Greg Beato on the Shame of Public Shaming


Credit: bloomsberries / / CC BY-ND

In America, our justice system is designed to be slow, methodical, a little boring. This is especially true in the sentencing phase. Even-tempered bureaucrats in bland black uniforms consult elaborately detailed guidelines to ensure that punishment is applied in consistent fashion across similar cases. But as Greg Beato observes, the rise of public shaming is breaking that mold. Evoking the authentic no-nonsense morality of our Puritan forebears, while also seeming quirky and novel, creative punishment is what today's most discerning consumers of hand-crafted, state-sanctioned vengeance demand, from publicizing the identities of prostitution clients to requiring convicted drunk drivers to place bright yellow licenses plate on their cars. But does justice end up suffering when judges mete out viral punishments?