Shaming: it’s a bit crap for everyone

by Lord Sutch

It’s no surprise to anyone that Twitter and Facebook are filled with vile, racist, homophobic, bigoted awfulness. Because humanity is filled with vile, racist, homophobic bigots.

You’ll see in the tweet above I’ve greyed out the person’s twitter handle. And that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today.

**takes a seat**

You see there’s a thing online where we expose these hideous racist, vile, bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic individuals for the hideous racist, vile, bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic individuals they are. And that’s good right? We all see them and we can inflict the pain and misery of public shaming. Yay justice!


These people have already crossed the rubicon into public shaming. They’ve put that tweet or Facebook message out there. That’s why I fundamentally disagree with websites like The Public Shaming Tumblr which doesn’t just post the individual tweets, it posts their usernames as well.

The consequence of these shaming sites, is that us “enlightened” folk then pile in on the bigots and abuse them and tell them how awful they are. And I’m willing to bet that the number of individuals who have rescinded what is probably years’ of built up bigotry is the same number of terrorist attacks that the Wellington airport security screeners have stopped: Zero.

In fact even in the about section of the The Public Shaming Tumblr, the author says

“I started retweeting people complaining about welfare, food stamps, etc. and then following it up with a previous tweet of theirs that makes them look hypocritical/dumb/etc. I discovered that as I would retweet these, my followers would start @replying these people and let them know they were idiots. They would then delete their offending tweet. Well, I couldn’t let that happen. So, I screenshot away.”

So his intention isn’t even to improve the world. It’s to be a jerk to jerks. What is that achieving?

That’s not to say we should let people get away with awfulness, but when we publicly name and shame and by proxy invite the internet to start tormenting these people, we are becoming them. No better than they are because we now have a figure to poke a stick at. Yes, our victim has done something bad, but not bad enough to incur the vile torrents of abuse from sometimes literally millions of people. In fact there are very few actions that warrant the sort of online bullying that occurs when a tidal wave of perceived injustice swells up. At the extreme end of this is Sunil Tripathi.

And what are we, the finger pointers, trying to achieve? Because we’re certainly not going to change their opinion. If anything we further entrench their ignorant beliefs because of the Backfire effect. And because being a dick doesn’t convince anyone of anything other than you’re a dick.

The best way you can get through to someone who believes that Marion Bartoli is too ugly to win Wimbledon is to connect with that person and show them that even sports players / celebrities are human too. That they have feelings, emotions and thoughts like everyone else.  Because it’s really hard to have a prejudice against someone/something when you’ve been exposed to that very thing in a positive light.

And piling in on them telling them how awful that is just doesn’t help.

So come on, let’s just be grown ups, k?




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Pinchey July 9, 2013 - 11:10 pm

It can also be quite dangerous in some situations. There was a case, last year, of a guy who pushed a teenager off a skateboard (bad thing to do, but the teenager was fine), it was videoed and put on the web and went viral. The guy was outed on the internet, had his place of work, with its phone number, and an email address all put on a picture. Some may think ‘good, social justice’, problem was the place that he worked and the phone number were for his previous place of work, the owners of which who had employed the man were on holiday and they had got their daughter to mind their business while they were away. What resulted from this social shaming was that someone completely removed from the situation received abuse, death threats and other nastiness.

Beth Mann July 10, 2013 - 3:18 am

I hear you and want to agree…but don’t totally. I wonder if there was a slew of racist statements, would you feel differently? Or does feminist attacks take a backseat?

Why shouldn’t they be called out? Maybe social ostracizing is the very thing they deserve. I don’t think calling attention to them is equivalent to hateful comments as you implied. We’re not “down to their level.” If someone was raping me, I’d scream “Rape!” I’d say, “He did it!” in court. That’s not the same as his rape.

This, in a sense, is verbal rape. Verbal violence. I think there is some justice (though I’ll agree, probably not much since you’re never going to change a hateful idiot’s thinking) to calling attention to them. If for no other reason than as a woman, *I* feel some justice. It’s not about what happens to them; its me not tolerating it.

Lord Sutch
Lord Sutch July 10, 2013 - 8:11 am

While I am hesitant to wade into this, I don’t think that we can compare someone’s words with sexual assault. I know I’ve done so in the past and been (rightly) shot down.

I think the most telling part of your comment Beth, is where you say “*I* feel some justice. It’s not about what happens to them; it’s me not tolerating it”.

So if your intention is just revenge then sure, public shaming is a great idea. I’m just not an advocate of a revenge-based response. I think instead of revenge we should try and make bigots less bigoted.


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