Last night I was watching the season finale of Black Mirror (a little late, I know), titled “Hated in the Nation.” Sorry for the spoilers, but it's important to the point. In this episode, which takes place in a theoretic future, an anonymous online presence has invented the hashtag #DeathTo, and encourages people to tweet about the person they’d most like to see dead. The same man also gained access to millions of ADIs (automatic drone insects), or mechanical honeybees that were created to take over the process of pollination since the serious decline of the natural honeybee (colony collapse disorder, a very real problem). He was able to control them and program them to burrow into the brain of a specific person and kill them. First a famous writer was killed after writing a controversial article. Then a famous hip hop artist who made fun of one of his fans. And then a girl who took a disrespectful selfie in front of a war monument.
But the endgame wasn’t what you might expect. The anonymous killer had a lesson in mind. His real target had not been the people who were tagged with #DeathTo, but the people using the hashtag. He commanded the bees to kill them all.
With Casey Anthony back in the news this week, speaking publicly for the first time since her trial, I have seen an onslaught of hatred being posted toward her online of the most vicious quality. This is certainly understandable, and I am writing this in no way to protect Anthony, or to say she doesn’t deserve it. That’s not for me to decide. A jury found her innocent and public found her guilty, and her brazen attitude toward the death of her child launched her into her position as “The most hated woman in America.” Had that Black Mirror episode been real, you’d better believe that last Tuesday the hashtag would have read #DeathTo Casey Anthony. I have already seen hundreds of online comments calling for her death.
Anthony was charged with the murder of her daughter, Caylee Anthony, who was reported missing by Casey’s mother Cindy Anthony, on July 15, 2008. Caylee’s grandmother told police she had not seen her for 31 days. Cindy and her husband George said they had attempted to see Caylee many times throughout the month, but that their daughter kept giving excuses, including that Caylee was with a nanny named Zenaida "Zanny" Fernandez-Gonzalez. When George and Cindy found a letter affixed to their front door saying that Casey Anthony’s car was in a tow yard, they went to pick it up and noticed that it smelled like a dead body had been inside it, causing them to report Caylee missing to authorities.
Casey Anthony admitted that she had not seen Caylee for weeks. First, she told investigators that Caylee had been kidnapped by Zanny Fernandez-Gonzalez, but Zanny did not in fact know or have any contact with Casey Anthony or the family. Then she lied about working at Universal Studios, going as far as leading police in circles around an office building, until finally admitting that she had been fired several years before.
Caylee’s remains were found wrapped in a garbage bag in December of 2008, in the forest near Casey Anthony’s home. Anthony was indicted by a grand jury in October. The trial began in May 2011, with the prosecution alleging that Anthony used chloroform and duct tape to suffocate Caylee because she was seeking the freedom to continue a party lifestyle without the burden of a child. The defense argued that George Anthony had found Caylee drowned in his pool and then covered it up. Then they claimed that the reason that Casey had not reported her daughter missing was that George told her she would go to prison for child neglect. Then they claimed that Casey Anthony had been sexually abused by George since she was a child, so she was used to hiding her pain and acting like nothing was wrong.
In the biggest public trial since OJ Simpson’s, America looked on daily while the circus-like trial blared on. Ultimately, Casey Anthony would only be found guilty of lying to police. But the innocent verdict did not change the minds of the American public, who believed the evidence was clear. The public said if nothing else, how does a mother not know where her child is for over a month?
The media painted Anthony as a party girl that murdered her child in order to free herself of the responsibility of parenthood. They also painted her as a liar, which she certainly was.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman had this to say about the public’s intense reaction: “The main reason that people are reacting so strongly is that the media convicted Casey before the jury decided on the verdict. The public has been whipped up into this frenzy wanting revenge for this poor little adorable child. And because of the desire for revenge, they've been whipped up into a lynch mob. Nobody likes a liar, and Anthony was a habitual liar. And nobody liked the fact that she was partying after Caylee's death.”
I think it’s safe to say that America, in general, hates Casey Anthony. And America hates her with a venom that goes beyond almost everyone else in the public eye. Psychologists believe that one reason that humans feel hatred has to do with the fear of “the other,” of people that are different from us, and thereby unrecognizable, and a threat.
America believes that Casey Anthony did what America hates the most. She harmed a child. She was a mother, and we hold mothers up as tender, loving, caring, dedicated to the well-being of their child above all else. And I believe that most mothers, and hopefully most fathers, do feel this way toward children. So when we see people that want to harm the most innocence, the most vulnerable, we respond with hatred. We simply cannot understand that type of person. We fear them. We fear that fact that they could even exist. And so we say that we will not let this stand, this behavior that is so foreign to us, and if all we can do about it is attack Casey Anthony’s reputation online, we will.
Writer, activist, and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel said in 1986, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”
We often hear about the damages of hatred on our society, but indifference is dangerous too. Hatred may have been the catalyst, but it was mass indifference that allowed the Nazis to rise to power. Indifference would allow mothers to kill their children without consequence. So the hatred toward Casey Anthony is a sign that we will not accept the fearful behavior of those who kill their children. But we also have to understand that our celebrities, and yes, this includes celebrity criminals, become symbols to aim our general hatred at, since we feel powerless to stop the things we find unbearable. Casey Anthony is no longer just Casey Anthony. She is the face of the negligent death of an innocent child.
Something to remember: hatred has an affect on our own bodies. Just like the episode of Black Mirror, the experience of hatred turns the tables on the person feeling the hatred. Bouts of severe anger caused by hatred can contribute to heart disease in a serious way. Even the stress of a five-minute fit of rage can harm your immune system, taking it up to six hours to repair the damage. It can also contribute to heart attacks and strokes. This is something to keep in mind; hatred harms the hater, which means that the encouragement to hate harms the public at large.
I am a passionate person, and I’m known to get scrappy, especially when I see injustices. I can hate with the best of them. A great injustice was done to Caylee Anthony. I want us only to be mindful of our hatred, so that that hatred doesn’t come back around and start to harm us. So that our hatred is aimed at those that pose a true threat to us, rather than the imagined threat of something like the Jewish people (and all others that didn’t fit Hitler’s ideal human) in the 1940s. Hatred can be positively mobilizing, think of the hatred of the Nazis that led to American intervention in WWII. It can be mobilizing for good, when we rally against injustices together, or it can be bad, as Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel had to experience firsthand.
So how will our hatred mobilize us this time? Throwing hate and death threats into the void of the internet can only do so much, and may in fact cause more harm to the person typing than to Casey Anthony herself. She made it clear on Tuesday that she doesn't care what we say: “I don't give a s--- about what anyone thinks about me, I never will. I'm OK with myself, I sleep pretty good at night.”
Acts of love toward our children provide much more hope for them than the hatred of Casey Anthony. If we can pair our hatred with positive change and we might just have something here, and we might be able to preserve our own health and well-being enough to contribute to the changes we wish to see.