Public Shaming

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Today most people would tell you that the stocks, pillory and other tools of public punishment are barbaric. We’ve moved passed them, having figured out more humane ways to deal with crime. Why, then, the resurgence of public shaming, namely the mainstream acceptance of the “dox,” which, in its purest form, is the digging up of a target’s personal information—name, phone number, address, Social Security number, familial relationships, financial history—and exposing it online to encourage harassment from others? This practice has gradually been popularized by Anonymous, the amorphous collective of trolls and “hacktivists” that alternately terrorize tween girls and disable government websites. In 2012, this practice was broadly adopted…show more content…
Neither incapacitation nor restitution apply to doxxing, since there are no legal enforcement mechanisms. To the extent that those who engage in public shaming think they are satisfying one of the remaining three, they faultily assume that deeply rooted social ills like racism, sexism and homophobia are personal failings that can be remedied through vicious public blowback and a permanent stain on their character.
It’s common to argue that a perpetrator “deserves” to be shamed, but in fact human psychology doesn’t work this way. Many pedophiles, for instance, recognize that that they are inexorably—even biologically—bound to impulses that they themselves loathe. Does the shaming—through public registries for example—cause the pedophile to reform? Unlikely. Does it deter others from engaging in pedophilic acts, or does it drive them to darker corners and sneakier tactics?
Racism is not as tied to biology, but environment can be a powerful antibody to shame. Imagine you are a teenager living with white supremacist parents surrounded by white supremacist neighbors and you get suspended from school because you said something racist. Do you turn inward and examine your sense of shared humanity with brown people, or do you simply become resentful toward those who’ve punished you, perhaps even more sure of your sundry prejudices? Does it even deter you from vocalizing your racism
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