So who actually outed Sacco and brought her the shame of millions for a harmless tweet? Sam Biddle, a former writer for the defunct muckraking web publication Gawker. According to Jon Ronson’s book So You”ve Been Publicly Shamed, Biddle took glee in taking down Sacco, telling Ronson, “It’s satisfying to be able to say, “O.K., let’s make a racist tweet by a senior IAC employee count this time.” And it did. I”d do it again.”
Biddle’s satisfaction was short-lived. Not long after he led a crusade against Sacco, he became the target of another campaign of righteous indignation for tweeting, “Bring Back Bullying.” Biddle eventually apologized to Sacco, but the damage on both sides was done.
The urge to get a person fired for a tweet is a strange one. We all have our moments of weakness, moments made more vulnerable with social media’s ability to provide an instant feeling of release.
As I author this column, yet another young writer has found herself in the crosshairs of a campaign to render her jobless. Katie McHugh just lost her post at the right-wing news site Breitbart after tweeting, “There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn”t live there,” following the recent London Bridge terror attacks.
Her comment, while historically ignorant, was just a shot of juvenile exuberance. Even so, Oliver Darcy of CNN shined a light on the tweet, bringing McHugh a batch of unneeded attention, which concluded in her firing. Now McHugh, unemployed because of a tweet, has her hand out, begging for monetary support.
And so another head rolls. No doubt next week will see another head put in the lunette and lopped off for the capital crime of offending decency. The upholding of manners is crucial to society’s functioning. But at some point the online Defarges have been given enough blood.
I understand the visceral desire to stick it to, politically speaking, the other side for being overly peeved at unpopular opinions. But when is enough enough, and it becomes too much to ask that people not be fired for saying dumb things on the internet?