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Meet an Internet Shamer and the Person He Publicly Shamed

Is public shaming an effective way to change behavior? We interview someone who has been shamed and his shamer to find out.

Photo Credit: Words


When it comes to holding private people accountable for their hurtful behaviors, online public shaming has become the way Internet users attempt to obtain justice. The recent phenomenon has inspired a variety of vigilantism, from women fighting back against bad relationship behavior to heavier people taking on size-ist comments. Even some restaurants have begun posting the names of people who break reservations on their social media pages. 

This public shaming trend has sparked a debate on whether or not it is effective in changing behavior. And so, while many media outlets and bloggers have speculated about its value, few—if any—have spoken to someone who’s actually been publicly shamed. 

Meet the Publicly Shamed

Michael was one of the people publicly shamed on a blog called Public Shaming for tweeting the following after the Boston Marathon bombing:

Michael told AlterNet that he was shocked to see his tweet on the blog after his friend pointed it out. However, he said he wasn’t embarrassed by what he tweeted.

“I stand by my tweets. … They were inappropriate, but I still stand by it,” Michael said. “Say the whole sand monkey thing was racist, and it was. But first of all, responding like two or three hours after an eight-year-old gets killed, obviously I might be in the mood to be a little bit disrespectful. If you look at my other tweets, I don’t say a word about race. I have friends of all different races. But because my brother was running in that Boston Marathon — he finished before the attack — I was obviously passionate about it. I was so pissed off that I just had to tell it like it was.”

Michael said he wouldn’t use the offensive term again, not because of being publicly shamed, but rather because he doesn’t typically use racist language to begin with. He said that, in the end, being publicly shamed simply amounted to a barrage of Twitter attacks.

“It wasn’t effective at all because … just random people were tweeting at me saying I’m a racist pig, I’m all this stuff.”

A look on his Twitter page reveals that he was bombarded with Twitter attacks, some of them even suggesting that he should die.  Although unapologetic in his interview, he did apologize for his language several times to Twitter users. The only resemblance of a healthy dialogue to emerge went like this: one user tweeted, “offensive, no?” to which he replied, “I apologize, that tweet was said in the heat of the moment.” To which she replied, “Cool, thanks for that.” Other than that, the attacks on both sides were brutal.

Meet the Public Shamer

For Matt Binder, the creator and editor of the Public Shaming blog, changing the behavior of those he shames is not even his goal.

Binder told AlterNet, “My goal isn’t really to change these people. A post isn’t going to do that. People contacting these people isn’t going to do that.”

Instead, Binder said, he wants to show readers that classist, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. thoughts are still pervasive throughout our society — so much so that people are even willing to post these thoughts on a public forum.

“It’s more so to let people know these types of things exist—these thoughts, these views. I think a lot of people see things as being changed. They think, ‘When racist times were’ or ‘When sexist times were.’ I mean, yeah, we’ve moved a lot, but, at the same time, there’s still a lot more to go. And if you drop [these issues] now, [they are] only going to stall more.”

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