Friday, July 27, 2007

On mob justice

You might recall this poster on this blog: Racism alive and kicking - why every ethnic group is capable of being racist. Never mind my linguistic lapse as it's rarely ethnic groups that are racist (if ever) but individuals belonging to such groups. Well, give the story another read in case you forgot all about it. Here's an interesting twist that to some extent fits today's header 'On mob justice'. So, here's how I came across the story. While enjoying a pub meal tonight (don't ask, some revolting something or other) I read the same newspaper again that broke the story a couple of days ago. Well, as you will hopefully recall by now, the woman in question's name was/is Aileen Siu. Reportedly she isn't working anylonger for the government agency in question (one wonders whether she's been made a scapegoat as seemingly her conduct only raised concerns in that agency after the public outcry). However, as it happens, there's another Aileen Siu (possibly one of many) who also happens to live in Toronto. The latter Ms Siu had nothing to do with the initial incident, but she keeps (well, seems she kept) a Facebook page about herself, including a picture. Ever since she received a substantial number of letters castigating her in no uncertain terms for the other Ms Siu's actions. Her image was since transplanted on to lots of blogs, combined with a fair amount of harsh criticism for something she actually didn't do to begin with.

Of course, to be fair, those that went after her (usually anonymous, that's part of the beauty of cyberspace, isn't it ...) most likely, if not almost certainly, committed an honest mistake. Mistaken identity problems happen. This is one of them.

Having said that, it seems that those who fell for the wrong Ms Siu (perhaps by googling her name and ending up with the wrong person), should, once the mistake has been pointed out to them, post an addendum to their initial poster with a view to correcting the mistake. I must say, even if it had been the offending Ms Siu, it's unclear what could have been achieved by dumping abusive language, threats and the like on her. Just to give you a flavour of the type of abusive responses the story generated, this was posted on another blog a couple of days ago:

'This woman is a racist whore that needs to get fired! Her comments are ignorant and only highlight the fact that the Ontario Public Service needs oversight from a body like the federal Public Service Commission.'

It's truly unclear what the writer thinks could be achieved by using deliberately derisory language
. Here's the follow-up story in today's Toronto Star.

I owe this link and the encouragement to do this follow-up to a correspondent who wrote this:
Hello, Udo: That O.G. staffer deserved to lose her job. She violated the public trust, and she had to go. However, when punishing someone for something they’ve done wrong, I personally find it important to punish the right person. As you can see here, a bunch of web-based morons just decided to start persecuting this innocent you lady: Before we go after people and start wrecking their lives, it’s important to get our facts straight. Saying that all people with the same name are alike is just as dumb as saying we all look alike. I’m not saying anything about you, of course. All I’m asking is that you urge your readers to exercise a certain amount of caution, and to pass the word on. So, are any of those morons going to apologize? Should they feel obligated to do so? Should they be charged with anything? Should they be kicked off their networks? What do you think? And what’s your take on this aspect of the story? (Definitely food for another thread.)'

I don't know how many emails of this kind this correspondent circulated, but on searching for 'aileen siu toronto' on google images i was unable to find any image of her for quite a number of search pages. Which makes me wonder whether they have all been removed since the mistake became clear or whether there's more to this. But then, hey, I'm not Sherlock Holmes.

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