3 Questions We Need to Ask about FHRITP and Internet Justice

You may have seen the following video circulating on the internet. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I should warn you that it contains coarse language.

I absolutely love how CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt manages to professionally undermine this popular joke. She is bang on in identifying the blatant sexism of the comment, and the way it exudes disrespect for all female news anchors. This phrase, and the trend of harassing female reporters, is particularly frustrating because it falls into “legal no man’s land” and would be very difficult to prosecute. However, shortly after this video aired, one of the men who defends the FHRITP trend was fired from his high-paying engineering job for violating their code of conduct.

While I am frankly quite ecstatic that we no longer live in the era of “boys will be boys”, there are certain aspects of this case that have also raised up questions for me. I’ve shared those questions with you below.

At what point does internet justice become cyber-bullying?

The internet has been a major catalyst for feminist activism. For example, a wide variety of feminist issues that are not usually discussed by mainstream media have been able to gain traction on social media. As a woman, I’m so thankful for that. I’m also a big believer in creating stigma around certain behaviours, since it often seems far more effective than banning them altogether. However, I have noticed some instances where public shaming has become an unnecessary contest between shamers. Evan has touched on this in the past, but I also found some prime examples of this on the “Help Shawn Simoes get his Job Back” Facebook page. It seems that instead of liking it in order to actually support the FHRITP scapegoat, people have been liking it so that they can one up each other with their witty comments.

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Who should pay for the crimes of the internet?

Even though it is satisfying to see a young, well-off, and sexist white guy be reminded that he is not invulnerable, I am disturbed by how quickly internet citizens are happy to throw one of their own under the bus. It’s like the Jian Ghomeshi thing all over again. Remember how quickly people switched from defending him to cutting out any association they once had with him? You see the FHRITP “prank” has been around for a long time. Probably anyone who has used YouTube has come across some version of it. Yet few people (myself included) bothered to make any fuss about it until Shauna Hunt so deftly challenged Shawn Simoes and his group of drunk buddies. It’s like all of us suddenly grew a conscience and realized just how disrespectful and creepy that “prank” happens to be. So we picked the first stupid kid to get called out about it as the focus of all our fury. But are we focusing on the right person? I mean, FHRITP may have started as a prank, but there are at least two men who are working to preserve it, help it flourish, and even make money off of it. 

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You can check out their creepy website by clicking the image above.

Is this just a new part of our world that we need to accept?

Part of me is terrified by the way any/everything we do can and probably will be documented and uploaded to the internet. It requires constant self-censorship and it’s something that I always have at the back of my mind as a blogger. However, even though we love to complain about our own personal panopticon, we also need to our acknowledge our reality. We live in a different world than we did a few decades ago. It comes with a lot of really fantastic stuff, but it also means that you don’t get to make big mistakes and then go on pretending they never happened. The internet doesn’t allow for very many second chances, but it does force us to live in a much more honest world. That may not always be a good thing, but it might just be our new normal.

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