SAMMY D — The sex offender registry and draconian laws aimed at offenders has destroyed lives of individuals and families. Today a new form of offender registration has transpired. This new offender registry creates life sentences using the internet as its delivery method carefully skirting libel and slander policies under the blanket of free speech. Naturally, this is not a registry, but social movements are utilizing social media platforms to quasi-create a public registry with no hopes of being removed or deleted.
A recent news segment mentioned an R&B superstar named R.Kelly. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” ”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”Step in the Name of Love,” ”Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He has also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. However, as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct. Kelly had been scheduled to be among the performers at current concert venues but was dropped as efforts by organizers of #MuteRKelly gained attention with support from Hollywood’s Time’s Up campaign.
Society is witnessing new tactics to create and facilitate registry styled methods using constructive hashtags and meme styled photos similar to police lineups. All these methods are protected by free speech rights. There are disturbing trends with guilt by association tactics using political individuals seen in pictures or appearances with individuals accused but never charged with sexual improprieties. The same strategy is being used on individuals as a result of news and information shifting from regular news sources to social media. Social justice movements have become strikingly similar to recreating sex offender registry models by combining low-level offenses with significant offenses presenting an appearance of guilt for anyone mentioned. Additionally, to be associated with the accused, guilty, or suspected has created a panic based fear that will eventually become more violent as anger and social stigma increases. Does this imply that we should stop listening or supporting Elvis Presley because he dated a 14-year-old girl? Moreover, does it suggest that hearing or being an Elvis fan makes you a supporter of statutory rights? The question is, “when does the conversation begin?” or is this electronic vigilantism stirred by social movements with no real agenda or cause? Are freedoms of choice under assault?
If the sex offender registry was not enough to restrict movement and liberties, then the internet has an interesting way of making life nearly as difficult for those not on the registry. Spotify and Pandora are sizeable online streaming music services. They recently removed artists from its collection where fans must search for specific content. Movies starting accused or guilty offenders have been quickly removed from major content providers. Art has recently been removed from galleries because corporations or entities do not wish to be spotlighted with pressure from social movements. Most interesting, social movements or mob justice campaigning efforts are shaming those that listen, watch, or support such artists. That has many inquiring who is the bully or aggressor in this case?
Social justice movements do have a nice effect on placing a spotlight on specific issues that need addressing. However, at the same time, these causes must educate everyone with equal effect and allow occasional discourse to remedy problems from getting out of hand. Those that differ should have an opportunity to be heard. Sex offender registries have harmed individuals, families, and supporters. The same tactics are occurring with social justice campaigns damaging artists, fans, companies, and the innocent. Just as offender registries lump all into one category, social justice movements are incidentally doing the same. While #metoo and #timesup campaigns initially were valid, that effect has morphed into anger, antagonism, and losing focus on the opportunity for open dialog and discussion. Maybe its time to stop and take a moment to #listen where a constructive dialog helping shed pain, frustration, and integrity are reintroduced? The internet has a tendency not to be forgiving. Let’s hope that humanity and social justice isn’t becoming like the internet.