WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

There was a mildly amusing story in The Riverfront Times about the "Scamwich Artist," a middle-aged man who would call restaurants and claim his (non-existent) order had been messed up, then show up to collect a free sandwich or gift card or whatever. It turns out he's a nebbish 50-something accountant who can probably afford lunch out rather than steal from restaurants, but lovers of comeuppance-getting rejoice! The story culminates with the Scamwich Artist getting outed: his name, photo, and even workplace are revealed so we can all gleefully point and laugh in scornful derision.

And that's…progress?

I'm not defending the Scamwich Artist (although I can totally see myself getting busted for trying some similar scam, albeit when I was a teenager), and I enjoy reveling in the misfortune of others as much as the next guy, but is publicly shaming the guy the right way to go? It doesn't necessarily stop the guy or anyone else from trying this again; so far as I can tell the police weren't called and he wasn't arrested or anything. But he might lose his job now, and he might endure more public ridicule as the story spreads to his friends, family, and neighbors. Is that an appropriate response to the crime?

I'm not going to get into the details, because they're way too icky, but recently a reddit user was outed by the website Gawker for doing, well, gross and disgusting things. The site revealed his personal information and subsequently he lost his job. I'm definitely not defending that guy, but the story divided the reddit community into the "Yeah, screw that guy for being a creepy pervert!" camp and the "Woah, we should not encourage vigilante justice like revealing people's personal information because we hate them" camp.

There's something deeply satisfying about seeing some criminal get a good public shaming. The pettier the crime the better, in a way; after all, real criminals need to go to jail. People who do bizarre stuff like steal sandwiches or stuff that's morally-repugnant-but-technically-can't-be-proven-illegal like the reddit guy need to be scorned by all so we can bask in our moral superiority.

But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the medieval days of locking someone in a stockade or marched through town to be pelted with rotten fruit. It's kind of visceral, it's sort of cathartic, but it also feels like some vestigial holdover from our primitive origins that maybe we'd be better off dropping entirely. We're supposed to be a civilized people with laws and courts and things to handle our ne'er-do-wells and banish them to whatever hell we can all agree as a community is appropriate, be it jail or prison or whatever.

Public shaming feels like overkill. If the point of punishing criminals is to discourage future criminals and give offenders a chance to make penance, how is someone like the Scamwich Artist supposed to bounce back? He's been digitally tarred and feathered; even if he sees the light, renounces sandwich scamming forever, and becomes the most upright citizen in history there will still be an article online with his photo haunting him. And that's ignoring the very real possibility that the next guy to try and scam a sandwich might violently resist the restaurant manager who tries to detain and photograph him for public ridicule, leading to an even worse offense.

Shame's a pretty powerful weapon, and while I won't argue some people aren't deserving, it feels like a slippery slope. What do you think?

jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151

Every culture has thought itself the peak of civilization. We are a prideful species.

We like to think we've moved past the "uncivilized" past and laugh at the superstitions and "science" of our ancestors. But we haven't, we've just swept it under the rug. Torture lives on, religious persecution lives on, executions may be more humane in some countries but they continue, religious superstitions live on, science constantly breaks its own rules (that one is actually a good thing), so why shouldn't the old stockade find its way back into the center of the virtual town square?

To shamelessly rip off a Louis CK bit, there are two parts of me on this issue. The side that reacts with an instant, moral stance, and the side that reacts with a bit more passionless objectivity. "Of Course" and "But Maybe."

Of course public shaming is a horrible thing that should never occur and ruins lives over generally petty things...

...But maybe the Internet would be filled with far fewer examples of human waste if there wasn't that big wall of anonymity to hide behind.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag
jai151 wrote:...But maybe the Internet would be filled with far fewer examples of human waste if there wasn't that big wall of anonymity to hide behind.



Ask anybody who was bullied in high school about the anonymous people involved. That should give you your answer. Jerks are jerks, no matter whether they wear masks.

If there wasn't anonymity, however, abuse victims wouldn't be able to reach out for help and people who are perfectly healthy but unpopular would have a difficult time finding support.

The problem with "shaming," though, is that it's just another form of abuse or bullying. Personally, I'm not a fan of "tit for tat" as justice, since unjust acts don't fix things and--like the death penalty--there's no way to guarantee that it's the right target.

For example, if the real Reddit guy used someone else's identity, who's helped by making his victim lose his job...?

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
jai151 wrote:...But maybe the Internet would be filled with far fewer examples of human waste if there wasn't that big wall of anonymity to hide behind.



I guess I'm not convinced the Internet is causing more "human waste" so much as opening a window onto screwed up people every society has suffered from.

thumperchick


quality posts: 209 Private Messages thumperchick

I have no problem with a bully's actions coming to light. There are consequences to all actions. The scamwich guy was stealing - had he been arrested, his name would have been published in a local paper. So... what's the difference?

The reddit troll lost his job because part of his job was to maintain an upstanding reputation and trustworthiness. He didn't. He lost his job for not upholding that. Again, consequences.

Would I call shaming progress? No. We as a species are still very revenge driven. Perhaps we'll outgrow that trait around the same time we stop having bullies. Doubt it though.

If the redditor had stolen someone's identity - that would have come out as well.

I don't understand keeping an abusive person's identity a secret. The abuser is not a victim, they are the aggressor. If they are never in the position to have to face the consequences of their actions, what reason would they have to stop?

I do agree that the threats and such are their own form of bullying, in the guise of "justice" and those people should have their own set of consequences.

rhoffner


quality posts: 0 Private Messages rhoffner

Hang 'em

jjdarling


quality posts: 1 Private Messages jjdarling

<----[aside] this is my real name

Anonymity is great. It's great for whistleblowers to highlight injustice, victims to come forward safely against their perpetrators, and similar noble causes. If you want to post something "bad" online, you can probably do it with an anonymous account, and nobody really gets hurt.

The reddit guy, however, was not anonymous. He had a full persona, and used his position of power (based on his long reputation) to be a bully, and for THAT he opened himself up to the small amount of scrutiny that connected his two lives.

Also, he definitely loses his legs to stand on if he decries invasion of privacy, when that was exactly what he was famous for.


However, it's a very nuanced issue. There's another side of humanity that sets up websites devoted to selling mugshots of people NOT YET CONVICTED and charging them to take the pictures down. That is despicable public shaming, worthy of outrage.

xdavex


quality posts: 15 Private Messages xdavex

You want some public shaming? There's a bunch of...zumba clients, to put it mildly in Kennebunkport Me. being publicly shamed.
The debate on should we legalize money for sex is a whole 'nother smoke, but these guys were busted, along with the woman. I don't see anything wrong with publishing the 'john's' names, the zumba instructor has been plastered all over the world with photos and personal info.
They made a poor choice, thinking with the wrong head, outing them and humiliation may be the cure for them.

agentduke


quality posts: 1 Private Messages agentduke

Shaming is powerful because it allows a single person or small group of people to affect big change and bring things to light. I disagree it is a higher form of bullying. It works on politicians where pressure to leave office is easier than a recall election. Can it be abused? Sure can. Simply put, it works when you don't have any good alternative. Guilt is a powerful motivator.

hayesjc


quality posts: 3 Private Messages hayesjc

In that brief pause that your conscience makes before you do something that you know is wrong/illegal/stupid, if the potential for shaming tips your internal scale and keeps you from the aforementioned wrong/illegal/stupid act, is that not a good result?
Applied, if those johns in Kennebunk had thought their names might be publicly bandied about, they might have kept their pants zipped. And several lives would be in much less pain right now.

Moueska


quality posts: 52 Private Messages Moueska

I kid you not, I just read this article IRL, paper format.

The best part about the story: The part of the RFT it was in is generally reserved for Foodie reviews, notices of beloved stores/restraunts/dives closing, and other such nosh-sense.

To see an actual semi-investigative article? REFRESHING! While I do feel as though his name could have been withheld to "protect the innocent", this man had been scamming restraunts and making the owners feel like they were out of their minds for over seven months.

I'm sorry, but this is clear Karmic Backlash.

I do feel they could have withheld the name of the company he worked for, but it's possible that the writer was just on a roll at that point and his editor went with it - they revealed everything else, why NOT reveal his name and place of work. Fact of the matter is, if you're reading that far into the RFT, you're probably a restraunt ownere checking for a review, or a foodie checking for a new spot. This article probably will either save some restraunt owners some money, or he'll quit doing the stupid thing in a tight-nit community of smart people.

Small buisness owners are not stupid. Scam the system? Do it to Mc Donalds. Not small buisnesses.

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
xdavex wrote:You want some public shaming? There's a bunch of...zumba clients, to put it mildly in Kennebunkport Me. being publicly shamed.
The debate on should we legalize money for sex is a whole 'nother smoke, but these guys were busted, along with the woman. I don't see anything wrong with publishing the 'john's' names, the zumba instructor has been plastered all over the world with photos and personal info.
They made a poor choice, thinking with the wrong head, outing them and humiliation may be the cure for them.



Except there's a huge caveat to that story: "allegedly." No one's been convicted yet, just charged. Innocent 'til proven guilty still applies, no matter how bad it looks.

And if any of those people ARE found innocent, they're going to have a hell of a time rebuilding their public image.

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
Moueska wrote:Small buisness owners are not stupid. Scam the system? Do it to Mc Donalds. Not small buisnesses.



I can't find specific numbers, but I'm reasonably certain a high number of McDonald's restaurants are franchises, i.e. owned and operated by small businessmen who just happen to have partnered with McDonald's. You're still scamming a person, though.

Moueska


quality posts: 52 Private Messages Moueska
llandar wrote:I can't find specific numbers, but I'm reasonably certain a high number of McDonald's restaurants are franchises, i.e. owned and operated by small businessmen who just happen to have partnered with McDonald's. You're still scamming a person, though.



Mc Don-don's may be a franchise, but even those have a "write-off" balance that's a little bit different than the local restauranteur scene. They've got it built in to their system, etc.


FWIW
I'm honestly not advocating doing it to anyone, I'm just pointing out that he chose his target group poorly.