Outrage Over Viral Image Depicting Young Woman Pointing Gun at Baby
OutlineA message featuring a photograph of a young woman pointing a handgun towards a baby she is holding calls for recipients to contact police if they know the woman so that the baby's welfare can be ascertained.
Brief AnalysisThe identity of the young woman, which those sharing the message are assuming to be the baby's mother, remains unclear. The same image has been featured on various "parenting fail" websites for several months. But, it is not possible to determine from the image alone if the child is in any real danger. The action caught on camera is certainly ill-conceived and foolish. However, it might be nothing more than a silly prank and a momentary lapse of judgment forever preserved. Making snap judgements based solely on this one image – and threatening violent retaliation as many commentators have done – seems just as ill-conceived as the incident depicted in the picture.
Scroll down to read a detailed analysis with references.
In mid-January 2014, an image depicting a young woman pointing a handgun towards a baby she is holding started to circulate rapidly via social media. The image's caption suggests that the incident depicted is an "outrage" and calls on recipients to report the woman to police should they know who she is so that the baby's safety can be ascertained.
The picture has caused rage and consternation among many that have received it, with at least a few advocating bloody and violent retaliation against the woman should she be identified.
The same image, minus the caption call for the girl to be reported, has been posted to various "parenting fail" websites for at least a year.
The identity of the young woman in the picture remains unclear.
Certainly, the image is disturbing. But, without knowing the circumstances in which the picture was taken, any suggestions as to the child's welfare or the young woman's fitness as a mother are mere conjecture.
Without a doubt, posing for such a picture was an extremely foolish and ill-thought-out act. But it may well represent nothing more than a momentary act of stupidity, now immortalized forever. The demeanour and expression of the girl suggests nothing overtly sinister or violent.
Moreover, many commentators are apparently assuming that the girl is the baby's mother. This may well be true, but we cannot make that conclusion based on the picture alone. The girl could be another relative of the baby or a family friend.
A worrying aspect of such "trial by Facebook" campaigns is the level of rage exhibited by some commentators. Threatening to kill, maim, or disfigure the young woman is, in my opinion, no less heinous than the act depicted in the offending picture.
The image gives no clue as to the location of the woman or any other identifying details. Given that the image has now circulated all round the world, this lack of details could lead to mistaken sightings and false accusations against innocent people.
It is difficult to see how the continued circulation of the image can be in any way helpful. Internet vigilantism like this is dangerous.
This message echoes a quite similar 2013 viral protest that featured another young woman holding a handgun to a baby's head. Again, the picture alone was not enough to determine the baby's welfare.
Last updated: January 23, 2014
First published: January 23, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen