I Know Why the Enraged Bird Tweets
The New York Times article "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life" investigates how public shaming in a digital forum can lead to very real consequences for the people targeted-- the article focuses on Justine Sacco's infamous tweet and there is no question that what she posted to her small group of followers was fairly dopey, tone-deaf, and possibly racist (Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!) and though Sacco claims she was satirizing the protective bubble that many white people inhabit, she came off as gleefully "flaunting" her privileged life; Sacco tweeted this before embarking on an eleven hour plane ride, and the by the time she touched down in South Africa, she had been lambasted all over the internet and as a result of the frenzy-- her tweet trended at number one-- she was fired from her job, she was told by authorities that no one could guarantee her safety, and employees at her hotel threatened to go on strike if she stayed there . . . and while I agree that people should be very careful what they post on the internet, as it is a permanent and public forum, I also see an irony in this system, where people are pushed to write controversial and edgy things in order to attract attention, and then the very people seeking these controversial and edgy things invoke unbridled indignance at the author, when they were trawling through Twitter to find exactly such things; this reminds me of Howard Stern's mantra: if you don't like what you're hearing, turn the dial . . . if you don't want to be offended, then get off the internet and read something that's been vetted by a professional editor-- satire is really hard to write (especially in 140 characters) and Justine Sacco failed at it, but the people who publicly humiliated her also failed to take the post in its proper context; the medium is the message here-- the tweet was in poor taste, but it was just a tweet, designed to live and die in a moment-- take flight or plummet into the binary abyss-- not haunt a woman for the rest of her days.