Our Desk | Mob justice

Daniel Beitler

“The face of fear has neither eyes nor ears. It is blind and deaf to all but its own terrors.” (Victor Kelleher)

What to make of the astonishing online outrage to a seemingly innocuous internal message at Galaxy Macau over the weekend?

The message, sent by an employee of Galaxy Macau on Friday, requested volunteers between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday to “help clean up the Grand Resort Deck so it can be reopened to the public as soon as possible.”

The public saw this as a substitute for the street cleaning operations of countless other companies and associations in the city. They jumped to the conclusion that the resort operator was putting its swimming pool first and the city second.

Under the banner of ‘corporate social responsibility’ – or public relations for those of us who can’t tell the difference – netizens condemned the gaming operator for its mercenary cruelty, using adjectives such as “heartless” and “unscrupulous.”

Some took great offence to this ‘business as usual’ message, regarding it as a callous response to the most devastating and lethal meteorological disaster to strike the city in recorded history.

But this act of internet vigilantism also had no regard for the facts. Nobody cared that the operator had conducted its own disaster relief operations days earlier. The mob had reached a verdict and they had found Galaxy guilty.

It took all of about 24 hours for Galaxy Macau’s six-year-old social media page to be reduced to rubble.

The public’s reaction caused a five-star rating system on Galaxy Macau’s Facebook page to plummet from an average of 4.8 stars to 1.0, the lowest possible score on the social media platform. To achieve this, not only did about 8,000 reviews have to be removed by their authors in a matter of hours (leaving just 90 or so remaining!), but also some 27,000 negative reviews had to be posted at the same time.

Something is suspicious about the whole ordeal. The coordination involved here and the sense of unanimity suggests that this attack might not be as innocent as it seems.

And next on the mob’s hit list appears to be Pacha Macau after an online rumor surfaced yesterday about an “offensive statement” concerning Typhoon Hato. Whether there is any truth to it is too early to tell, but a statement has already been issued denying that it represents the views of the company.

And what about Sands China? Will they be boycotted because of shift-scheduling allegations against some of their properties that may have resulted in some employees working too many hours?

People are understandably upset by the events that unfolded last week and in the absence of real political accountability, scapegoating is to be expected.

But the mood of Macau netizens, in their zealous reaction to anything they find offensive, is creating a highly repressive atmosphere where people are afraid to speak out lest they, or their company, become the victim of online harassment.

The mob rules with the heart and has no regard for facts. That’s why ‘mob justice’ is not a type of justice; it is a distortion of it.

Categories Opinion