Dear Internet: Please Stop Harrassing Kids Who Bullied 68-Year-Old Bus Monitor
As was proven in the story of the bullied 68-year-old bus monitor yesterday, the Internet can be a great place, capable of bringing together thousands of strangers to rally around an important cause. Unfortunately, it also has a dark side.
Yesterday, we brought you the story of Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor who was filmed being taunted and threatened to the point of tears by a group of teenage boys. In case you haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick recap:
Karen was taunted and threatened by the boys, called ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’, to the point at which she began to cry. A video of the abuse reached the Internet and quickly went viral. A donation fund was set up for Karen with the intention of raising $5000 to send her on a much-needed vacation, and has now raised over half a million dollars. An outpouring of support and kind words came from people all over the world, who were saddened to see what Karen was put through.
Now, however, that outpouring of kindness has received a darker counterpart. The bullies, and their families, have had their inboxes and cell phones flooded with death threats. Somehow, the identities of the four tormenters were leaked to the web, and people who were (justifiably) angered by what they had seen, decided to take ‘disciplining’ the bullies into their own hands.
Police have been charged with keeping watch over the boys’ homes after one received over a thousand death threats. Even Klein is concerned, asking the father of one of the bullies if they were “going to be okay.”
In my opinion, this vigilante punishment doesn’t fit the crime that these boys committed. The four of them ganged up on an innocent woman and taunted and threatened her – an awful, disgusting act, for sure. But now, they have to try to go on with their lives with the knowledge that there are thousands of strangers out there who would like nothing more than to do them serious harm.
This tidal wave of hatred doesn’t just affect the perpetrators – it affects their families, too. Despite the large number of Internet commenters who are calling for the parents to be punished for not raising their children to be respectful, we can’t blame the parents for something for which we have no evidence. Not to mention the fact that these boys likely have siblings, friends, and other family members who had nothing to do with the incident, who will undoubtedly feel the effects of this wrath.
While the boys undoubtedly should be punished, the punishment they receive is best left up to their parents, their community, and Klein. Should they feel ashamed of what they did? Of course. But the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of people have seen what they did and publicly condemned it should be shaming enough.
The sad fact is, this kind of thing goes on every day; it’s just not necessarily filmed and put on the Internet for hundreds of thousands of people to see. Is the massive outpouring of hate that’s being directed at these bullies, at least in part, a result of the shame we feel as a society for not standing up to bullies as much as we should (or like to believe that we do)? Perhaps.
But if that is the case, our time and energy would be better channeled into positive and productive solutions to the bullying problem that continues to plague us, rather than into threatening the lives of a few thirteen-year-old boys who did a profoundly stupid thing.
Oh, and one more thing — would these threats not fall under the category of bullying? Maybe Gandhi was on to something with that ‘eye for an eye’ stuff.
What do you think about this type of vigilante punishment? The boys did, after all, threaten to stab Klein. Is receiving thousands of death threats from strangers an appropriate consequence for what they did? Does it fall under the concept of being ‘held accountable’ for one’s actions?