Mob justice

Seth Godin has a typically pithy post about mob justice in blogs.

1. controversy is fun to write

2. controversy is fun to read

3. piling on is safe and fun

4. undoing 1, 2 and 3 is no fun, hard work and easy to avoid.

When I was a kid, there was a fair amount of mob justice. A bunch of kids would spread a rumour, a posse would appear, ask no questions, beat the crap out of you and move on.

A friend of mine is now in a similar situation (and, as Arlo Guthrie famously said, “you may find yourself in a similar situation…”). And the question is, what should he do.

If he takes the time to point out to those bloggers that they’re wrong, that they’ve taken one data point and blown it out of proportion while ignoring the facts (and there are many facts that they’ve ignored) he’s just adding fuel to the fire. “Of course you’ll deny it,” they’ve said to him on the phone, “that just proves we’re right”.

Bloggers love a good fight. They love the give and take and the comments and the links. So my friend keeps his mouth shut and waits for it to blow over.

And it will blow over. Blogging is about speed, and no news is bad news if you’re in the hunt for an easy score.

So that’s the right way to deal with the mob, but it’s not fair. It sucks, actually. The mob wins and nobody learns anything.

Yes, I guess blogs can work that way. In groups, I call it ratpacking. It’s not fun to be on the end of it.

I’m curious to know what specific incident Seth’s talking about. Without that information, I don’t see how to offer a useful response to the story… expect to say, that specifically identifying a ratpack and stating your own objections to it, may be the only thing any one of us can do to stop it.

And yes, maybe it will just blow over.

6 thoughts on “Mob justice

  1. Aleah

    Where there are people, there are cliques. Where there are cliques, there are rumours, and so on and so forth. Specific types of blogs are like small towns – where people are the first to say you’re an ass behind your back, but also the first to lend a hand when your car is stuck in the mud.

    Reply
  2. aaron wall

    >I’m curious to know what specific incident Seth’s talking about.

    perhaps the Search Industry took offense to this post

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/01/is_there_a_sear.html

    especially after he posted that essentially organic seo services held no value when compared to adwords…especially after his own blog and distribution primarily relies on links…especially after he stated that he couldn’t get the adwords ads to stay listed.

    Reply
  3. Katherine Stone

    I don’t know about other bloggers, but I don’t post anything in order to pile on to an attack of another company, brand, process, activity, etc., just for the sake of piling on. Ever. I only post about things I really believe and have a strong feeling about, and as much as possible when those things have occurred to me as an original thought(rather than the topic having been brought to my attention by someone else). Sometimes “blogpiles” may get a little ugly, yes. But I also think it might be the case that so many bloggers critize certain companies or ideas because in their heart they find them suspect. The example of BzzAgents comes to mind. I’m sure the people at BzzAgent really believe in what they’re doing. I don’t. But that’s OK. They have a right to do it and enjoy it and be happy about it. And I can raise questions about it in my blog, as part of the daily discourse that occurs in the blogosphere on the subject of marketing.

    Reply
  4. Johnnie Moore

    Katherine – thanks for joining in, hope all’s well with you.

    Yes, I guess provocative ideas generate heated responses from several people. And BzzAgents is a good case of a heated debate, but it’s still a debate.

    This morning I feel like adding that we shouldn’t forget the role of the vast numbers of people who read but don’t comment. I credit them with the sensitivity to interpret what’s said, discount some of the heat and make their own minds up.

    Reply

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