COMMENTARY | Small towns and their corrupt secrets have been a staple of popular entertainment for decades, and a recent story in the Kansas City Star reads like a tragic Hollywood script: A young teenage girl moves to a new town, becomes enamored with the popular, older high school football star and gets taken advantage of at a remote, drunken party. Allegedly, said football star encouraged the girl to drink heavily, raped her, and left her sprawled in front of her house early the next morning in freezing temperatures. Charges were filed, the evidence seemed overwhelming and, mysteriously, the charges were suddenly dropped.
As in most “small town with a corrupt secret” tales, the alleged wrongdoer had powerful ties and the victims were newcomers. The football star was the grandson of a local power player and the accusers were outsiders only recently moved in. As if according to script, the town rallied around its local football hero and cast the girl as a slut who was crying wolf. The girl’s mother lost her job and her siblings were taunted at school.
And now Anonymous, that widely known hacker collective, is out for vigilante justice, threatening to exact revenge on the corrupt officials of Maryville, Missouri who dropped the rape charges, reports Time. Though it is easy to sympathize with the plight of the alleged rape victim and believe that small-town politics trumped justice, Anonymous’ actions should be condemned. Legitimate authorities in Missouri should investigate any small-town corruption, not a group of hackers. Vigilante justice is never okay.
While the Kansas City Star expose clearly makes Maryville’s legal and judicial authorities seem like tinpot cronies eager to protect a popular local against the accusations of an outsider, what about other cases where rhetoric gets the blood pumping but facts are hard to come by? For instance, what about the Trayvon Martin case? Many Americans were ready to hang George Zimmerman from the nearest tree, but a jury of his peers acquitted him of the crime. Is it a stretch to see Anonymous waging digital warfare against the authorities of Sanford, Florida in retaliation for alleged foot-dragging in the investigation of George Zimmerman?
It’s easy to root for the hackers when said hackers are on the side of public opinion…but public opinion does not justice make. Our Founding Fathers knew well the dangers of tyranny of the majority, and justice by mob, be it physical or digital, is not true justice. Perhaps the authorities of Maryville did commit a grave injustice, but that is for lawful authorities to determine.