Helen Andrews' insightful and moving essay about public shaming from January's issue of First Things:
The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie. Matthew Yglesias once claimed that the reason he mocked David Brooks for his divorce was because Brooks had written columns about the social value of marriage, but I do not believe him. He did it because it’s fun to humiliate your political opponents. Moira Donegan claims that she created the Shitty Media Men List—a clearinghouse of anonymous accusations optimally parked for maximum dissemination in the Google Spreadsheet cloud—for altruistic reasons and with no thought of its being used to hurt anyone, but I do not believe her. If it was about protecting women in media from harassment, then why no attempt to sort the true accusations from the false? Why the coy protestations that “I thought that the document would not be made public,” when of course she knew that it would be spread far and wide, or she wouldn’t have bothered creating it?
Donegan’s defenders do not behave like people interested in finding the truth. They stirred up a Twitter mob against Katie Roiphe before her Harper’s piece about the Shitty Media Men List was even published. Claims to be motivated by concern about possible backlash against Donegan, if Roiphe revealed her as the creator of the list, were more than a little disingenuous. Since being outed, Donegan has gotten a book deal with Simon & Schuster and a regular column in the Guardian, which is precisely what anyone could have predicted. When John Hockenberry, also in Harper’s, wrote about his experience being #MeToo’d out of his job at NPR, admitting some charges and explaining why he thought others were bogus, his detractors did not bother refuting his case. They simply ridiculed him. And no one has offered him a book deal.
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