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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The photo of a dog hanging has gotten a lot of attention over the past few days. The story on our website got 132 comments and nearly 40,000 reads in just 48 hours.

But why did a story about a couple facing more than 100 sex crimes with a child got far less reaction? And why are some comments even more violent than the alleged offenses?

We asked a clinical psychologist for insight.

Extreme comments were not hard to find on our stories about the dog being hanged from a ceiling and the couple charged with the crimes with a child.

Doxie lover posted on the dog abuse story, “This is SO SICKENING! What kind of MONSTERS would do this. I hope anyone involved in stringing this poor puppy up like this BURN IN HELL!”

And Dirk Diglr had this to say about the two charged with sex crimes: “Its a shame public hangings are no longer allowed. These 2 would be perfect candidates. I hope the die a long miserable, suffering, painful death.”

Clinical psychologist and UNCW professor Dr. Kate Nooner says there may be a few reasons for the violent comments.

“Being online and having that level of privacy kind of makes you willing to say things that are bigger than what you would say in another context, and also, the second part, is people feel like, well you did something against a harmless creature, so it’s justified for me to harm you,” Dr. Nooner said.

She says it’s human nature to react like this.

“Our natural reaction when something wrong happens, our emotions run high, and if something violent happens responding with aggression is kind of the natural emotion that comes out,” Nooner said.

But why would this picture elicit more emotion than a child investigators say was abused for nearly a decade? It is something that outraged Sad Man, who wrote: “What’s really sad is that this story only had three comments, and the stupid dog hanging from its harness for a few seconds has 132 comments of outrage.What’s really sad is that we have twisted priorities that put a dog, or any animal, above a child.”

Dr. Nooner says there may be a reason for this.

“Thinking of harmful things, especially sexual abuse happening to children, is so terrifying that they don’t even want to click and look at a story on it,” she said.

Dr. Nooner says when it comes to dealing with something violent, aggression usually is not helpful and can make things worse.

Comment on this Story

  • GrandmaK

    Also the dog picture was ALL over the internet and Facebook this particular child molestation wasn’t. The comments were from all over not just local.

  • Vog46

    Thats a great point – my daughter saw the pic of the dog on various social media sights as well. I wonder if WWAY can see how many people signed up JUST to make comment on that picture? Of curse dogs being one of the most popular pets also makes a difference. There was a story on WWAY last year from SC where a man was caught on camera having sex with a horse in a stable! That story got far fewer comments then the dog story did.

    As for the child molestation story? I have this fear that story was not “titillating” enough to garner many comments. I HOPE that it was so heinous a crime that it defies commenting but I fear the first thought was more truthful. The media (and the courts) use terms like “crimes against nature”, and “sex with a minor”, and “contributing to the delinquency” – which somehow makes it sound LESS sick that it actually is.

    Interesting how we perceive things based upon the verbiage used. Is human trafficking more dangerous than being charged with pimping? Is prostitution worse than sex slavery?

    Then there’s the pictures. Would the molestation story garnered more comments had there been a picture of the child involved? Would the dog story had gotten less comments had there NOT been a picture in the story?

    Interesting how one story goes viral and the other doesn’t……..


  • StoneTyler402

    There are two very simple reasons for the disparity in number and intensity of comments.

    One, as has been noted, deals with the distribution of the respective stories. The “hanging dog” story got widespread attention. I actually followed a link from a national news blog to the local story.

    Two, I’ve never met a person who thinks child abuse is acceptable. However, I’ve net many people who would look at the “hanging dog” story and either laugh or shrug their shoulders and say “it’s no big deal”. I think that, more than anything else, brings out deep emotions in people who find animal abuse to be disgusting. It’s the nature of it as a debatable topic vs. one in which there is near universal agreement.

  • bernard

    I feel one reason for this is that animals have very little protection under the law, whereas children are sometimes over-protected to the point that some adults feel that their own rights and privileges are taken away in favor of someone elses child. Most probably do not recognize the contempt, but it is there, nonetheless. With animals, this is not the case. E.G., have you ever gotten behind a school bus that stops every few feet when you are in a hurry and wished the driver would simply let the string of cars pass and be on their way? Then wondered why the fat little kids that got off can’t walk 20 feet? Annoyance breeds contempt. Someone else is in control of a situation and you have none. Pure psychology.


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