The Pervert’s Parable: Was public shaming really the solution?

Disclaimer: the following article is solely the opinion of the author and does not reflect the collective thoughts and opinions of The Magic Rain and its members.

When Pandora opened the box of evils, I’m convinced that complacency was one of the things to fly out of it.

In light of the recent meme to hit the ACG community’s circulation track, I decided that there’s no better time than now to address an issue that has plagued our online community for years. That is public shaming, or as I like to question, “seriously guys, is this all that we’re capable of?” Before I go into that, however, let’s go back in time to the situation that sparked this article in the first place.

Two weeks ago, a man named Azzan was exposed on Facebook as a pervert whom had sexually harassed several cosplayers online and offline. His list of offences include repetitively asking for “sexy” photoshoots and sending highly inappropriate messages. As expected from this era of sensationalism, the expose of this man blew up within seconds. It was like my Facebook timeline was being possessed. People were sharing the original post left and right, my timeline was being overrun with rants and concerns for the future of the community, and the story was even covered by a few news clickbait portals.

But at this point, this was all still to be expected. In a time when we’re encouraged on a daily basis to share our lives and thoughts on social media, this was all par for course. However, it didn’t take long before the situation started to morph into a beast, far out of our control yet all too familiar to some of us. What we as a community did was make Azzan into a living joke.

The headline for the article by World Of Buzz. Image source:

Now, I’m not standing up for the things he did. I still think action should be taken against him. But after the initial euphoria from the meme wore off, I found myself faced with only one question: Why hadn’t anyone taken serious action before this?

If you’d been following the issue closely, you would know that the original Facebook post sparked a lot of cosplayers to share their past experiences with this man as well. Reading through comments and posts following the event made it even clearer to me that this was not a first-time offence. This man had been doing this for years, so why had he been allowed to continue doing it? Even as the issue blew up, all that resulted in was him shutting down his Facebook account. As far as I know, although feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, no action in the name of law had been taken against him. That worries me for a few reasons.

ONE: How often are we allowing people like Azzan to roam unchecked in the ACG community? It seems to me that most of us are “used to” this aspect of the community, even though harassment to this degree is something that should never be normalised. A Facebook post I read made an extremely valid point in this case: As a community, we have somehow become used to dismissing issues like these as just “another case of ACG drama”, whilst if it were any non-ACG case, many of us would never stand for harassment of this degree. This reality is frightening, because it not only paints a bad picture of the ACG community to the public, it also compromises the safety of ourselves and our fellow community members.

TWO: The fact is we obviously had another option here – to report Azzan to law enforcers – but few of us, if not none of us chose to take that option. I am fairly certain that, if followed up by concrete action earlier on, we could have curbed this issue a long time ago. But instead, we let it grow into a big joke, choosing to seek out justice by directing negative comments at him.

In reality, what exactly is productive about sending someone death threats? What satisfaction do you gain by kicking up a fuss online, only to forget about it a few weeks later? What we need to understand, my friends, is that having an opinion online – no matter how well-meaning – doesn’t make you a vigilante. The justice that we seek out may give us satisfaction for one moment, the jokes that we make may garner a chuckle or two, but if not combined with concrete action, only reduces us to the lowly standards of a playground bully.

In my opinion, this situation with Azzan already says a lot about this community’s predisposition towards trivialising issues like these. It wouldn’t even be farfetched to say that most of our first reactions to disaster is to share and comment first, squeeze out all the drama, then only “think about” taking action. Unfortunately, this habit of ours doesn’t come without circumstance either. This time, someone was taken advantage of. In the future, what will happen next?

All I know is that if we allow this kind of mindset to prosper, we are going to see an increase in people like Azzan in the future. It doesn’t matter how much awareness is raised right now; eventually people will forget about this meme and everything it entailed. But you know what people are actually going to be aware of? The attitude that the ACG community has towards people like him. And I’m telling you, we better get it right next time.

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