Wow! It has been a wild week here in the Good Ole US of A. The news is on fire with unsubstantiated “facts” and rumor. So I thought I would take oiled finger to troubled keyboard to write to you about naming and shaming.
Yesterday while perusing Facebook someone shared a post that showed the picture of a young man. It was obvious click bait and urged us in the name of all that is right and holy to share that post and shame this guy. On first glance it looked like he had committed a shame worthy offense and if I had not been burned and unjustly named and shamed in the past I might have, in a moment of righteous indignation shared it to make sure this guy got his comeuppance.
I am sure we have all come across these posts. Some show a photo of a man or woman and shout “This person abused his dog! Share this so that he is brought to justice!!”
But what kind of justice is this?
First of all, we have zero proof that a crime occurred in many cases. Secondly, this could be a photo of anyone. If I hated my third grade teacher, I could put her face on Facebook, create a heinous crime and tell everyone that she did it.
This could destroy her life.
And this is what happened in the case of a wedding photographer who recently was named and shamed by a disgruntled client.
The client had a following on social media. She then named the wedding photographer and shamed her by telling lies about what she had done to “hold her wedding photos hostage”. This destroyed the photographer’s very successful business. She shut it down and had no choice but to sue as she was living off her savings.
The jury found that the photographer was unjustly defamed and awarded her a large settlement. The woman who had done this was outed for the liar she was. In this case justice was served.
But not before a woman who had built up her business brick by brick and employed several people and consultants was forced out of business based on a vindictive lie.
I am sure everyone here has had instances of “naming and shaming” directed at them, and has been unjustly and covertly accused. Those around one are suddenly cold and you have no idea why. The source remains hidden or anonymous because he or she is too much of a coward to accuse you to your face and they know they are lying. It is bullying, it is vigilante “justice” and it is evil.
I will give you another example that is not quite as egregious as the case of the wedding photographer but still painful.
When I got married, I owned a condo and I moved in with my new husband and decided to rent the condo to a “friend” that I worked with.
This person agreed to the rent and the security deposit and moved in.
Once moved she showed me her pay stub and said “I want you to know that I really can’t pay this much rent. This is all I make. I was hoping we could come to some kind of rent reduction agreement”.
Now, one knows and understands that the time to agree on terms of a contract is before the contract is signed but she was a “friend’ so I reduced the rent.
I asked her for the security deposit several times and never got it.
As the months went by the rent was not paid. It got more and more behind and ultimately got to the point where I knew she could never catch up even if she wanted to.
Later I inspected the property and found it disgustingly dirty. There were vomit stains on the carpet because this person regularly went out partying with work mates on weekends and drank too much.
So I decided to sell the condo as it was too much of a headache.
A few days after I had given this girl notice to find another place, I noticed that no one at work was talking to me. I was getting the cold shoulder.
Finally I asked the friend who sat next to me what the deal was and she told me she was angry that I had just decided to throw this person out on the street after she had given up her apartment to move into my place.
This “friend” had smeared me covertly by telling everyone at work that I had simply decided to throw her out.
Nothing was said about the unpaid rent. Nothing was said about the security deposit or the fact that the place was a mess. It was a covert lie.
So, I called this friend into the room where we all worked and I asked my other friend what exactly she had been saying right there in front of her.
The lies came tumbling out and everyone who had believed her saw it. She was discredited and I had my reputation back. Those who had shunned me apologized. I faced her as my accuser which is exactly what she did not want and she was faced with her accuser as is just, and allowed to try and defend herself. She had no defense.
But many times we cannot see our accuser, especially if it is online.
One of the basics tenets in our society is that someone is innocent until proven guilty no matter what the crime is.
We are also assured of our right to face our accusers and stand in our own defense.
In Naming and Shaming we don’t have any of those rights, nor the right to a fair trial by our peers. And before we have been burned several times and start to catch on, we may have no idea why these people who used to love us suddenly hate us.
Let’s take another more horrible example. I read recently a story about a young girl who was at a sleepover when one of her “friends” poured boiling water on her. She was grievously injured. It was a devastating tragedy that should never have occurred.
We can all agree that this is a heinous act. We can all agree that someone should be brought to justice for it. The act was allegedly perpetrated by a 12 year old girl also present at the sleepover.
Many would say that this young girl was the devil incarnate. Many would say that she should be tried as an adult but what actually happened? Did she all on her own decide to pour boiling water over and grievously injure another child? Or was someone in her ear?
Did someone tell her that the water was not that hot or that it would hurt but not maim? Who was supposed to be watching these children? How did she get the boiling water? Did someone boil it for her?
It is my understanding that she was at someone else’s house. Did she go into the kitchen, turn on the stove and boil the water herself? Why did no one stop her if that were the case? Why did a 12 year old have unfettered access to a kitchen or stove if that occurred?
Did someone tell her that this girl was guilty of something so heinous that it was a righteous act to douse her with boiling water?
These are all questions that would be brought out in a trial so that a jury could make a competent decision that will decide the fate of the accused.
None of this is available via a newspaper story as, sadly, the “Who, What, When, Where and How” of journalism is all but dead in our country.
What really happened?
WE DON’T KNOW.
And this is why we have juries and lawyers and judges and exhibit A. It is to hear all sides and come to the TRUTH before we pass judgement or hand down punishment.
The fact is that none of us know. But we do know that things are not ever what they seem. There is always a back story and if we do not know what it is, we can be manipulated into vigilante justice, bullying, shunning and virtual lynchings.
Now I am sure some will say that I am defending the indefensible and will try to name and shame me. I am not defending anything other than the basic rights we have as citizens of our Good Ole US of A.
These rights are sacrosanct and even the most hardened sociopathic criminal, if he or she is a citizen of this country has these rights. And while we may hate who they are and what they stand for, these rights ensure that wild injustices in this country are kept to a minimum.
These rights protect the innocent but mostly these rights which are guaranteed to ourselves and others, guarantee US that WE will never be guilty of a gross injustice inasmuch as we work to get to the TRUE story and not the convenient one.
Those who are manipulated into creating injustices hate the ones who manipulate them when they find out because wronging an innocent person is repugnant to sane people.
Sometimes it hurts more to be the perpetrator of a gross injustice than to be the one to whom the injustice is directed as our sense of rightness has been violated and we have become the unwitting tool of evil.
Social media today is filled with “clickbait”. Insane and unscrupulous people will use any tool, any emotion to get you to click. They will ruin innocent people for a buck. It means nothing to them.
Be aware. Do not be manipulated and seek the truth always. If the story interests you enough to push it forward, dig out the truth as best you can. Be responsible for what you share or send.
And fight to preserve these rights for all citizens. Rights become eroded only when someone decides that only “certain people” are entitled to them. Soon the group of “certain people” diminishes to a select few and you have tyranny.
Our Good Ole US of A has a LOT of very diverse people and viewpoints. It is what makes us unique and special. Everyone here has the right to their opinion and the right to express it even when we disagree.
So well done for getting through this crazy week. Go do the great things you have been doing and I hope this helps.