People Who Say One Stupid Thing On Social Media Do Not Deserve To Have Their Lives Ruined


The GOP staffer who dissed the Obama girls as classless, apologized, and then resigned from her post as Communications Director for Rep. Steven Fincher apparently was arrested as a teen for shoplifting. Irony is a heartless bitch, isn’t she?

The Smoking Gun dug up the dirt on Elizabeth Lauten‘s lawless past: when she was 17 she was busted for shoplifting from a local Belk’s department store. Says the site: “Because Lauten was a first-time offender, her case was handled via the District Court’s deferred prosecution program, which resulted in the charge’s eventual dismissal after the future scold stayed out of trouble for a prescribed period.”

I thought Lauten’s comments were repugnant, especially coming from someone who serves as a Communications Director for a politician. It showed poor judgment, and the loss of her job seems like a fitting repercussion. But turning this into a national news story and dragging up her own stupid teenage past is overkill, a cruel game of Internet vigilantism that we enjoy playing online anytime anyone does something dumb.

I got called out for doing this recently, when that comet scientist wore a shirt with sexy women all over it and later wept out an apology. It got me thinking about the digital pile on of OMG OUTRAGE that takes place every time someone says or does something stupid in public. His shirt offended me – it still does – and I think he was wrong to wear it. But was I wrong to hand-wring until my knuckles popped off? In hindsight, I think so.

As for Lauten – she deserves our compassion; the same compassion she neglected to show Sasha and Malia Obama. That, I think, is what truly can teach her a lesson, as opposed to humiliating her for her own teenage stupidity. Often we forget about these people whose lives get digitally destroyed – both by their own wrongdoing and then the pile on that ensues. (Remember Justine Sacco, the PR exec who tweeted a horrible, racist Aids “joke” and then got on a plan?) The news cycle chugs forward and we move on just as quickly as we were outraged. But they’re left reeling and picking up the pieces of a life shattered by one stupid statement. Sure, they should be held accountable for their actions. But the idiots of the Internet also deserve the things they themselves lacked in the first place: respect, compassion and kindness.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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