Off the scaffold and onto the internet
Back to Article
Back to Article

Off the scaffold and onto the internet

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Over the decades, public shaming has changed from its traditional manner.

Women and men are no longer standing on a stage before a crowd being humiliated.

Instead, they’re reading comments from people hiding behind a screen.

What used to be scaffolds and throwing tomatoes is no longer.

Psychology Today reports that public shaming is “a form of punishment whose main feature is dishonoring or disgracing a person, usually an offender or a prisoner, especially in a public place.”

In most modern-day cases, this “public place” is online. Social media has allowed billions of people to hide their identity while saying quite literally anything they want.

Within the past few decades, many examples of how much of an impact public shaming can have on a person’s career have shown up in the media. Take Monica Lewinsky for example. In the late 90s, her sexual relationship with the then president, Bill Clinton permanently affected both of their careers. The internet had just recently become more accessible and widely used, so this scandal was an early example of online public shaming.

Within less than a day, Lewinsky’s life had completely changed. Phone recordings between her and the President, death threats, and name calling were just a few of the embarrassing taunts she experienced.

Even decades later, a simple Google search will reveal offensive slurs and hateful comments of all sorts regarding her scandal.

But the big question remains: “Is public shaming justified?”

It’s a cowardly way to address a situation, and leaves little room for the offender to make a reasonable argument to support their side of the story.

Although publicly shaming an individual online gives everyone a way to voice their opinion without a news crew, it is more of a way to simply poke fun at a person for personal satisfaction rather than inflict punishment.

However, in some cases, public shaming can give justice to those involved.

Last October a white woman, Hilary Brooke Mueller, was filmed blocking the entrance to an apartment complex from a black man in St. Louis, D’Arreion Toles. Toles did, in fact, live in the complex and explained that to the woman, but she persisted in asking him to show her his key fob.

After the video went viral, the woman was fired from her job as a real estate agent. Through the shame that was put upon her, justice was served for Toles.

Public shaming is good in the case of gaining justice, but more often than not it turns into a childish screaming fit.

Our society functions online, and the Internet allows us to reach out to people we don’t necessarily know, which can result in derogatory remarks because of misinterpretations.

When social media accounts are made, users need to be more careful and clear about what they post, because in many cases it is very evident that what is posted on the internet stays on the internet, forever.

Public shaming is a spineless way to make fun of someone, and it is most commonly done by people who have no relation to the offender.

In some cases, justice is served, but the majority of the time, the act is useless.