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The Fall and Rebirth of Public Shaming

From the early days of Colonial America, public shaming was used as a form of punishment. Criminals or those who had violated some cultural norm of the time were put in the stocks or pillory of the town square to be mocked, ridiculed, harassed, and made examples of, all in an effort to remind others what could happen if they broke the law or stepped out-of-line.

Thankfully, public humiliation was discontinued as a form of justice in America in the 20th Century and deemed cruel and unusual punishment by the United States Constitution.

But, as new technologies became more mainstream, starting with mass market media (like radio, television, and magazines) and later The Internet and social media, public shaming and mob justice are once again in vogue. This revival, while sometimes effective for righting wrongs outside the bounds of our legal system and promoting social justice, has also come at a steep price. Trolling and internet bullying, invasion of privacy, the spreading of lies as facts, and the swift and often careless censure of the mob has led to innumerable lawsuits, the end of countless careers, the suicides of innocent victims, and a wake of collateral damage thousands of miles deep.

Driving this trend is a media engine designed to cater to the lowest common denominators of any society. Meant to appeal to our need to feel superior to our neighbors and friends, our proclivities for spreading rumors and gossip, and our obsession with drama, money, sex, and power. Shame is now an industry.

The Shame Industrial Complex

Today, the Shame Industrial Complex (SIC) is booming. Like any industry, it’s even given rise to a vocabulary all its own, including words like doxing, ransomware, outing, internet vigilantism, revenge porn, and more.

Despite the sometimes beneficial instances of public shaming (we’ll cite some of these examples in future chapters), the real danger comes from the damage caused by slander and false narratives (which are often difficult for victims to dispute without creating further collateral damage) presented in an unregulated forum and spread like a virus by those seeking attention, revenge, personal gain, or in many cases as nothing more than a form of lazy entertainment.

The Rise of Cancel Culture

As a result of this surge in the use of public shaming as a form of quick mob justice or retribution, careers have been forever ruined, relationships have been irreparably damaged, and innocent lives have been lost. We are, in effect, living in a cancel culture. A culture so politically correct, making even the smallest faux pas could result in your career, your TV show or upcoming movie, your magazine column, your relationship, or even your day-to-day life being permanently canceled.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you or someone you know has been the victim of public shaming.

The Path Forward

As David Wallace, Mayor of Sugar Land, I believe it is crucial for us to address the implications of the Shame Industrial Complex and the rise of canceled culture. Public shaming can sometimes serve justice where legal systems fall short, but we must recognize the destructive potential it holds. Balancing the scales requires responsible media consumption, critical thinking, and empathy towards those who are unjustly targeted.

To learn more about Former Mayor of Sugar Land David Wallace you can see other places he’s been mentioned below:

By understanding the dynamics of public shaming and culture, we can better navigate this complex landscape and foster a more just and compassionate society.

For more insights and stories, check out this article on a boutique hotel planned for Birmingham.

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