Excellent and thought-provoking article today in the NYTimes about the lynch mob mentality that has set in on social media. It tracks what happens to someone who says something stupid on social media, and then gets drawn & quartered for it.
The writer goes back to the colonial era, back when the stocks & whipping were still common, to see how & we moved away from these forms of punishment (although apparently Delaware was still whipping people until 1972? WTF Delaware? Was the Christian Grey the f’in governor there or what?).
The movement against public shaming had gained momentum in 1787, when Benjamin Rush, a physician in Philadelphia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a paper calling for its demise — the stocks, the pillory, the whipping post, the lot. “Ignominy is universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death,” he wrote. “It would seem strange that ignominy should ever have been adopted as a milder punishment than death, did we not know that the human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error.”
There’s a line between calling someone to account for something they say deliberately, with malice aforethought. And then there’s destroying someone for saying something stupid, making a bad joke. Most of the time in these here parts, we’re pretty firmly on the side of cutting someone a break, not flying off the handle, not setting out to deliberately cause an unsuspecting bystander pain.
But we can very easily tip over onto the other side. Please keep that in mind as we skewer the malevolent RWNJs. Not everybody deserves painful public immolation for being stupid.