Of all the troubles that can befall a human being in the 21st century, the wrath of the internet must be the most weird. There's no real way to predict it's behavior: It is random, it is overblown, it often targets the wrong people, and it flames out just as quickly as it explodes into being.
Our current example of the phenomenon of collective internet rage is what is at this moment happening to dentist Walter Palmer, who, on a very expensive big game hunt in Zimbabwe, killed a lion named Cecil, a locally-beloved elder and magnet for tourism, who was lured out of a protected area. Well, as one would expect, the internet got wind of what happened, and it did not react well.
Walter Palmer's image was spread far and wide, from Reddit to Imgur and beyond. Legitimate news picked up on the story and spread the it further. The Yelp page of his dental business was filled with angry reviews from people who, one could assume, had not actually ever been his patients. Death threats were sent. Palmer temporarily closed down his business and went into hiding. Public protests were organized. And a lot of people on the internet declared that he was getting what he deserved. But, one must ask, is he? Does anyone deserve mob justice?
Please understand, I think that what Palmer did was, if not illegal, then certainly ethically and morally revolting. But whatever legal and financial consequences may be coming his way, and boy oh boy they are coming, getting at him through the internet so vengefully doesn't really help or do anything besides make the members of the mob feel good about themselves.
The rage of the internet is a very dangerous thing. When a mass of anonymous people who likely don't have all the facts at their disposal rise up in their self-righteous indignation to attack a human being who has not actually been charged with a crime, mistakes are inevitably made. We know this because of the numerous times it has happened before.
Most famously, two innocent people were, first on Reddit and then on the cover of the New York Post, accused of being responsible for the bombing of the Boston Marathon before it was discovered that they had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao was hounded as a Nazi and a monster due to multiple shake-ups and accusations of censorship, to the point where she chose to resign from her position, only for evidence to later suggest that she might have had little if anything to do with the changes that were riling up the 'front page of the internet.'
And just recently actress Mia Farrow experienced a sort of counter-wrath as she was accused of posting Walter Palmer's home address on Twitter, when it was actually just the publicly available address of his dental practice.
Again, I'm not saying that Walter Palmer is innocent, or a good person. And legal or not, I find the practice of big game hunting to be completely repulsive. But the hatred of the masses is a blunt instrument, when real justice needs to be a scalpel.
It might feel good to call Palmer out for what he did, but our individual anger can amass into something beyond any one person's control. We must, as individuals, act with caution. As Marge Simpson said, "I guess one person can make a difference. But most of the time, they probably shouldn't."