by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[O]nly the worst version of someone’s life contains the information that makes the Internet stop and look. It is pure gold for a network addicted to shaming and schadenfreude. We all know the glee at watching someone fall from grace; the righteous feeling that can come with joining in the punishment of a transgressor. Even (perhaps especially) if their transgression is for a sin we ourselves have committed. And we know from the work of the anthropologist and philosopher Rene? Girard of the societal release that can come from the identification of such a scapegoat. So the inclination is to go for the account of a life which is least understanding and least nuanced: most appalling and most appalled.
Here lies an additional quagmire. There is little enough recourse when old-school journalism tramples across someone’s life. But on the Internet there is not even a regulatory body to appeal to if your life has been raked over in this way. Thousands — perhaps millions — of people have been involved, and there is no mechanism to reach all of them and get them to admit that they raked over your life in an unfair manner. Nobody has the time, few people are deemed important enough. There are other people to move on to. And unlike the pool of people the old media might trample over, tech can pick on almost anyone on the planet and spin them around in the tornado.