

Would outlawing all types of “assault” weapons actually prevent crazy people or criminals from getting ahold of one?

Also, fully automatic weapons already are generally illegal.

Eponymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 But, of course

I’m closer to your opinion that ZP’s, but you don’t need to go so far as to say “arm them”. In my opinion, what’s needed is a solid, workable CCW law without the pitfall of gun-free zones.

Similar to your argument, the only people who will bring a gun into a gun-free zone are those intent on breaking the law. They go in, then, confident that they won’t have to deal with armed defense. If you remove that false ‘haven’ label from schools/churches/etc, then suddenly an unstable gunman won’t have any obvious signs telling them where there aren’t any guard dogs amongst the sheep. The prospect looks less appealing, and that in and of itself could (I have no idea if it would) have a chilling effect on this shit.

I’m not a huge fan of high-capacity magazines, myself. I’m a firm believer in retaining my right to own guns, but I’d personally be ok if 30-round magazines went away. Of course, they can’t just go away now…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: But, of course

“I am not advocating a blanket ban, just tighter restrictions on what type of people should be able to have a firearm.”

In my country, you have to jump through all sorts of hoops to be allowed to purchase a gun.

And guess what? You still get nutcases that waste their own family + themselves with a shotgun.

Your only solution to gun violence is to reduce the number of nutcases.

Judging by the picture above, you still have a long way to go to get that done…

sgt_doom (profile) says:

Re: Re: But, of course

You are absolutely right, anon, which is why America should immediately send nukes to non-nuke countries, so that everyone will possess nukes against everyone else, crazies be damned!

First, Iran (North Korea apparently already has a couple), next Bahrain, so they can stop the Saudi Arabian army the next time it enteres their country to kill protesters.

anon says:

Re: Re: But, of course

If the guy had not had access to assault weapons used in war he would not have been able to reload as quickly and possibly the teacher that tried to stop him could have taken him down while others came in to help. When you have someone with a weapon that can shoot 60 rounds in a few seconds and reload in a few more and someone who would have to reload every second or seventh shot the total killed could have been much much lower.

And why does anyone ever need a weapon like this? seriously, if you feel so threatened that you have to have an automatic weapon you need to either move somewhere you feel safer or become involved in some form of crime prevention move in your area.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 But, of course

Not really. Life is life. The location of that life shouldn’t be relevant to the discussion.

Remember this: MLK Jr. was considered a terrorist. Would a drone attack killing him have been a net good? Remember that the Founding Fathers committed High Treason when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Should their lives have been taken by drones, had the technology existed?

There is a debate to be had over guns in the US, but idiots on both sides of the debate keep trying to polarize it. I think that the question needed to be asked, and the fact that Obama has asked it at this point in time is interesting.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 But, of course

And before you answer, remember owning a commonly available digital watch flags you as a terrorist. If its good enough to get you in GitMo…

Oh if you pay for things in cash, you might be a terrorist.
If you refuse to have a Facebook, you might be a terrorist.
If you don’t let people shoulder surf you while using free wifi you might be a terrorist.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: But, of course

I agree, actually, but probably not in the direction you expect.

The 2nd amendment was written so that citizens would have the tools they needed to fight off government intrusion (foreign or domestic), and as such included any and all arms normally carried by an infantry soldier.

So if we want to keep up with technological progress, we need to re-legalize the production and sale of automatic weapons in order to comply with the spirit of the 2nd.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

These horrible outbreaks of violence is as simple as Dog Training. If we Stopped giving attention to kids who do bad things, the kids will realize that bad things don’t get recognition / attention they seek and won’t do them.

When someone kills enough people They get facebook campaigns, National Media coverage, people who were there are interviewed on the TODAY show, there are special interruptions into primetime TV, and the president will make a heart-felt announcement about the event.

Now Re-read that paragraph starting from “They get”…. I cannot think of how we could reward bad behavior anymore than we already do. This is like giving your dog a slab of bacon for pooping on your floor. I just do not get it. You want to stop horrible mass shootings, stop rewarding them. Lock them away (if they survive) and never speak about them again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, this particular individual doesn’t get the “reward” of media coverage for this act, but any borderline nutjobs out there watching this media coverage might think “Hey, I can do better!”. We dry up the coverage, and it *might* reduce the desire for future unhinged folks to go out in a blaze of glory, and merely take themselves out.

Of course, we should be trying to help these people so even that last option is removed, but when, in the current environment of placing “Healthcare” and “Government spending” in the same paragraph gets you labelled as a communist, good luck getting that sort of thing done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Those that carry out these acts are mentally ill and craving attention. Mass shootings get huge amounts of attention, and those that carry it out are using it as a method of punishing those that tormented/harmed them or making a statement about how they’re not “weak” or some other misguided lashing out.

Less media attention and better mental care/less stigma against mental care would go a long way to stopping these events.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:

And to be slandered and libeled on top of that scenario seems like a legitimate reason for a lawsuit. So maybe he shouldn’t be thinking about a lawsuit right now, but maybe later. The media will continue to pull shit like that if they aren’t held accountable for the negligent reporting. If he’s doing fine financially, maybe he can win a settlement and give it to a charity for helping people with mental issues. It’d be nice to see the media have to pay for a situation that it seems to contribute to with its glorification of anti-heroes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why is it always assumed these people have mental issues?

Far too easy to get labelled mentally disabled these days…

More likely under different circumstances this guy would have been just as normal as anyone, unfortunately life it would seem dealt him a bad hand and he snapped. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault… but everyone has a bad day, or a bad week, or sometimes a series of unfortunate events. This guy lost it in a bad way, but that doesn’t mean we can go about labelling these guys as belonging in a mental institute…. All that’s likely to do is furthur isolate them.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I was under the impression, from the coverage *grain of salt*, that it was concerned he had some issues of some variety.
While no one can know if they were the kind that leads to these things the more important issue to consider is how people who need help get nothing.
Warehousing them wasn’t pretty, so they closed the warehouses and promised new better things… we are still waiting for them.
We can’t have rationale discussions about mental health issues, because society finds the topic icky and refuses to take action.
Some people have problems, but its better to not take the wider view that society would be better served if there was easy access to help and instead throw it out as a reason bad things happen.
or maybe it was the video games and movies…
or that twinkies are no longer available…

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As TAC referenced, the coverage has stated that Adam Lanza did have mental issues. But even if you ignore that, you have to have at least temporary mental issues to commit such an act, by my definition of the term “mental issues.” You can’t disregard the humanity of other individuals, especially children, and still be considered of sound mind. Having a bad day doesn’t cause you to kill people. Having mental issues does.

You assume a lot when you jump from me saying he had mental issues to saying he belonged in a mental institute. I only mentioned giving money to a charity for helping people with mental issues, which can encompass a significantly wider set of strategies.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

There is nothing wrong with hoping some good can come out of all of this bad.
The problem is we can’t even have the discussion because people are no longer allowed to discuss topics. We have to pick our side and stick to it, if anyone says differently call them names and get louder than them.

Could this have been avoided? No idea, but as these events keep happening we eventually need to kill the scared cows and try again.
Somewhere in the guns, mental health, lack of a societal safety net is an answer. It might not be perfect but until we can all be grown up and consider other peoples viewpoints and keep our knees from jerking at the mention of something we hold sacred being altered we are doomed to keep having these tragedies.
Money is going to be wasted turning schools into armed camps more focused on keeping the kids “safe” rather than educating them. Because we have to do something NOW!!!! rather than we need to stop catering to the worst case scenario and turn the dial to 11 to show we care.

sgt_doom (profile) says:

The Motive

“…as law enforcement had named him as the gunman before issuing a correction.”

Justified? Anyone who believes the coppers, after all the video footage and photos of cops around the country attacking, maiming, pepper spraying the young law-abiding protesters, young women and elderly women, etc., during those “Occupy” protests, must be among the most gullible types in existence?

They most certainly believed every generation of the Bush family, no doubt, especially that last one and his “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, huh?

The Motive

Today, some highly paid, brainless twit on the Wall Street Journal News Online, reported that police were searching for the motive for the mass murder of children at a Connecticut elementary school.

The motive?

An Afghanistani sheep herder returned to his home and found the scattered body parts of his wife and children. He gathered up their remains and gave them a proper burial, then sat and pondered the motive of the Americans who sent the drone to do that horrible killing.

The motive?

The super-rich laid off workers and offshored their jobs to the cheapest sweatshop in Bangladesh and workers there died horribly due to extremely substandard conditions, and Walmart falsely claims no knowledge of the location of their factories nor origins of the product.

The motive?

A major war occurs among European countries and an extraordinary number of soldiers die a horrible death from mustard gas, while Paul Warburg was the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank (less publicity at that position, he had been offered the chairmanship) and Paul?s brother, Max Warburg, was the financial advisor to the Kaiser (the German ruler) and director of the German central bank.

The motive?

Many eons ago, in an Asian war, the team I was with was ordered to destroy a village of innocents to cover up a command mistake — instead, we fragged the brigadier general who was on site and had issued the order, then blamed his death on ?the enemy.?

Our motive was clear: murder the guilty to save the innocent.

I make no claim to understand the motives of the mentally ill, the psychopaths and the greedheads, but perhaps the answer lies within reach.

The president of the University of Washington once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist when he rendered the decision to empty out mental institutions and set the stage for defunding mental health in America, perhaps that UW president knows the motive?

Anonymous Coward says:

Leaving the comments there is all the punishment they need, because the people who posted first and thought critically about the situation later will now have their half-baked, partially brain-dead diatribe enshrined on that page FOREVER. It’s NEVER going away. Employers and friends five years from now will get to look back at this monument and realize just how much of a complete moron they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

The half-cocked list

How convenient, though, that fully signed-in, well-identified commenters vented their lynch mob spleen prior to confirming a single fact. “But… but… but… they said he was the guy…” Illustrates another advantage of anonymous comments: you can be an irresponsible, hysterical asshole without ever revealing your identity.

Anyone know any of these vigilantes? Care to ask them how it feels to loudly and publicly blame heinous crimes on the wrong guy? Not that having your brother go horribly insane and murder your mother isn’t pretty terrible in itself…

Anonymous Coward says:

I dislike guns, I even was in favor of gun control at one point, but I realized something, people can build their own guns and the more educated the population is the more capable they also are to make their own weapons and I mean any weapon, not just firearms, so the problem isn’t really in guns is in the environment what makes those type of people go after others?

In China there is a wave of knife attacks against children.

This is an honest question not a trap or insinuation, could it be that we live in a society that the peer pressure have become unbearable to some?

Laws don’t work for suicidal people with a grudge they fear nothing because they are already dead and the only thing that can hold anybody back is themselves and how they were raised most of the time, if the number of suicide shooters increases this is due to environmental factors most probably so what are those?

Zos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

lots of people need to read it. then they need to realize that anon isn’t a group, it’s a suggestion. if you’re moved to act, then ACT! then tell us about it. if it’s lulzy or it’s righteous, maybe it will spark and gain momentum. most likely not. But the point is if you sit around waiting for someone else to do it for you, then it wasn’t that important was it?

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