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Vigilante Justice is Rough on the Internet

Backlash for Indianapolis diner who whined about inconvenience of a dying customer

The Internet, filled with billions of images, facts, thoughts and opinions, is many things to many people. To some, it is a friend. To others, it’s a valuable resource, and to those who can’t stop surfing, it’s pure obsession. Sometimes, the Internet is judge and jury, too.

Take the case of the young Indiana hairstylist Holly Jones, who earlier this month took to Facebook to complain about the poor New Year’s Eve service she received at Indianapolis restaurant Kilroy’s Bar and Grill. She criticized the staff for its terrible work, and vented her overall disappointment in the dining experience.

There was one big problem. The staff that night was dealing with another patron, a woman in her 70s who had suffered a heart attack during dinner.

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Jones was made aware of the emergency situation, but even so, referred to the woman in distress as a “junkie” in her post, and railed over the fact that the manager told her a human life was more important than her meal that night.

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Not surprisingly, Internet users went nuts.

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Jones’ Facebook rant went viral — and then the restaurant manager’s response went viral, too, as he garnered thousands of supportive responses to his Facebook smackdown.

His post, directed at Jones read, in part: “But I can completely understand why you think being intoxicated ***holes that didn’t understand your bill should take priority over human life. I especially appreciate you making your server (who doesn’t curse) cry as well. I’m sure she really enjoyed working on New Year’s Eve just to deal with people such as yourself.”

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(Jones has since claimed her Facebook page was hacked, and she denies posting the offensive message.)

Here are other examples of how the Internet’s masses mete out justice – or express incredulity, shock and outrage:

Steve Harvey Calls Out Wrong Miss Universe Winner
After the talk show host called out the wrong winner at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, the Twittersphere went bananas. Shock, dismay and hilarity ensued on social media platforms as Harvey painfully corrected his mistake, causing winces and tweets around the world. It only got worse when he misspelled the two top finalists’ home countries in his first apology tweet. His apology alone received 100,000 retweets and 160,000 likes on Twitter.

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Customer Confronts Starbucks’ Political Correctness
Joshua Feuerstein, an Internet personality and former pastor, walked into a Starbucks wearing a “Jesus” T-shirt and carrying a gun (because Starbucks hates the Second Amendment, he claimed, according to Religion News Service). Then he told the unwitting barista his name was “Merry Christmas” so that it would have to be written on his cup. He then uploaded a video encouraging his followers to do the same. His video got over 150,000 likes on Facebook and over half a million shares.

Old Navy Disses Artists, Art Lovers Take Issue
In December 2015, clothing retailer Old Navy released a toddler’s T-shirt that read, “Young Aspiring Artist.” Pretty innocuous, right? Except the word “Artist” was crossed out, and replaced with other, supposedly more desirable occupations, such as “President” and “Astronaut.” The online backlash was swift and painful for the retailer, as thousands of people went online to vent their anger at this “diss” of the artistically inclined. By that afternoon Old Navy had issued an apology online, and the ill-fated toddler T-shirt was abandoned.

The Internet Roars over the Death of a Lion
Last year American dentist Walter Palmer went to Zimbabwe and bagged a lion. Unfortunately, Palmer’s kill was Cecil the Lion, a major attraction at Hwange National Park, an animal observed and tracked by the University of Oxford as part of a study. He was also the pride of Zimbabwe. The legality of Palmer’s kill was dubious, initially (he was found to have a permit, and later cleared of any charges in the kill).

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In the aftermath of the killing, the Internet went wild, and celebrities, media, brands and thousands upon thousands of posts across platforms told Cecil’s story and demanded hunting bans. Calls for boycotts of Palmer’s dentistry practice were widespread, and Yelp reviewers deluged Palmer’s business page. Comedian Ricky Gervais’ tweet of a photograph of Cecil garnered 32,644 retweets and 36, 608 likes on Twitter.

It’s no surprise a 2013 study by Beijing University of Weibo, a Twitter-like site, found that anger is the emotion that spreads most easily over social media. The emotion of joy, they found, came in a distant second.

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