In a Halloween season where some costumes pushed the extreme boundaries of good taste, to say the least — including some donned by celebrities — one 22-year-old Michigan woman may have taken the prize for sheer thoughtless stupidity.
But when Alicia Ann Lynch of Bay City, MI, tweeted out a photo of herself in costume as a Boston Marathon bombing victim (see full photo below) she was unprepared for the vitriol that would be spewed in her direction from every corner of the internet almost immediately.
Lynch has not only received death threats and threats of rape, her parents and best friend have also been subject to a barrage of abuse after online vigilantes dug up information about them.
She was also fired from her job, which perhaps was to be expected.
While there’s no question that Lynch’s costume was horrendously offensive, insensitive and just plain stupid — and posting a picture of herself in costume on Twitter perhaps even stupider — the over-the-top reaction to her idiocy raises questions about how much is too much when it comes to social media retaliation against people who post tasteless material.
Do the people threatening and harassing Lynch on line actually care about her insensitivity to victims of the Marathon attack? Or is there some other, more unsavory motivation at work?
“Threatening to murder and rape a young woman for f*****g up is not bringing her any closer to realizing the fault of her ways,” wrote commentator Laura Beck on the web site Jezebel. “Proposing punishment by rape and murder couldn't be more antithetical to the light and love flooding Boston after the marathon. Those venomous cries for vigilante ‘justice’ come from a dark, ugly place.”
“Is that chick with the marathon bombing halloween costume dead yet? have we killed her yet? If we havent, then what are we waiting for?” went one fairly typical tweet, posted by Josh Duhamel and reproduced on the site Buzzfeed, which first publicized Lynch’s photo.
Other internet users in various social media tracked down Lynch’s personal information, which wasn’t hard to find since she had earlier posted a photo of her own driver’s license on line.
Clearly, she is not given to considering the consequences of her social media postings. She had also posted a lengthy series of nude and semi-nude photos of herself — which in the interest of propriety we won’t link to here — on the social blogging site Tumblr.
The sexy selfies were quickly located by various users and circulated on line, before Lynch apparently canceled all of her social media accounts.
She then appeared to return to Twitter to apologize for the costume, but her supposed user name, @SomeSkankInMI, should have been a tipoff that the account was phony, as Lynch now says that it was.
However, she did issue an apology of sorts in an e-mail to Buzzfeed, though the apology took the all-too-familiar “sorry if anyone was offended” form often favored by celebrities and politicians.
“My costume was not meant to disrespect anyone, ever. I am truly sorry to anyone that I may have offended or hurt with this,” she wrote. “I wore a costume to work, with people that know me, and wouldn’t get offended by it. I had even ran the idea by a friend whom had his father in the marathon and he didn’t have an issue with it.”
She later told Buzzfeed by phone that her closest friend had received threats to “blow up her house and hang her child.”
While she claims not to be bothered by most of the threats directed against her personally, the rape threats, she said, hit home. According to Buzzfeed, they recalled for her “an experience she tearily described undergoing last Thanksgiving.”
Nonetheless, she still appeared not to fully grasp why her costume was deeply offensive to many people.
“Honestly, it’s the Day of the Dead,” she said. “I wasn’t a dead person, I wasn’t being disrespectful. I was a survivor of a marathon. And it’s not like I was walking around with a fake leg or my arm torn off or something like that.”