Another airline passenger removal sensation hit the interweb Monday when an individual was forcibly removed from a United flight because the plane was overbooked.
United is taking the vast brunt of the public outrage but the blame is totally misdirected.
The fact that a passenger was removed from a flight was not disturbing. This happens all the time on overbooked flights, including 3,765 cases where United involuntary denied boarding to passengers in 2016.
However, the manner in which the 69-year-old passenger was forcibly removed was deeply disturbing but the manner was not United's responsibility. It was a Chicago Aviation Department security officer that physically removed the passenger, not United Airline officials.
Cell phone footage shows the man kicking and screaming as he is violently removed from the aircraft. A airport cop responsible for the excessive force has already been suspended. But the mob rage continues to foment with proverbial twitter pitchforks aimed squarely at the airline.
United could have certainly been more sympathetic instead of coldly apologizing for having to "re-accommodate" customers, with no mention of the brutalized passenger. But businesses are understandably cautious to issue public relations statements that could lead to legal liability, especially before all the facts are out.
The deeper problem here is also that social media mobs rush to judgment and quickly express anger. A comprehensive study from Beihang University in Beijing found that anger is the emotion that spread the most easily on social media.
Reasons for this include the fact that we are more willing to share anger with strangers, whereas happiness is more likely shared with close friends. Outrage is also often generously rewarded with re-tweets, likes, supportive comments, sympathy and feelings of vindication.
There is nothing inherently wrong with expressing outrage on Twitter. In fact, social media can be a great tool to force accountability and expose injustice. But it can also be a vicious weapon if misused to wrongly harm the reputation of a business.
The outrage against United Airlines should be responsible, measured and focused on the security officer who is the real culprit, not an airline that attempted to innocently enforce its routine policies.