Why I am more appalled by the internet than by Justine

In the ongoing, yet soon to be old news saga of PR professional Justine Sacco, Gawker has surprisingly (not!) tarred and feathered a woman, and called it “reporting the news.”

When I saw the #hasjustinelandedyet saga in a friend’s Facebook feed over the weekend, I was drawn in. It was hashtagging at its best, after all. Alluring. Personal. Clever. With a hint of snark.

However, I was too busy monitoring a group of rowdy eleven year old boys shooting themselves with balls of paint in celebration of one boy’s birthday — my boy’s.  Smartphone occupied more by Instagram than by Twitter, I didn’t get as sucked into the online conversation as I might have otherwise, but feel compelled to contribute my two cents this morning after reading the Gawker story.

What’s really bugging me?

The majority — who assumes Justine is a disgusting piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be called a human being. And the majority — who feels holier than thou enough to write about it.

And really? The disgusting piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be called human?

It’s the internet.

The internet, which has determined that one really awful statement typed into a keyboard or a device registered to a human being determines who and what that human being is.

The internet, which in general, didn’t really consider the (albeit, unlikely) possibility that Justine was hacked.

Which, frankly, seems possible to me.  I’m a communications professional — one with a big mouth and strong opinions. The first thing to smell fishy to me about this was the idea of a PR person showcasing her racist side on her Twitter account.

It’s really, really unlikely.

PR people can be ugly and awful. But they’re usually really, really good at making the rest of the world think otherwise.

My first reaction, instead, to reports of Justine’s racist AIDS tweet was, “She’s either drunk, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or she’s been hacked.” Call me level-headed (or, in the end, call me naive), but my first reaction wasn’t:

“FIRE THE EVIL BITCH!!!!!!!  HUMILIATE HER, FIRST!!!! THEN FIRE HER!!!!!”

The second thing that’s getting my goat about this story is the “trial by twitter” era that we live in. Even if Justine is truly a racist, not just a stupid person or a drunk person or a person who made a bad, impulsive decision, I feel more sick by humanity’s reaction to this story —  fire her! excommunicate her! humiliate her! — than I do by the unacceptable remark made by the possibly stupid or drunk person who made it.

What are we rallying around here people?

Are we truly rallying around the fight against racism? Around our empowering ability to use social media for good?

Or are we just scared little animals waiting like vultures to pounce on road kill because pouncing makes us feel strong?

More than anything, this story makes me want to leave the internet.

I don’t want to be around to find out the truth behind Justine’s remark.

I don’t want to be around to hear her apology, or explanation, or the internet’s remorse when she hangs herself because she is so shamed by the very public and unfair trial she got on Twitter.

Gawker, of course, will be the first one to write, TWO TEENS CLEARED OF CRIMINAL CHARGE IN THE TWITTER-INSPIRED BULLYING DEATH OF PR PROFESSIONAL.

And then all of Twitter, with sorrow and regret in their hearts, will hashtag #nomorejustines.

I don’t want to be around to be the person the internet tars and feathers next.

Seriously, internet, I want to leave you on days like today.

I want to break up with you forever and forget about all the good times we had.

All the community building.

All the activism.

All the kickstarting.

Days like today make me sick of you.

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13 thoughts on “Why I am more appalled by the internet than by Justine

  1. Yes. Unfortunately, people sometimes say stupid things without thinking, as I believe that to be the case here (as opposed to hacking). But in today’s world where people rush to judge and share way to quickly, there are many innocents who are thought of as immediately guilty. I am not saying that her statement wasn’t insulting and stupid – it absolutely was – but this is not an industry or community leader or influencer we are talking about. This is a young individual who’s ridiculous statement should have no impact on anyone or anything. Save the tar and feathering for a bigger, actual cause.

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    • Exactly. I didn’t even think of that — why are we paying so much attention to someone who, in the scheme of things, is not that much of an influencer? Yes, she is a PR professional, but she is not a celebrity.

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  2. Thanks for writing this. As someone who represents a brand online, I always try and be very very careful on my personal account, but at times am scared that say the wrong thing all of a sudden and don’t realise till later. I truly believe she intended to be whimsical (albeit in not such good taste) but certainly don’t think she deserved what she got, poor girl!!

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    • Thanks for your comment Ruth. I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I will even run a blog post by a coworker to ask if something might be construed as offensive to my employer (for a second opinion)! But, if there is one thing I have learned in my years of blogging, it’s that it is impossible to know how someone may interpret your writing. You can do your best to imply sarcasm, and someone will read you straight. Or you can edit yourself in an effort to be kind, and someone will read you cruel. Days like today make me afraid to put myself out there!

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  3. By the title, I thought you were talking about Justine by the Marquis de Sade, but it was the Sacco tweet. From my end, I thought it was a very bold statement on face, but after reading it again, I started to wonder if she was being sarcastic in the manner of the Western world not paying attention to the AIDS problem where black Africans are concerned. To me, it’s a case of “what are you really trying to say?”

    I think the holier than thou comments speak more of the anonymous nobodies trying to salve their conscience for their own sins. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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    • I totally agree about the holier than thous. In my very humble opinion, people who doth protest too much always have some skeletons they’re trying to hide. And I think it’s even more interesting that you read the tweet the way you did at first glance, I’m sure you’re not the only one

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  4. The Internet, like the news, is focused on sensationalism. Scapegoating is in fashion. However, given that she’s a PR professional, she should’ve known a tweet like that would’ve triggered a response like this. Perhaps she was fired for not being more aware of the specifics of her job description.

    Anonymity, at the end of the day, still turns people into mobs.

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    • Not as often, great generosity also comes out of anonymity. I wonder if it’s the more or less evolved human beings that open up to kindness rather than cruelty when their identity is hidden

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  5. Are you really asking that question?

    The answer … because racist comments do not offend you.

    I don’t connect with folks who harp on other people so I didn’t hear a thing about this until I Googled it in response to your article.

    Her employer said, “There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally,”

    The internet is a very positive and productive source of connection in my life. Thanks for influencing me to read about a company that cares and was offended. It inspired a little bit of hope where I didn’t expect it.

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    • What question am I asking? I am really answering one: why I am more appalled by the lynch mob the Internet has transformed into than the potentially racist comment made by one woman whose influence is miniscule. Racist comments concern me, as do anti-Semitic, anti-women, and generally ugly unkind off-base ignorant comments, so much of which exists on twitter. Why does this one tweet upset you so much and why haven’t you made it your mission to seek out all hatred on twitter and make sure the responsible people receive consequences? Why this one woman? Why now? What’s the answer to those questions? What fueled your very apparent fire?

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  6. So we’ll put Jen. I can’t stand this holier than thou world we live in with opinions and life-affecting knives poised at the smallest thing (I’m not referring to this story as I haven’t read it). Somewhere, somehow and some day soon I hope we rediscover the power of forgiveness, understanding and love – until then we live in a broken world with the internet set in perpetual motion goding everyone on. #stepsdownfromsoapbox

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  7. Pingback: The day I didn’t break up with the Internet | and yadda yadda yadda...i made aliyah

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