Patterico's Pontifications

6/8/2020

When The Angry Mob Comes For You

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:38 pm



[guest post by Dana]

This is a horrible story, all the way around. During protests last week, a male cyclist was accused of attacking a young woman who was posting fliers against police brutality in Maryland. The suspect was later arrested:

A cyclist on a Maryland trail who was captured on video roughly grabbing a young woman while she posted fliers against police brutality was arrested and charged Friday with three counts of second-degree assault, the police said.

The Maryland-National Capital Park Police said the cyclist, Anthony Brennan III, 60, of Kensington, Md., was tracked down after the agency received hundreds of tips from people who had seen the video, which has been viewed more than 29 million times on Twitter.

The police said that Mr. Brennan was biking along the Capital Crescent Trail near Washington on Monday at about 12:45 p.m. when he came upon three young people who were hanging fliers. Two of them were 19 and one was 18.

The fliers, described as “a call for community action,” read: “A man was lynched by the police. What are you going to do about it?” according to Captain Jeffrey Coe, a spokesman for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.

Mr. Brennan began to argue about the fliers and “forcibly grabbed” them from one of the teenagers, the police said. He then pushed his bicycle toward another one of the teens and caused him to fall to the ground, the police said.

While I’m glad that the authorities were able to locate the suspect with the help from the public, it should be noted that the mob isn’t always helpful. In fact, in this case, they were downright terrifying. Consider that, before Brennan was arrested, Peter Weinberg, a finance marketing executive from Maryland, had been identified on Twitter as the man on the bike. And because of being mistakenly identified as the suspect, Weinberg found himself at the center of an ugly mob, accusing him of assaulting a young woman. Not alleging it. No. The mob had already determined his guilt:

[A]round 10 p.m., he received an irate message on LinkedIn from someone he didn’t know. He brushed it off, thinking it was probably just spam. Then he got another. And another. The third message was particular strange, as it mentioned something about the cops coming to find him. Perplexed, he watched as the messages continued to pile up. They were all so similar: angry, threatening, accusatory. His profile views suddenly soared into the thousands.

He began to panic. He decided to check Twitter. Although he’d had an account for more than a decade, Weinberg didn’t use the social platform very much. He mostly followed mainstream news outlets, politicians from across the ideological spectrum, entrepreneurs, and financial analysts…

In his mentions, disaster was rapidly unfolding. People accused him of assaulting a child. Of being a racist. They shared a selfie he’d taken in sunglasses and his bike helmet and analyzed it alongside blurry images of another man in sunglasses and a bike helmet.

The other guy had been captured on video hitting children and ramming his bike into an adult after becoming enraged that they were posting fliers around the Capital Crescent Trail in support of George Floyd…

Unbeknownst to Weinberg, the police had already begun to crowd source for information in identifying the suspect:

(But the date was in error: ” “Correction, the incident occurred yesterday morning, 6/1/2020,” they wrote in a follow up tweet. As with most such clarifications, it had only a fraction of the reach: a mere 2,000 shares.”)

Weinberg, who hadn’t been aware of the story, and knew it wasn’t him in the photo, nonetheless found himself being threatened by individuals convinced of his guilt:

“You assaulted a little girl and other innocents because of your political beliefs,” one Twitter user messaged him. “Hey so are you the piece of shit who assaulted a child in Maryland today on the bicycle trail?” asked another. “Hey you racist bitch….we’re coming for you.” “You deserve to pay.” “Ur going down u disgusting piece of shit.” “Nice job assaulting a small child today. You need to be fired from your job immediately.” “YOU UGLY RACIST BITCH.”

And here is how his personal information was made public:

It was based on that initial, false information that Weinberg had become a suspect for the internet mob. To his surprise, the app that he used to record his regular rides from Bethesda into Georgetown via the Capital Crescent Trail shared that information publicly, not just with his network of friends and followers. Someone had located a record of his ride on the path on June 2, matched it to the location of the assault from the video, matched his profile picture — white guy, aviator-style sunglasses, helmet obscuring much of his head — to the man in the video, and shared the hunch publicly.

It took off. Weinberg didn’t know what “doxing” meant, but it was happening to him: Someone posted his address.

The next morning, Weinberg met with with Detective Lopez, who told him he was free to go, and that the police department would report that he was not a suspect.

Maryland attorney general Maryland Brian Frosh reached out to Weinberg, and apologized for the mess he helped create:

“I am sorry for what you are going through. Police have a suspect. Can I post something that would help?” Hours before Weinberg was falsely accused, Frosh had asked all of Twitter for help finding the man in the video. “If anyone can identify this man, please let me know,” he said, and nearly 50,000 people retweeted him.

Weinberg said of his experience:

“You may hear more from me in time as I reflect on this experience,” he tweeted. “For now I will say this. We must align in the fight for justice and equality — but not at the cost of due process and the right to privacy and safety.”

And the woman who originally tweeted Weinberg’s home address? She deleted the tweet with his address, and apologized on Twitter for “depriving someone of their own right to justice”. Sadly, less than a dozen people retweeted her apology, because the mob just isn’t interested in corrections or apologies. Mob mentality demands otherwise. They are only interested in going after individuals they *think* might be someone of interest to the police. But here’s my question: why not just call the detective’s number on the Twitter post, or the local police department, and leave a voice message, or direct message the detective on Twitter? Why not choose to be discreet about throwing around accusations that could endanger an individual who may not be guilty? How about even treating another individual with a presumed innocence, and let law enforcement do their job? While I absolutely understand the compelling need to see someone arrested for attacking a young woman, and that the circumstances surround the crime were intense, I cannot go along with a “they were just trying to do the right thing” excuse. These people had other options that were viable and would not endanger anyone by assigning guilt to a private citizen on Twitter. But this mob did not choose not to avail themselves of these options. And that was wrong.

What’s really sad is that there should have been hundreds upon hundreds of social media users posting public apologies to Peter Weinberg. His Twitter account should be blowing up with apologies. But we know that won’t happen.

–Dana

Minneapolis City Council President: Calling the Police Comes from a Place of Privilege

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:28 am



Insanity:

She never does answer the question: who ya gonna call when people break into your home. Ghostbusters?

Meanwhile people are telling us online “when we say ‘defund’ we don’t mean ‘defund’ we mean [insert gobbledygook].”

These people are frightening. If they want less money going to police then maybe don’t burn police stations to the ground, because that kinda makes people feel like we need a whole hell of a lot more police. Not less or none.

But maybe that’s just me.


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