Monday, August 18, 2014

Onlookers and Mob Psychology

David Simms, Senior Contributor

In most internet stalking or harassment cases there are three parties involved: the perpetrator, the victim, and the onlooker. When someone is the target of cyber harassment, they can feel violated and helpless against their attacker.  But the suffering can be intensified if the victim is aware others are viewing what is happening and do nothing to help. So in addition to the pain they already feel, the sense of abandonment a victim feels can be all it takes to push them to suicide. Some onlookers may not want to become involved for fear of becoming a target themselves or may feel inadequate in what help they could bring.  Many times onlookers believe nobody is aware they are even there and can therefore observe without feeling guilty for not helping the situation. 

The great irony is that onlookers become part of the equation through observing it, even though they usually want no part in it.  In certain cases onlookers may join forces with the perpetrator to help dish out punishment to the victim. People who do this either participate because they discover they won’t be held accountable for their actions by law enforcement or are convinced by false perceptions that they are participating in a righteous act ordained by God, punishing the wicked. In any circumstance, it can quickly transform into mob-like behaviour where a victim suffers at the hands of many. Mob psychology is such that an outside attempt to change the prevailing view will be unsuccessful. If questioned about their actions, regardless of their irrationality, the mob will defend and justify their activity. Individual components of the mob are weak and directionless however in a group they have inertia. Individuals in the mob are expected to go along with what is collectively believed. Nazi Germany is a classic example. 

Mobs are innately dumb and easily controlled once they are convinced of a reality, regardless of its credibility. It is obvious that mobs in relation to a cyber harassment campaign can be one of the most reckless and ruinous entities there is.