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The Outrage Mob and "shame" culture

By Scott Tibbs, December 21, 2018

You really should go read this article on shame culture at First Things. We need to stop feeding the online Outrage Mob, and ruining people's lives and careers (and sometimes endangering their lives) over things they say online. This has been out of control for a long time, turning private matters into public spectacles and taking sinful things said in public over the top beyond all sense of rational proportionality.

Before I go further, let me say this: Shame in and of itself is not a bad thing. We have come to think of shame as bad, so "(whatever) shaming" is seen as an immoral act. But if you do something shameful, you should be shamed for it. My pastor says that God gives us "pain to protect our bodies and shame to protect our souls." When properly directed, shame points to our sin and leads us to the cross. Shame over our sin makes us realize how helpless we are before God and how we need the blood of His Son. Shame leads us to restrain our bad impulses and put more of a filter between our brain and our mouth and/or keyboard.

With that said, there is something called a proportionate response. Saying something offensive on social media, as a PR executive did in 2013 with a racist joke about AIDS, should not result in becoming internationally infamous, with a torrent of vulgar messages, death threats, and the annihilation of your career. It was one stupid tweet. In a perfect world, she would face some social consequences from friends and some blowback on social media. But the response was the equivalent of killing a spider with a Daisy Cutter bomb. I am intentionally not naming her as she has suffered enough.

Let's be honest here. We have all said terrible things. If we have not said something terrible in public, we have done so in private. All human beings do, and everyone knows it. This is not moral relativism or an attempt to excuse the behavior of people who go viral in a way they never expected. It is a reminder to have a little bit of humility. Every single person in the Outrage Mob that targeted that hapless PR executive has said something at least as offensive as her idiotic tweet. What would they say if and when the Outrage Mob turns against them? "Oh, that was different." Sure it was.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the police officers who shame opioid addicts who are found to have overdosed. There was one particularly horrifying picture back in 2016 of a couple who had overdosed, and the police published a high-resolution photograph of the couple with their four year old child in the back seat. The child's face was clearly visible. Now for all time, that child's face will be connected to his parents' overdose. Did the police even consider what it will be like for that child in school, especially as he gets into higher grades? Are they ignorant of how cruel kids can be, or did they simply not care?

Let's put the issue of the pictures aside for a moment. Even if you thought that posting pictures of overdose victims is a good idea, how can anyone with the slightest shred of human decency ever justify clearly showing the face of a child in that horrific situation? As of December 14, that picture was still on Facebook with the child's face clearly showing. That is pure evil. That police department should be disbanded.

Finally, let's be very clear about the Outrage Mob. This is self-righteousness and virtue signaling. This is not the product of people being legitimately angry. This is the product of people proclaiming their own greatness by helping to take a "bad person" down a peg or two. Or a hundred. The mentality of the Outrage Mob is the same as the mentality of Romans who went to the Colosseum to watch gladiators maim each other or see people torn apart by lions. It is disgusting and wicked. Stop it.