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.