Thursday 22 August 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'Think we're more evolved than our ancestors? Think again'

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Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

One of the most comforting myths we sell ourselves is that we have become, as a people, far more tolerant, kind, mature and decent than the generations who went before us.

Obviously, society in general has certainly progressed beyond the point where we put people in asylums and then go to laugh at them. We dropped that policy more than a century ago and, anyway, Love Island now fills that role.

But while society may have progressed, people have not and human nature is just as rotten as it always was.

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Last week saw one of the lowest moments for Irish social media when a bunch of idiots decided to release the names of the boys involved in the horrific Ana Kriegel case.

In fairness to the courts, they cracked down hard and they cracked down fast. But by that stage, the damage was already done - not least to one poor kid who was wrongly identified as being involved. He must have had an interesting few days.

But while the rights and wrongs of lifelong anonymity and the rights of the public to know who lives amongst them are undeniably important questions, what followed the removal of the names was, in its own way, even more depressing.

The lynch mob was out in force - not only were they demanding the right to know who the guilty parties were, they wanted to know who the parents were and all sorts of vile threats were made.

The weird thing was that this wasn't just confined to the usual anonymous accounts, but saw plenty of people proud to put their names to the threats they were making.

It was a veritable frenzy of furious anger, which featured a genuinely malevolent desire to inflict as much damage as possible.

It was also yet another reminder that the pack mentality is alive and well and thriving on Facebook and Twitter.

These people seemed to have no understanding of the law, and then seemed to take extreme umbrage whenever it was pointed out that the law is there for a very good reason. It was another example of the weird, malicious entitlement of so many people who seem to think that life is now a reality show and they have a right to an opinion on everything.

It also showed just how quickly the veneer of civility can slip when enough people gather together to egg each other on and engage in competitive fury.

Nope, we haven't moved that far beyond flaming torches and pitchforks after all.

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