Saturday, April 2, 2011

A High-Tech Lynching

Mary the Elephant, Lynched in Erwin, Tennessee, 13 September, 1916
A High-Tech Lynch Mob, 2 April, 2011, Help Island Public. The Headless Victim is at Center

Written 2 April, 2011

A High-Tech Lynching

I saw something ugly tonight, and I'm afraid to say I was caught up in it for a time, until I processed what was going on and tried to put a stop to it.

I was hanging out at Help Island Public, along with about 40 other avatars, when a one-day-old new resident appeared and managed, in the space of three short minutes, to antagonize almost everyone.

It started in a small way when an older resident welcomed her to Second Life and called her man. You know, like "Welcome to Second Life, man." She said "I"m not a man!" He apologized, telling her he had read the wrong tag in the crowd.

She then said hello to everyone. But then she made the mistake of bragging. She said she had just gotten home from a photo shoot in a club. She hated the smoke, but they paid her $3000 USD for 30 minutes work, she said.

That started it. The resident bully, a popular DJ in Second Life said, "Of course they are."  When she said she did it for the fans and mentioned she was an Eye Candy model, he called BS on her. From then on everything she said was somehow wrong. Before long most of the people present were picking on her, ridiculing her, sniping at her. Eventually she snapped back, and the bully's girlfriend decided she was the target.

That's when the lynching really began.

Suddenly her avatar was being animated and deformed, and against her will.. She was hunching the air, rolling on the ground, sticking her head up her backside, spinning her head like a top. Eventually she was grossly deformed, stretched out 50 meters in all directions.

This went on for an hour (I timed it from the chat log). Through it all she kept asking why her person was behaving so. Through it all people kept saying horrible things to her and laughing at her. It was a high-tech lynching.

I had participated at first, but found it increasingly unfunny as the scene continued to play out. I was in IM with a friend who was also present. He grew upset before I did, and our conversation helped me understand early on that something horrible was happening.

I made a few feeble attempts to stop it, but the group dynamic was going strong and the lynching continued. So I IMed the victim and talked to her at length to make sure she understood she was being abused. She wound up friending me, which made me feel a bit guilty.

The more I process what happened, the more angry I become. I'm mad at the people who led the pack, I'm angry at the people who followed, I'm angry at whoever deformed her, and I'm angry at myself for not coming to my senses sooner and for not trying harder to stop the lynching.


G said...


Kudos on a really well done blog! It's extremely well put together. You obviously have an artistic eye which leads me to the subject of my comment. I'm one of those (couple) day old avatars and I have to say I read your account of this virtual lynching with more than a little horror. One of the things that have kept me off the grid and merely thinking about becoming more involved with SL is my slightly less original than white bread out-of-the-box avatar and the way it screams noob. Knowing nobody who is involved in SL and practically nothing about the application, I know I'm bound to be bumbling around the virtual world, asking stupid questions and generally making a dork of myself. The thought that my avatar can be morphed, stretched, and generally made a mockery of in front of a cheering crowd is - well a little frightening!

Keep up the fine work!

- G

Cheyenne Palisades said...


It's terrible that bullying behavior exists on the grid, but fortunately most people escape it. Many many people help new folks get their avatars together, and I would be happy to assist you if you'll IM me when I'm in world.

Thanks for the kind words about the blog!

Brinda said...

Chey, I was 5ft/8 in the 8th grade and genuinely hated because I was taller than even all the boys.
I had an undiagnosed Asbergers Syndrome then (it wasnt recognized in the mid 1950's} and I compensated by being violent so I wasn't ever physicaly bullied, emotionaly it was a different story.

I despise those that take part in the behavior you described. When I see that I promptly TP away... I send an IM to the abused party and offer them a TP away from the site.

I have worked with literally over 1000 new people and early on I give them the first two rules of virtual worlds...
#1 Have fun
#2 Never ever accept and "wear" anything given by someone you don't personaly know.

Thank you for doing what you could. I love Secondlife and try and do whatever I can to demonstrate to new people just how magical this place can be.

Ever since the old Help Islands closed we have new people just dumped into situations as you have described.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Thanks, G!

Brinda-- That must have been tough!

I'm fortunate not to have ever been bullied and happy not to have ever bullied anyone. Lucky.

Sorry for not responding before, I missed it somehow.