Not to be confused: Vigilant & Vigilantes

vigilantes-1893-granger

One area that never ceases to amaze is that of public opinion. As an active voice for people with convictions, I was dumbstruck earlier this week when a tweet appeared on my timeline from a person I have never engaged with previously. The tweet was “informing” me of the online presence of a certain individual. Now, I am not one to encroach on other people’s opinions, and like the proverbial rectum, we all have one and some are larger than others.

My ongoing research, digging into the CJS brings some unpleasant truths. There are crimes against children which are heinous, of this there is no doubt. I am a mother, I am a daughter and despite my fractured family circumstances, my emotional involvement with my family remains. A crime against a child can, and is never, condoned by me. As the modern gift of technology gives the public a voice, I enjoy the vehicles we have in order to voice our opinions, be those good, challenging or diametrically opposed. I am of the mind that being given the opportunity to re-think a matter is not a bad idea. It is a constant learning curve as I look into the dungeons of the CJS.

As the buzz of my phone told me there was a tweet to my account, I do look and I do read. The tweet, although inoffensive, was a polite tweet asking me if I knew who I was conversing with. I responded I was fully aware of whom I was conversing with. I added in the same question back to the person, in asking him if he knew he was conversing with a convicted fraudster. The account stated he didn’t. But that there was a huge difference between fraud and offences of a sexual nature against children. I am impartial on this one. I don’t condone any offence against a child sexual or otherwise. I also do not condone my own offences of fraud.

What then transpired was a clear attempt to rid Twitter of this individual. Every single follower of this account had the same tweet and those who defended their right to make their own choices were then accused of supporting child abuse, covering up child abuse and a string of profane tweets between a group of individuals who have posted the location of the account concerned and listed the individual on a website that screams “vigilantes”. I was told my position “incensed” other people in that they were confused over my stance on those with convictions. Coupled with the profane tweets from “supporters” I made use of the block button fairly quickly. I do not feel harassed nor do I feel victimised by this unsavoury event. But there are some people one just cannot reason with.

Looking back and a further discussion with a friend, who received a separate attack due to her opinions on those who are falsely accused (proven in court by the way) of sexual offences and not necessarily against children, I am amazed not at this vigilante attack but at the insulting manner in which many people’s chosen followers were questioned. Twitter is full of the human race, tweeting regularly on media matters, personal matters and a whole diverse range of subject matter from A-Z. Removing my opinion on vigilantism from the following, I felt one thing and only one thing. The moment a person questions who I follow is the moment a red flag appears and an attempt to control not only me, but many others who rightly so, follow and converse with whom they please. That is our right as human beings, it is not a right for others to question because that choice does not sit with their moral outrage at events.

Challenge my opinions by all means, challenge what I put out there, I am not adverse to discussion and debate about where I stand. But under no circumstances, attempt to clean up my choice over whom I follow and converse with. That smacks of control and an attempt to overrule people’s right of choice. It is unacceptable and punitive behaviour.

There is a world of difference between being vigilant with our online presence, the footprint we leave behind and vigilantism. I respect people’s choice to follow, unfollow or block whom they like and it is not my right to question their decision and nor would I ever want to insult their intelligence with such behaviour. Vigilantism is not an “ism” I am comfortable with and nor will I subscribe. I find the recent events of a cultish nature and we all know what a cult is. It is when there is not enough people to form a minority.

23 comments

  1. A very intelligent and balanced response to what I anticipate was probably an unpleasant incident to be involved in. The saying that ‘an empty vessel clangs the loudest’ should probably contain the rider that the noise it makes is often the most unpleasant.
    Twitter, YouTube and various other social media providers are places that seem to contain a disproportionate number of people who have realised that their local DIY chain have a year round discount on pitch forks and torches. And throw in that hallucinogenic of being able to vent your spleen through a keypad and screen and you have what is potentially a very toxic mix.
    Having spent a lot of years in the legal profession, I am well aware that there are a considerable number of people who have obtained themselves convictions in a situation of ‘there but for the grace of the God I don’t believe in’, particularly when it comes to cases of violence and dishonesty. Not all – but a significant number. Pitchforks, unfortunately, tend to be indiscriminate.
    MJ

  2. Hi Mark

    It was neither here nor there to me. I have had worse thrown at me. As I have pointed out, I do not feel harassed. My friend on the other hand did. Harassment is in the eye of the beholder. She tried to field the attack and that brought on more for her. I tend to be clinical in that rather than telling them to foxtrot oscar, I’d rather keep my cool and disengage. I have seen worse written by hacks in the local rag around me. The block button is there for a reason. But an unpleasant situation nevertheless. I saw briefly some of the descriptions of my stance on criminal activities and that was enough. I knew I was onto a winning battle. Yet I cannot help raise an eyebrow at those who make monstrous claims over another’s rehabilitation….

    Wry smile at your opening paragraph as you have described exactly this. I, for the most part, enjoy time on Twitter with balanced and sometimes opposing people who I respect both professionally and some, personally. I don’t engage on Facebook mainly because I find that place too intrusive in terms of data gathering. In a 140 characters one can quickly withdraw.

    Anyway, all in a week’s engagement with the Twitterati – and the uninvited…

    Hope your weekend is pleasant…

    TM

  3. I read this with an open mind and you make some good points that I don’t necessarily disagree with.
    But I am one of those twitter users currently trying to remove a certain individual from twitter. I would like to explain why I feel compelled to do so. I consider myself to be a well balanced mature sensible open minded non judgemental person ( have to be in my job anyway). Acting in a vigilante manner anywhere – let alone on twitter is just not in my nature or character and I’ve never ever done anything like this before.
    But here’s my problem with the individual In question.
    (A) under his original account he was openly conversing about his views that looking at images of child sexual abuse was OK because it was looking not touching. He was unashamedly peddling his paedophile views – and at no time did he admit that any of it was wrong or harmful even when questioned about the poor little children in the images he was viewing. I have captured his comments on my phone. It was only when I got caught in such discussions that I saw red. If he’s have been repentant remorseful rather than proud of his views then I think I would have just walked away and left him to it.
    (B) under his original account he was following literally dozens and dozens of young ( some were under 16) girls who were clearly vulnerably and screwed up. Their profiles shocked me almost as much as his views did. They were exposing their bodies, their hearts their minds and were needy and very vulnerable. Majority all admitted to being sexually abused.
    (C) the individual concerned also tweeted several links – one of which looked like a girly chat room but I went to it and read many of the comments and it was adults talking about their fantasies of being with kids and also their sexual experiences with children in real life. No photos but their were drawings of naked or semi naked kids. I have the photo evidence of the writings. There were links to films too.
    Basically I rest my case. Oh – by the way – I was 11 when I was first filmed. & photographed. Thankfully before the invention of the internet. But those black and white images got around a few unofficial paedo “rings” if punters paid enough.
    So. Currently I am unashamedly behaving like a vigilante. Not because there is a registered sex offender on twitter. But because of the way he is behaving on twitter, as listed above.

  4. I read this with an open mind and you make some good points that I don’t necessarily disagree with.
    But I am one of those twitter users currently trying to remove a certain individual from twitter. I would like to explain why I feel compelled to do so. I consider myself to be a well balanced mature sensible open minded non judgemental person ( have to be in my job anyway). Acting in a vigilante manner anywhere – let alone on twitter is just not in my nature or character and I’ve never ever done anything like this before.
    But here’s my problem with the individual In question. It’s not to do with his past conviction but his current activity namely
    (A) under his original account he was openly conversing about his views that looking at images of child sexual abuse was OK because it was looking not touching. He was unashamedly peddling his paedophile views – and at no time did he admit that any of it was wrong or harmful even when questioned about the poor little children in the images he was viewing. I have captured his comments on my phone. It was only when I got caught in such discussions that I saw red. If he had been repentant or remorseful rather than proud and arrogant of his views then I think I would have just walked away and left him to it.
    (B) under his original account, he was following literally dozens and dozens of young ( some were under 16) girls who were clearly vulnerably and screwed up. Their profiles shocked me almost as much as his views did. They were exposing their bodies, their hearts their minds and were needy and very vulnerable. Majority all admitted to being sexually abused.
    (C) the individual concerned also tweeted several links – one of which looked like a girly chat room but I went to it and read many of the comments and it was adults talking about their fantasies of being with kids and also their sexual experiences with children in real life. No photos but their were drawings of naked or semi naked kids. I have the photo evidence of the writings. There were links to films too.
    Basically I rest my case. Oh – by the way – I was 11 when I was first filmed. & photographed. Thankfully before the invention of the internet. But those black and white images got around a few unofficial paedo “rings” if punters paid enough.
    So. Currently I am unashamedly behaving like a vigilante. Not because there is a registered sex offender on twitter. But because of the way he is behaving on twitter, as listed above.

  5. Hi Sue,

    I have taken the time to read your post. I also read your post with an open mind and wanted to share my thoughts on your response.

    I would never share my personal emotions on any social media network. I would only share them with people I know personally.

    The alleged activities of the individual account you mention should be reported to the relevant authorities. It is not for members of the public to take the law into their own hands. There is a due process in the law of England & Wales for all to abide by. No exceptions, the law is the law. When one lobbies for a new law, it is essential one understands the current laws in place.

    In any court one cannot allow emotions to dictate the outcome of any case. Thus we should be very careful when judging others with the mindset of the “thought police”

    The agencies involved that apply the law are proficient in doing so. We have to remember that some people are proficient in the art of manipulation.

    We have to remember that we are on a virtual media site. We have many good people but also we have to remind ourselves of the keyboard warriors.

    To implicate, slander or make false allegations as a keyboard warrior is just the same as doing it in the real world.

    People who have been convicted, sentenced and completed that sentence are members of the general public as you and I are. Remember also there are orders attached to sentences where sexual offences against children or any person are in place. If these are not complied with, then the relevant authorities are there to deal with such breaches.

    These are stringent orders that are monitored by units such as PPU. It is not for others to say these are not in place and allege that breaches are being made. If any suspicion of illegal activity is in place, then using the correct channels is necessary and should always be the case.

    Justice can only be applied by the relevant authorities and at no time should it be allowed by others to implicate on social media networks that illegal activities are taking place. The first and only port of call has to be to the relevant authorities. This should only be discussed after such a case has been proven against any person.

    I cannot substantiate or dismiss your account of abuse as an 11-year old. I am not an authority on such matters nor can I give you any emotional response.

    I do not live in a lawless land. I am accountable for all of my actions and can only judged by those in the relevant position to do so. I am not a legal expert nor am I a lawyer.

    My response is purely based upon a worthwhile discussion.

  6. Hello Sue,

    Thank you for your response to my initial post.

    With due respect, I feel you have missed the point entirely to my article. I’ll explain again.

    The overall point is that of controlling behaviour. Which is exactly what the tweet to my account was. Most people I follow and who follow me are intelligent and capable people. Much of my work is writing about the Criminal Justice System. Therefore, I take exception to a person asking me if I know who I am conversing with. That is insulting my intelligence and last time I checked, I was not lacking capacity to make my own decisions. If I am lacking capacity, then it is the responsibility of my nearest relative to make the necessary application to The Office of Public Guardian to safeguard my decisions. It is not the responsibility of a stranger on Twitter to “inform” and ask me if I am aware of whom I am conversing with. The level of abuse that was directed at me from people who have no idea who I am or indeed if I have been subjected to any abuse was immense. However, I am more than capable of dealing with profanities and those who are on a moral crusade.

    Taking the law into one’s own hands is dangerous behaviour. Were I to suspect any illegal activity against any person, I would have no hesitation in reporting such behaviour. I would never take the word of any person until l had seen it with my own eyes.

    I should not have to reiterate my feelings over offences against children but I will. There is no condoning of such behaviour and absolutely it should be taken to a court of law and if proven, the person/s should be sentenced accordingly. I leave that to those who have the authority to do so. I do not claim or behave privately or publicly as a law enforcer in order to make a point.

    Advice on Twitter is there for all to view. There is a report button, there is a Police service available on 101 to speak to one’s local force to report such activity. A crusade to inform many people of a presence of a person who has previously been convicted of sexual offending behaviour looks emotionally unbalanced and makes people wary of engaging with those who indulge in such behaviours. I defy any professional person not to offer advice along the same platform. If at any time you suspect illegal behaviour or activity, then the correct course of action is to report it to the Police so they can action appropriate levels of the law. The Police have the powers to do this. We, do not. Vigilante behaviours causes anarchy and indeed, has caused the death of one person in recent years that we know about.

    I appreciate your view on sexual abuse against children. But the level at which you have taken to investigate the alleged activity of said individual is immense and if you have the evidence you say you do, then the correct course of action is to report to the police. I’d hate to see you end up in trouble.

    With regards to the abuse you suffered as a child, I hope your abuser/s was/were brought to justice and you have/are receiving professional support.

  7. Good article, but cutting out all the ‘fluff’ and the niceties of entrusting our law enforcement agencies {cough}, victims are let down time and time again and trust in our law enforcement and our judiciary are at an all time low.

    I too have reported the individual Sue is referring to. I am neither a Survivor nor Victim but appalled a convicted sex offender can hound victims on social media. I am totally disgusted with the police response, failures to return calls etc. I can see why people often want to take things in to their own hands. It is clear that our Police and Justice system provides more protection to offenders than victims.

    It must be ‘Oh So Nice’ to have faith and believe that we all live in ‘Trumtpon’ and PC Plod is going to take us seriously. We are in a different age, an age where the Justice system is nothing more than a revenue collection unit enforced by Police revenue collection teams.

    History has taught some of us well, it’s PEOPLE that sort injustices out in the end, not overpaid, privileged toffs who mess with peoples lives in some twisted power game.

  8. Thank you for your comments @upsidedownflag

    The article is not about entrusting law enforcements, in any way shape or form.

    However, as your post demonstrates your opinion, then I shall share mine on your response.

    I take you at your word that you have reported the incident/s. You and others have every right to do so and rightly so. Raising petitions and approaching injustices is necessary, I do not disagree. I do disagree with vigilante behaviour. There is a country mile between the people raising awareness and “informing” people of who they are following or being followed by in an aggressive manner. This was the case, witnessed and experienced by many in the last week.

    Having been on the offending side of the justice system, I can tell you. There is no protection of offenders. In-line with sexual offending, then the orders that are attached are to monitor the offender in order the public are protected.

    I don’t disagree entirely with your points on the justice system at all. You make valid points. History has taught us well – but until some change is actioned and lobbied for in an orderly manner, attacking people is not the way forward. It alienates people.

    People sorting out injustices is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, when we pick up the hot poker to throw at someone, who gets burnt first?

    The alleged activities that Sue makes, I hope have been reported to the relevant authorities. Despite your feelings and mine, it is what we have to work with at this moment in time.

    Again, I thank you for your comments.

  9. My view on this, an it is not my giving an explanation. You were told what you were following and your response was to chastised the messenger. I blocked you because you follow something fully aware of what it is promoting. You follow it, you support it. You can publish this on you blog or not. I will not be returning to find out!

  10. For those who claim they are not part of the vigilante culture, please Google …

    How Many More Will It Take? BTW, It Does Not Matter If They Are ‘Innocent’, Or Not – ‘Sarah’s Law’ Advert For End-October

    The OSC

  11. I fully accept the need for people to feel protective of one another, in fact it is such a pity human nature has eroded this in all but some of our race. The protective streak has slowly been replaced by malice in those who wish to cause harm on one another. It is something that i have witnessed in our breed more and more of late, there are no boundaries it is ever more apparent than on social networks.

    I amoungst many other twitter users have experienced a little more than just a friendly warning from others the vigilante crusade are coming to a twitter post near you.

    It was suggested to me a day or so ago that i followed a certain person and it was insinuated that i should not be doing this. I carefully pointed out that i indeed did not follow this person, my crime at this point was mealy conversing with others about a point that is very close to my heart anonymity. I had not been party to the previous trades between 2 twitter users one of which is a dear friend of mine, infact it transpired later on that another of my friends had also been victimized and hurled abuse when defending herself.

    I have no issues with any person pointing out something that i may not be aware of what i take umbrage with is the harassment and bullying that i felt was now being put upon me. As i said, my only crime was conversing with others about anonymity i dont believe i deserved or did i ask for my families circumstances to be called into question.

    The person who initiated the conversation i might add was not the person going forward to hail abuse these people were more than happy to call into question my son’s false allegations insinuating that indeed it was not a false allegation at all. I found this deeply upsetting and totally uncalled for when the person’s responsible for this claim to also be victims of abuse. It was very disturbing and highly questionable in motive of why indeed i had been targeted for mealy asking a simple question about anonymity.

    I have endured to maintain and research material that question both sides, the victims of sexual abuse and indeed the victims of false allegations. I am neither biased nor am i unintelligent to see the horrific treatment both parties have suffered in their plight for justice. Isnt it not in the interest of both sides to strive to ensure that all false accusers are brought to justice as it is these very people who simply make a mockery of the anguish that is felt and experienced by those true victims of this hideous crime?

    It is every single person’s right to choose who and who not to engage in conversation with. It is insulting when a person pushes their opinions and views without giving the person they are engaging with the opportunity to decide for themselves who they wish to speak with.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for your post. Thank you for remaining on topic also.

      I saw the exchange between you and the people you mention. It was not a pleasant exchange at all. Knowing your case as I do, it is impossible to get out in 140 characters.

      But that is no excuse at all for the behaviours of some. Yet when we respond accordingly, you were called a liar, I have been called a supporter of child abuse. Churlish and abusive responses due to non-compliance of views.

      I watched my mother back in the 70s make scandalous allegations about my father sexually abusing me. Back then, it was my word taken as truth that at no time had my father sexually abused me. Categorically untrue and a case of my mother lashing out to hurt my father as he had left her for another woman. That didn’t stop SS from ordering an examination in the back of a county court room from stripping me naked as a 9-year old to “examine” me. There were no independent medical experts to guide me as a child through that process, it was done and dusted in moments. So, these people have little idea when they carry through crusades in the name of victims of what people have been through.

      Views as you have demonstrated, are not the problem. I have no problem with strong opinions of those who have had direct experiences of terrible traumas and ordeals that no child should ever, ever endure. But the abuse over a choice I make, is unacceptable and I will not tolerate such behaviour either personally and certainly not people who I have no emotional attachment or involvement.

      You are completely correct in your unbiased view from both sides. It is the false allegations that take up so much time and prevent justice for those victims who are scared, traumatised and unable to find a way forward. It is also important to remember those who have told the truth and have no justice as their case does not reach a court. They are the ones I truly feel for.

      Sue, at the top of the comments was respectful and explained her views. I can see the reasons why. As was the following post. Debate and discussion is one thing, hurling abuse is quite another.

      xx

  12. The problem of harassment and vigilantism is not confined to Twitter and similar social networking web sites. There are various databases around the UK accessed bylocal authorities, social services, teachers, GPs and others which contain all manner of defamatory gossip which is accessible and built on by those allowed to access it. These databases have become a sort of state Twitter. Even if the allegations are presented to the accused and are declared false by a judge or jury in a court of law, the allegations stay in circulation, largely covertly, and only when the target of the allegations applies for a job requiring enhanced CRB checks or off-the-record inquiries and crashes into the system does the alleged abuser become aware that the allegations are still in circulation and causing endless trouble. For some reason, the principle of “innocent until proved guilty” is thrown out of the window as soon as the allegations of child abuse are made and replaced by “no smoke without fire”, “got off on a technicality” or “we know he did it but didn’t have any evidence”.

  13. Hi there and thank you for your contribution. You make excellent points and absolutely correct in that this is not just a Twitter or social media problem.

    It’s a non-exhaustive topic.

  14. The world is round, some may say what goes around comes around. The gravity and matter takes care of this, so does it really matter. If you listen to voices that instruct you it may well become a mental health issue. Better to sit back and gaze at the stars, and yes there are many but some are brighter than others.

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