Michaels: Public shaming cloaked in anonymity

Comments following mommy-blogs are chock ‘o’ block with people sharing opinions and hateful barbs

A tinpot leader rising to power on a tide of Tweets is probably the worst thing to have come from the interweb, but there’s another close second.

Public shaming.

It’s scorned and derided when used against/by kids and teenagers. In those cases people pull on their pink shirts and call it what it really is—bullying. Or in the worst case scenarios it’s blackmailing, a criminal offence. Each year schools trot out experts who can talk about how dangerous it is for children to be in-person and cyber bullied, and the masses agree that shaming people into something small and compliant is utterly twisted.

Somehow, though, those rules don’t apply when the focus of said compliance building is an adult who is simply not doing what we want.

Public shaming is what those same masses turn to when they’re cloaked in the anonymity of the internet and they find someone who doesn’t share their political beliefs or parenting ideals. Comments following mommy-blogs are chock ‘o’ block with looney people sharing their opinions and hateful barbs.

There are even websites dedicated to shaming people who park poorly.

These days, public shaming is even a tool to enforce the law.

This week, for example, a local pub published a video of a woman stealing a can of booze.

Apparently they asked her to pay, she didn’t and video footage of the act went up.

I get it. When people steal from you, undermine your living and disregard the rules that make your survival possible, it’s pretty terrible.

There’s almost no recourse. The police certainly wouldn’t focus their efforts on a drink bandit. Simply taking the money back wouldn’t be possible. What is a person to do other than simply strike out in whatever ways they can, while conforming to the laws as they exist?

On the surface, a good old fashioned internet shaming might be the way forward.

The trouble is that public shaming means engaging the anonymous masses, and the anonymous masses are always trouble when asked to embrace their lowest tendencies.

The views on this particular post exceeded 8,000 and the comments that followed were verging on insane.

Maybe more than “verging.” Expletives that I wouldn’t use on my worst enemy were thrown around as though it was normal discourse. People acted like a pack of hounds dealing with a threat to their own lives.

The end result, according to a statement from the pub, was that the woman was shamed. She’s contrite. She’s going to pay for the drink.

But at what cost? We know the damage that this kind of internet lashing can offer.

Who among us hasn’t made a mistake?

Who hasn’t used poor judgment and regretted it later?

I’d say not one. Each of us has done something stupid and regrettable.

But should we be grateful that we avoided the wrath of the righteous masses on the internet? Or should we aspire to more as a society?

Perhaps we should start using the internet to do more than normalize the worst of us. Maybe we can just aspire to be better.

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