If the name isn’t familiar, Justin Hutchings is a now-former employee of a men’s clothing store in London, Ontario, who (in his own words, as recorded by The Toronto Star) thought it’d be a good idea to conduct a “social experiment” using the people making sympathy posts on a memorial page for a suicide victim.
“I did this because if there was so much caring and so much emphasis on the fact that people actually care now that she’s dead, then how come society didn’t step in when she was alive?”
So what did he write on that page? “Thank God this b—- is dead.”
This upset a lot of people, naturally, including a woman in Calgary who traced that comment back to Mr. Hutchings’ Facebook site, learned from it that he worked for a clothing store, and contacted the store’s manager about this particular antic. Which is why Mr. Hutchings is a “now-former” employee.
I suppose it’s occurred to you that what Mr. Hutchings did was not so much a “social experiment” as the typical prank of an Internet troll. I’d say you’d be right, and Mr. Hutchings’ further comments sound very much like that:
“Yes there is a little bit of regret and remorse,” he said, adding he feels badly for the girl’s family. “I’m sorry if I offended anybody and that it wasn’t portrayed in the way it was supposed to be.”
Yep. A typical non-apology where he complains that nobody got that he was playing a joke / conducting an experiment / whatever.
Oddly enough, the Toronto Sun has someone named Simon Kent who wants to defend him:
Did he deserve to lose his job because of it? Should any of us fear for our own employment if we ventured to an online forum and said something other people disapproved of?
The now-former Mr Big & Tall employee is guilty of speaking ill of the dead – at the same time advertising his own callous lack of respect for the same – but he hardly caused a panic or represented a real and present danger to anyone other than himself.
Perhaps we should spare him the public hanging and flogging so many have asked for and just ignore him.
For any online troll that is the worst punishment of all.
Well … actually, no. Ignoring a troll doesn’t punish him; he just keeps right on trolling, if not on site A that moving on to site B. And if people want to maintain a good site, then ignoring trolls is simply not an option. They have to be dealt with, either with anti-spam measures, or moderation, or (as we’ve seen here) by public exposure. Ignoring a troll is an easy answer; stopping his trolling is a better one.
Trolling is a conscious action, and actions always have consequences. Response in kind is one, which is why Mr. Hutchings had to take down his Facebook site. And whether people like it or not, “real-time” employment discipline is another.
Many of the comments on Mr. Kent’s column make the point that, since Mr. Hutchings identified himself on his Facebook page as a store employee, he’s expected to behave, even during his off-hours, in a manner that reflects that store’s good name. It’s the same reason why Tiger Woods got into so much trouble with his corporate sponsors over his extramarital shenanigans: it doesn’t matter that his private life is not their business, it does matter that the way he conducts himself reflects well on the companies whose logos he wears.
Mr. Hutchings is not in jail for a hate crime, nor charged nor even accused. He simply acted like a jerk, and what happened to him as a result are the consequences of acting like a jerk. He may have a hard time explaining this incident to prospective employers in the future, as well as explaining why such conduct shouldn’t disqualify him for employment in his chosen field. But he might have anticipated this problem, and if not — well, he can chalk it up as a life lesson, albeit a fairly expensive one.