Benton County: Exposed… Shaming Convicts for Fun and Sport
I recently discovered the cottage industry of “naming & shaming,” as it was dubbed when it swept the UK 10 years ago, that is alive and well in Corvallis and the rest of the country. I’m of course talking about posting mugshots and personal info for everyone to see.
There’s Benton County Inmates on Facebook, Corvallismugshots.com, Mugshots.com, Bustedmugshots.com, and more. Benton County Exposed alone has nearly 1,350 “Likes.” Heck, Benton County publishes these pictures and info on their arrests on the county website, which is where these private sites get their information.
But on the Facebook pages – there’s one or more for basically every county in the country – there’s the opportunity for people to comment on mugshots, make jokes, or post about their own involvement. One post on a young woman’s listing on Benton County Exposed’s Facebook page said “This one needs to be spanked.” Other sexually driven or derisive comments follow, such as “She’s in her prime” and “She look like a tweeker to me! She needs to step away from the crackpipe so she has some eyebrows left. “ People laugh at those crying during their mugshots, and stoop to petty insults about their hair or gender identity.
One Asian man was joked about as having worn a “suicide vest” – by the page’s moderator himself. On a sister page, Benton County Inmates, one guy comments on the photo of a tearful woman “Oh my god, being a dumb bitch is soooo hard!” The creator of this page commented on his role in keeping it alive, “This is the best part of my day. “
On one hand, it’s easy to sit back and say, “Well, they deserve it, they committed the crimes.” But some of these people might be innocent. And isn’t their sentence their punishment? Do we need to pile on? Okay, then “Well it’s barbaric, I mean who posts pictures of other people like that? It could incite a mob or ruin someone’s reputation. How do they get a job after this?” But at the same time there are victims of crime who have to live with shame and self loathing (no matter how undeserved) for life. It’s not so easy to tell them not to take their pound of flesh.
Who really gets exposed when you post Facebook pages full of mugshots? The criminals, or those that view it as entertainment and an opportunity to get vicious?
The answer is, the criminals. And that’s the power that Internet anonymity affords the purveyors of such websites, and it’s the anonymity that makes it easy for us to just sort of shrug and say, “that’s life.” Furthermore, in the case of the Facebook pages, it isn’t even anonymous. Nobody’s losing any sleep over the reputations of the arrested, right?