A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Friday, March 02, 2012

If You See Something, Say Nothing

Why is it that only after a kid like T.J. Lane blows away 3 other kids, whose only crime was going to school that day, do we begin to look at their social media activity?

Why is it that a kid like T.J. Lane writes "Die, all of you," and we don't even think to say, "hey, T.J., (and I hope I get this right) "U Mad bro?"

Why is it that we watch people fall on the internet and, watch? Why is the thought of an email or text or God forbid, a true blue live phone call, out of the realm of possibilities?

Why do we watch?

Why do we say nothing?

We can make the excuse that we don't take it seriously, that it's all "internet banter," but why are we unwilling to know? Do we want to see the results of the truth of it?

And let's not blame the dozens or even more of T.J. Lane's 148 Facebook friends that saw his writings and did nothing. We, do nothing. No one is to blame for the decisions, insanity laced or not, T.J. Lane made this week. The blood is not on the hands of those that lurked, that read his writings and moved on to some great viral You Tube video or awesome naked pictures of some hot chick.

This concept of watching things on social media, and, watching, isn't limited to the writings of future serial killers. Lawyers do it too.

Lawyers watch other lawyers lie, puff, and create false reputations on the internet all day, and do nothing.

We, do nothing.

We see something, and see it.

Someone else will say something, but you're not going to say anything because, well, it may not make you any friends.

And the internet is all about "friends," right?

Recently I saw a cryptic status on a friend's Facebook page and I committed the cardinal sin of calling him. Yes, something was wrong. We talked about it. "How did you know?"

I saw something.

Messages fly across the net and we read them. We know the people writing them, we care about them, we eat with them, we know their families, we know these people.

But they're in "second life."

Maybe it's not true, maybe it's just to get attention.

And sometimes attention is achieved.
Non-anonymous comments welcome.Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter


  1. I see lawyers puffing themselves up all of the time, but I really don't know what can be done. The Bar doesn't seem to mind. Consumers don't seem to mind. Other members of the Bar are bothered, but we all seem to accept it as part of the business.

    Do you call out those other lawyers in meetings with potential clients?

  2. Maybe, Ben, a lot of lawyers mind, but they're afraid of saying/doing anything for fear of being considered "mean," or lacking in courtesy. There's a premium placed on not pissing anyone off by saying anything unpleasant about others, and there's an unfortunate lack of support by gutless, whiny and unethical lawyers for those who decide to accept the risk.

    Your point, that no one really cares, strikes me as just plain wrong. Plenty of lawyers care. Not enough have the balls to do anything about it. And most, like you, feel just fine about shrugging it off because it takes the burden off their shoulders and makes them part of the crowd that accepts this as just the way things are.

    This doesn't have to be the way things are. If you care, do something about it. I do. Brian does. And if you don't do anything about it, then admit that you don't care and you're just as much of a puffing sleazeball as the ones you complain about.

  3. Thank you for this great post, Brian. It's very relevant about today's situation your blog post is a good eye-opener for everyone - lawyers or not. It's sad how the power of the Internet to not only get people closer, but also to tear them apart and let them live in their own world. And SHG was right, "if you care, do something about it."

  4. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Facebook friends aren't FRIENDS. I used to have facebook. How many friends did I have? 2. I talked to TWO FRIENDS because they were my real friends. They don't care ... they just don't fucking care! You all say HELP in the end, but you didn't do shit before cause you think eveyrhting is normal! Alright ... I'm not directing towards any of you, but the people that were around him. They were aware but didn't do antyhing cause they gave a rat ass.... gosh...

  5. Public social media isn't an effective way to reach out for help, because it lacks a lot of the social cues that enable people to distinguish between real pleas for help and attempts to shock/gain attention.

    All of these stories, which go back and say "he wrote such and such on Facebook right before he killed people, how did no one see it coming?" suffer from hindsight fallacies. They don't generally look at whether this was normal behavior for that individual, nor do they look at how abnormal it is in the sea of social networking posts out there. If it was normal for him to post similar things to Facebook, his friends may have become acculturated to it. Even if they thought there was something wrong in general, and were trying to help, they might not have been pushed into immediate action by every single individual post.

    And if we want people to start having serious reactions to certain kinds of social media posts, we have to find some relatively clear line which separates out the overwhelming press of melodrama from actual indications of danger.

    If we can't do that, then blaming people in hindsight is completely irresponsible.