On Television: Fargo Residents Choose Facebook Over Police To Deal With Scary Man In The Park

Last night on 6:30 Point of View with Chris Berg we discussed the story of Kirk Ludwig, a man who was pilloried on social media after one user, Fargo resident Jed Felix, caught him taking pictures near the city’s Island Park pool area.

The more I think about the story, the more I believe that it should be something Fargo citizens are ashamed of. Here’s why: Out of the thousands of Facebook shares and likes and comments advocating for everything from Ludwig’s arrest to physical harm, not one single person called the police.

That was revealed on Berg’s show yesterday when he interviewed Deputy Fargo Police Chief Joe Anderson. The chief told Berg that even though the issue was getting plenty of Facebook coverage, the police were first brought into the situation when Ludwig himself contacted them.

“While the social media was exploding with this guy’s photo he came to the police department and we were able to interview him,” Anderson told Berg.

That’s astounding, and it puts lie to the self-righteous claims of Facebook vigilantes that this was all about public safety.

Felix’s first post which started this controversy happened at 1:13pm on July 13. Felix felt so strongly that Ludwig was some sort of threat that he claims to have threatened to “smash his camera.” Yet, Felix didn’t call the police. Neither did any of the people responsible for the 104 comments on Felix’s post or the more than 4,500 shares (both numbers as of the time of this posting).

Clay County Minnesota Sheriff's Deputy Jason Hicks said someone should "stomp" Ludwig's guts.

Clay County Minnesota Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Hicks said someone should “stomp” Ludwig’s guts.

Rather Ludwig himself was the first to think to bring in law enforcement, contacting police around 4:00pm, and it’s not hard to understand why. Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. You’re in the park taking photographs. Some man comes up to you and threatens to smash your camera, so you leave. Later you find out that photos of yourself and your vehicle, including your license plate number, are all over social media with people claiming you’re a pervert who sould be beat up and/or arrested.

Even a local law enforcement officer got in on the online hate session. Clay County Deputy Jason Hicks wrote a Facebook comment saying somebody should have “stomped his guts out,” referring to Ludwig. Hicks now, lamely, claims that his comment was “satire.” Ludwig, the subject of the seeming threat, might be excused for feeling differently.

This incident reveals something dark about the public in the social media age. People understandably concerned about a man engaging in strange behavior in the park opted to do their civic duty by jumping to conclusions about this man on social media, and calling for his physical harm in many instances, rather than contacting the police.

I’m not sure the police handled this situation all that well either – the criminal trespass order they put on Ludwig doesn’t seem legal to me – but the public acted shamefully.

This should give us all pause.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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