Trial by Twitter: The trouble with believing everything we read
North America has stumbled over the allegations of sexual abuse made against Bill Cosby since November, the possibility of “America’s Dad” being capable of drugging and sexually assaulting women forming a pit in millions of stomachs.
Cosby, his lawyers, his wife, and his closest friends and colleagues continue to deny the claims, despite the fact that over 20 women have now come forward.
But social media and celebrity news outlets exploded with the news—and continue to air every development as it occurs—along with the opinions of people who have posted about the situation. And the continent seems to be split on judging Cosby’s guilt.
Some would say that these women are fabricating every incident, and are merely out to destroy an American idol and have their time in the limelight.
But the purpose—and the benefit—of taking down a 77-year-old comedian is mysterious at best.
Most argue that these women must be telling the truth, because nobody would willingly attach their name to such allegations without substance; being a victim of sexual abuse has its own stigma attached to it.
A divide that rivals the Grand Canyon spans the distance between those who believe in Cosby’s innocence and support the comedian they’ve always loved, and those who believe unequivocally in his guilt.
A Canadian tour in Ontario from Jan. 8 to Jan. 10 was the first series of stand-up comedy performances Cosby has presented since the allegations began and countless venues cancelled their bookings.
Protestors waited outside of each venue—and some disrupted the shows inside and were quickly removed from the premises by security—shouting that Cosby was a rapist and chanting, “We believe the women!”
No charges have been laid against Cosby, but judgements have been made across the globe. There is a considerable amount of confidence in his guilt, regardless of the defenses of his character by peers and his outright denial of the claims.
It is a product of the society we have cultivated, in which sexual assault is a serious issue—no argument there—especially against women, celebrity lives are lived in the public eye, and social media is the bible.
For many, those 140 characters are gospel, no matter what the source, particularly when they have to do with public figures—whether they are Hollywood stars, political icons, or business tycoons.
And the opinions of every social media user form the backbone of a culture wrapped up in scandal and turned on by shocking testimonials.
Whether right or wrong, Cosby has already been tried and convicted by the public.
At this point, if charges are laid against him, an acquittal could cause serious upheaval.
Essentially, Cosby is a condemned man whether innocent or guilty, because a significant percentage of his peers and the vast world of social media have cast their verdicts.
We believe what we read, whether we want to hear it or not. Unfortunately, those words could lead to a form of vigilante justice the likes of which we have never seen.
“Innocent until proven guilty” has been replaced by “guilty because Twitter said so.”