When I was a kid I was not popular, but most geeks can be comforted in the knowledge that there is always somebody in your school who is even less popular, even more bullied. For me it was Chris. Chris had a learning disability, and he liked to tell fibs. He claimed that his father was Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and that when he finally returned, he was going to come to the school and beat us all up. His dad was also a millionaire, and he owned an airplane, and even though the school bus drove past his family shack everyday, that was just a cover for their wealth. I can tell you honestly, considering how mean we all were to Chris, we deserved to be smacked across the face by a professional wrestler. Hardly a day would pass when Chris wasn't being yelled at or taunted, and he was reliable as a target.

But one day during the 4th grade, Chris had a meltdown right on the playground. From an aerial perspective, it must have looked like a human hurricane with Chris as the eye. Somebody had set him off and he was raging. At intervals he would shift from weeping and sobbing to angry fists, striking out at anyone who was close. In a short amount of time, a crowd closed in around him. As he struck out, the crowd would part to make way, but the kids had seized on the opportunity for fresh kill. They chanted names at him and urged him on. I can't remember how it ended. Maybe a teacher stopped it.

Though I could not articulate it, I learned that day that people are terrible, and that mob mentality is a real thing to be avoided and distrusted. I didn't participate in the taunting, but I didn't help, either. Witnessing the mob actively changed my mental layout.


I can see the mob closing in on Amanda Bynes. You know she is desperate because of her weak attempts to change the conversation. I guess there's not much left for her to lose, but it is officially a shit show. I feel terrible for her.

Unless you're talking about the fall of the extremely powerful, there is never a reason to feel good about these moments. People will offer excuses for why it's okay to make fun of her, but those excuses are flimsy. Amanda Bynes and other celebutantes are not powerful. They're just known.

Even if Amanda Bynes did somehow "deserve" the ongoing media frenzy, there's no reason to feel good about it, to take pleasure in it. You are not wonderful because you noticed that she's going through a bad time. There seems to be some feeling of satisfaction that humans get out of condemning others, whether it's about a social gaffe, or murder, or mental illness. But there's more to being a good person than not being a bad person. Standing on the sidelines and judging actually just makes you a different kind of asshole. Real moral force comes from action. [ETA] And action in and of itself changes you and opens you up to forgiveness.