I’ve made clear before that I absolutely despise the law-school message board Xoxohth (a.k.a. AutoAdmit). As I wrote then, “the cretins who inhabit that message board are a bunch of dishonest, pretentious, snobby, racist a**holes who delight in anonymous character assassination and tearing down their fellow human beings.” I stand by those words. But even so, to be perfectly honest, I take no joy in this:
[Law firm] Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge rescinded its job offer to Anthony Ciolli, the 3L at Penn Law who resigned as “Chief Education Director” of AutoAdmit last month. He resigned in the wake of a WaPo exposé on how the site in part served as a platform for attacks and defamatory remarks about female law students, among others. …
Charles DeWitt (pictured, left), managing partner at Edwards Angell’s Boston office, where Ciolli was slated to be a litigation associate, told the Law Blog: “He worked for us last summer. He’s not going to work for us in the fall.”
Ciolli took time from working on final exams to talk to the Law Blog. “Three years of legal education has been wasted because of an unmoderated message board,” he said, adding, “The timing is absolutely horrible.” The 23-year-old…added that “I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what I’m going to do next.”
To be honest, I feel bad for the kid. As much as I hate the product he helped create, I wouldn’t wish his fate on any fellow law student. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think he doesn’t deserve what happened to him; there is some factual dispute over how much control he had over the content of the message board, but certainly, through his role in creating a disgusting site widely known for character assassination, he set himself up for this fall. As a commenter on Above the Law put it:
Dude had it coming. He decided to get involved with a free speech experiment in which he helped run an unmoderated message board. People posted insidious lies in the forum he hosted, and those lies have caused harm to the career prospects of innocent people. Now his career has been affected, too, because of what he allowed to happen to the careers of others. In what world is this not justice?
True… and yet, and yet. However much of a scumbag he might be, I can’t bring myself to be happy about what’s happened to him. It sucks, it just really sucks, to be 23 years old and have your career s***canned because you made a mistake, even a big one. I honestly feel for him. And this is precisely why I find the behavior of the a**holes on AutoAdmit (and, cough cough, ND Nation at times, among other places on the wild, wild ‘Net) so baffling: they don’t think twice about tearing down their fellow human beings over nothing, and they frequently take immense joy in their peers’ failures and foibles… while I, on the other hand, don’t even feel the slightest twinge of schadenfreude over something like this (even where the punishment arguably fits the crime quite nicely). And I don’t consider myself an unusually noble or magnanimous person. I’d like to think I’m pretty normal in terms of my tendency not to celebrate other people’s misfortunes. But maybe I’m wrong about that? I dunno. Perhaps I’m naive, but I think most people are good at heart, and at worst are thoughtless rather than spiteful. Once faced with the humanity of another person, I think most people feel empathy. The problem with the Internet, sometimes, is that you don’t have to face the other person’s humanity, you can just treat them like a series of pixels or a string of binary code. That leads to dehumanization and a lack of empathy. And I think we need to strive to fight that.
In this particular case, given all the circumstances, I don’t blame others if they do feel a bit of joy over Mr. Ciolli’s pain. I can understand the viewpoint of the commenter who wrote, “I hope this is only the first for the assholes at AutoAdmit.com. They are truly the worst this world has to offer, and I hope all of them are ruined.” I agree that they are, if their online behavior is any indication of their true character, “truly the worst this world has to offer,” but as for hoping that they’re “ruined”? No, I don’t hope that. I hope they see the error of their ways and reform themselves. I hope they make amends with the people they’ve hurt. But I don’t hope they’re “ruined,” and I’m not glad Ciolli is jobless. It was probably the right decision, and he probably deserves it, but I’m not glad about it. All I can think about his situation is, “man, that sucks for him.” Again, I don’t mean to make myself sound noble or anything, that’s just honestly how I feel. And that’s why it truly confuses me that some other people, especially when surrounded by the cloak of Internet anonymity, can become so strikingly mean and nasty and hurtful, for no reason. Do they not understand these are real people they’re hurting, just as I understand that Anthony Ciolli, whatever his flaws, is a real person? I don’t get it. I really don’t.