So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

The bullies can only ruin your life if you are weak. Once people realize you can’t be intimidated, they tend to leave you alone.

I notice that most of the people in this story are women. In general, women are more emotionally open and as a result, they complain more. Women are more needy for social approval and more afraid to rock the boat. When did you last see a woman say something unpopular in public?

A friend says: “I’ve noticed these things happen to people who say things that are only mildly offensive. If you’re saying truthful offensive things and that’s your thing, these things don’t really happen, correct?”

Jon Ronson writes:

Recently, I wrote to Sacco to tell her I was putting her story in The Times, and I asked her to meet me one final time to update me on her life. Her response was speedy. “No way.” She explained that she had a new job in communications, though she wouldn’t say where. She said, “Anything that puts the spotlight on me is a negative.”

It was a profound reversal for Sacco. When I first met her, she was desperate to tell the tens of thousands of people who tore her apart how they had wronged her and to repair what remained of her public persona. But perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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