According to his position on giving to the poor, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying:
“I am for doing good to the poor, but … I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.
“I observed … that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
In other words, by making the poor uncomfortable or shamed in accepting charity, there will be fewer poor people.
In the old days, public shaming was part of the judicial process but was abolished in 1839. It is making a comeback in the judicial process, and there is a growing trend of public shaming on the internet.
Virtual pitchfork-wielding mobs can destroy lives on the internet armed with only keyboards, mikes, tablets and iPhones. The new angry crowd of pitchfork-carrying peasants has been replaced by cyber mobs.
SHAMING VS. JAIL TIME
Some may remember the notable case in Bedford County when a 56-year-old mother and her 35-year-old daughter, holding signs admitting to theft, stood outside the courthouse for 4½ hours in exchange for no jail time.
They held signs that read: “I stole from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday! Don’t steal, or this could happen to you!”
This is an official and growing form of punishment for violation of criminal law, where the guilty party gets to choose public shaming in exchange for lower or no jail time.
It’s a good alternative in this kind of situation.
CYBER MOB UNLEASHED
Something that doesn’t get the same publicity as identity theft but is potentially a bigger concern is public shaming on the internet.
Undeserving victims are publicly shamed for a single tweet or post which can unleash an outpouring of hate by the cyber mob. And that can ruin the lives of those who don’t deserve the consequences or such punishment.
It is important for everyone who uses the internet and has ever seen or been part of a public shaming to be aware of its psychological and social effects.
We are all inches from public shaming, and that should be frightening. One careless statement, overheard by the wrong person, one thing taken out of context, and the cyber mob has the power to take over and forever ruin your life.
People have even been fired for badly worded, suggestive or misunderstood tweets or posts. Sure, it may have been wrong, but the punishment often is too harsh for the “crime.”
The important lesson is to think twice before posting on the internet or tweeting a comment. If someone takes it the wrong way or you make a mistake, your life may be forever ruined by the cyber mobs.
John D. Rossi III is a business leader, lecturer, accountant and financial planner with more than 30 years of business and academic experience. An associate professor of accounting at Moravian College in Bethlehem, he is president of JR3 Virtuoso Solutions Inc., specializing in financial reporting, taxation, professional training and consulting services. He can be reached at [email protected]