Cathy Young on the Social Media Shaming of Pax Dickinson


via Twitter

Public shaming and professional retaliation, or even destruction, for unpopular speech seems to have become a regular feature of life—but also a subject of growing concern. Most notably, in the past month, scientists, politicians, and others have rallied to the defense of British biochemist and Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt, whose ill-conceived joke about women in science at a conference sparked a Twitter storm and ended his academic career. The pitfalls of social media shaming were recently explored by British journalist Jon Ronson in the acclaimed book "So You've Been Publicly Shamed," which examines such notorious incidents as the Twitter mobbing of public relations rep Justine Sacco in December 2013 over a racially insensitive joke. But, writes Cathy Young, before Hunt, before Sacco, before the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich over his opposition to same-sex marriage, there was another drama of career-killing Internet outrage: the undoing of Business Insider Chief Technology Officer Pax Dickinson. It is a story that raises troubling questions about speech and consequences.