Our Virtual Pastime

look a public shaming / i used to respect you but now i'm disgusted! i am so disappointed / there's another one. god i love the internet

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12 comments to Our Virtual Pastime

  • There is a lot to be said for public shaming. We used to live in small towns were people had personal relationships with the people living there. Stepping out-of-bounds resulted the community pushing back. That made it difficult for people, such as a Bernie Madoff, to undertake criminal or morally reprehensible behavior. Once found out, the miscreant would be shunned by society. Unfortunately, shaming and shunning are “out-of-style” as a form of social control.

    Had we retained a degree of morality/ethics along with shaming and shunning; financial scandals such as Enron and the 2008 Housing bubble may not have happened. Dilbert looses his moral compass

    In today’s impersonal society, there is little in the form of a moral/ethical “brake” to prevent corporate boards or individuals from proposing the next Enron. Even if exposed, the miscreants file lawsuits to silence those attempting to expose them.

    Realistically, we will never return to a society where business is truly based on long-term personal relationships, trust, and responsibility. Responsible public shaming can at least shine a light on some reprehensible behavior.

    • Nina

      How ironic – today’s comic was inspired in part by last week’s public shaming of Dilbert’s author Scott Adams. 289 comments on one site alone more or less like this one:

      I’m glad I don’t like Dilbert cause if I was a fan I’d be feeling pretty fucking nauseous right about now. Well, more nauseous.

      Does that “shine a light” for you? Public shaming says more about the shamer than the shamee.

      • Can anyone defend Scott Adams’ behavior though? I mean, public figures who do stupid and shameful things in public… should be shamed.

        Private people who do stupid and shameful things in private, not so much. Unless it’s illegal & harmful, and then there are cops for that I hope.

    • Garrick

      “Unfortunately”? Well, OK, as long as you consider it acceptable for old women to be murdered as witches for absolutely no reason, which is exactly what is happening in some parts of the world that still practise what you’re describing. See also: “honor killings”, abuse of every sort (including rape or defending oneself from such) being covered up to avoid “making a scene”, being denied access to medical care because your fellow townspeople are scared of your (treatable but uncommon) illness and the town doctor shuns you, no one lifting a finger when your entire family is murdered because you’re all of a race/religion/sexual orientation/what have you that the town doesn’t like, the wrongly accused having their entire lives ruined at the drop of a hat, and all illegitimate children being treated as demon-spawn who can’t even set foot in most public institutions. The keyword “responsible” is a convenient way out, but how do we tell if we’re behaving “responsibly” or not in these situations? The Japanese media thought they were behaving responsible when they blamed a gardener for a poison-gas attack on his neighbourhood, since he had access to various fertilisers and chemicals. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time and was perfectly logical with the evidence available. After the death threats and subpoenas had started pouring in, it turned out it had actually been a practise run by the cult that later performed the sarin attacks.
      We do, in fact, have an organised body designed to look at both sides in such cases, mediating disputes based on what they find, mete out punishments to those found to be in violation, and generally do the responsible part before the shunning and/or lynching. They are known as “courts”. If they are not serving that function, THAT is the problem, not a lack of angry townsfolk. Organising to improve the courts will do infinitely more good than any amount of being quiet at people we don’t like.
      Incidentally, I am gay and live in a rural town where at least some of this “shaming” behaviour remains yet. I spend every day living under the crushing weight of mortal fear that someone might find out. And we DO still have crimes of all sorts, including large-scale theft, murder, and crimes that traditionally have highly shameful implications (such as adultery). We all know each other, and that’s why we won’t go to church with the person whose son is alcoholic or whose mother said something mean 20 years ago. It’s relatively common to hear people baldly expressing outright joy at the suffering of others. Even if the victim hasn’t done much to merit it outside of the speaker’s own imagination, or has long since reformed. If anything, it seems that the “pushing back” by the community does nothing but weaken it and the people who live in it.
      I must add: I can, in fact, change my mind about this model of society, if provided with a satisfactory argument that the assortment of casualties described above are worth a theoretical benefit that may or may not even exist. While I don’t mean to suddenly shift the burden of proof onto others, I feel that the original post doesn’t satisfactorily establish its argument’s merit.
      I’m sorry if this is too wordy, and hope you have a pleasant day. :)

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    • Nina, I am so sorry about this. I accidentally linked to your comic from an unrelated post in my blog because I was careless with my clipboard. Could you do me a favor and remove the pingback/trackback? Hilarious comic, by the way :) !

  • Maybe my post lacked clarity, but what I wrote is being misconstrued to imply negative themes that are simply not there. In a sense, this follows the cartoon were Mimi and Eunice are running from one fickle sound bite to the next.

    Using a Dilbert cartoon as a recognition that others note the absence loss of a corporate moral compass does not imply misogamy. (I was totally unaware that Scott Adams had set-off his own “landmine”.)

    How do you even get to “honor killing” from my post? My post concerned the lack of ethics in the corporate world and the lack of a “brake” that an old tradition of shunning could provide. There is nothing in my post that advocates the ability of someone to unilaterally take an action to kill someone. The use of extreme examples that have nothing to do the issue, is not a valid criticism and is a logical fallacy.

    The mention of “wrongly accused” was brought up as a short-coming to my post to imply the use of vigilante style character assassination. Yes that happens, and it is wrong. The problem, this sort of travesty even occurs with our legal system so it can’t be used to imply that “A” is somehow wrong and deficient when the assertion applies to both “A” and “B”?

    Since my post was apparently unclear, the appropriate form of criticism would have revolved around providing examples of a better method of restoring ethical behavior in our corporate executives.

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  • Esn

    Shaming can have innocent victims, but it can also keep assholes in check. It’s a double-edged sword, but maybe a necessary one…

  • This is why they built it, right?

  • DannyUfonek

    This reminds me of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, when the women go out for a stoning and there’s the guy who sells beards to them.

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