The Social Scarlet Letter

I like dogs, I have two and a half of them back home. One is really quiet and well behaved and one is an American Bulldog…anyone who owns one will know exactly that that means. I don’t like cruelty to animals (who does!) but a recent case has given me slight pause. The fellow who runs Centerplate catering (which specializes in supplying awful overpriced food to sports arenas) lost his temper with a Doberman puppy he was looking after. He kicked the pooch and lifted him up by the collar. His crime was captured on security video in the elevator and it was of course leaked to the media. I watched the video…it’s a little rough to watch..if it was an American Bulldog he would probably have enjoyed the added attention. This gentleman was certainly guilty of being a total jerk….he may yet face cruelty charges in Canada where the event happened.  He apologized profusely, his company put him on suspension, ordered him to set up a $100,000 foundation against animal cruelty and do 1,000 hours in appropriate community service.

Even given those good efforts the social media drum beat for him to be punished for his apparently out of character jerkiness continued unabated. An online petition amassed 193,000 signatures and people started lobbying the clients of his company. The kicker here is that although his company is private many of their clients play in arenas owned by local governments. In response to the video and the pressure it generated several of them claimed to be reviewing their contracts with Centerplate. The implication being (I guess) that if enough people could be organized to protest Centerplate would lose contracts.

After more than a week of this Centerplate folded under the pressure and he stepped down. Obviously I don’t condone the action of what was by all reports a hardworking and successful guy…he was a total jerk. He’s now also out of a job and his company is down what appeared to be a good leader. This has more than a whiff of mob rule about it. The angry mob of protestors wanted blood and they got it. The double standard that Michael Vick probably plays in sports grounds which are catered for by Centerplate is breathtaking. I wonder how many of the protesters have ever had a bad day and taken it out on their dog or spouse..or kids. Social media, in addition to providing us with unlimited access to pictures of cats has also become the bully pulpit of…well….bullies. Its anonymity means that everyone has an opinion and that opinion must be heard. It can build a career overnight and destroy one just as quickly. It’s all very amusing…until they come for you.

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