The Internet can be a cruel place, we all know that by now. Many of you probably saw a recent video of a woman flipping out in a store, yelling about how much she loved Trump and how the store employees, who happened to be black, were just awful. In the old days she would have been able to flip out this way and no one would have had any idea about the situation; she would have just gone home and went about her life. But these days, things are different. Cameras are everywhere, her tantrum was filmed, and this woman is now being publicly shamed all over the Internet.
Once things get on the Internet there is no getting them back- they take on a life of their own. A lot of people, sometimes it seems like most people, truly enjoy grouping up and mocking people, as long as it is in an anonymous way. It seems that sometimes people also really enjoy deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune.
Now some of these people had something coming to them, there is no doubt about that. If you act in an awful or even a bizarre way, out in society, people are going to come at you and put you in their place. But others just made a dumb joke, or did something slightly rude, and before they knew it they were being messed with and stalked all over the Internet. Sometimes the public shaming they endured changed their lives for good. Did they deserve it? You decide. Here are 15 public shamings that ruined people’s lives.
15. Dog Poop Girl
This case was one of the first that really let people know about public shaming. Around 10 years ago a woman boarded a subway in South Korea with a small dog. The dog ended up pooping on the subway, and even though other people on the subway asked her to, the woman didn’t clean it up. Bad move. Someone took a picture of her and it was posted on Internet forums. Soon people knew her name and address; she was also recognized and harassed on the streets. It eventually got so bad that she had to go into hiding and drop out of school. She later said she didn’t clean it up because she was so embarrassed. This is what is known as a “thinking error.” For God’s sake, if your dog poops on the subway clean it up!
14. Gil Valle – The Cannibal Cop
Not many people in the world can hold a candle to the public shaming that happened with Gil Valle. He was a married New York City cop, and by all accounts an all-around nice guy, except for one thing…he had a little bit of a kidnapping and cannibal fetish. He would go online and engage in such fantasies and would use photos of his wife and other women he knew in chat rooms. When his wife found out she freaked and called the FBI, as she was in fear for her life. Before long Valle was known all over the world as “The Cannibal Cop.” Which is obviously kind of embarrassing, and then he was convicted on conspiracy to kidnap charges. He spent 19 months in prison before he was exonerated on all charges. He is now writing a book about his experiences.
13. Taylor Chapman – Dunkin’ Donuts Meltdown
What makes the case of Taylor Chapman so amazing is that she was the one that caused her shaming to happen, by posting a video of herself, thinking that she was actually the one in the right, but man was she wrong. The whole thing was about her not getting a receipt at a Dunkin’ Donuts the night before, which she apparently thought that meant she could then act like a racist, and a totally mean lunatic. She was wrong, and the video went viral. She lost her job, and had to change her phone number because of being harassed. This is a bit of a tough one, as it turns out Taylor is mentally ill, but still she was just so horrible to the employees; a shaming such as this one might serve as a warning to others.
12. Paul Christoforo – Rude To Disabled Gamer
Paul was shamed for not only being kind of a jerk, but also for not being very nice. The whole thing started when he was being rude to a disabled gamer that was waiting for a product from his company. When the gamer complained, he was told to “put on his big boy hat” among other things. Before long the gamer had the entire internet on his side, as Paul kept digging himself a bigger hole by continuing to be clueless and insulting to others that contacted him on the gamer’s behalf. You can read all the correspondence here if you’re looking for a “How Not to Run your Business” primer. Needless to say, it all blew up in Paul’s face, why else would he be in this article? After being mocked endlessly for quite awhile he was fired. He has continued to have a hard time finding work, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
11. Stephen Fowler – Wife Swap Disaster
Fowler was a contestant on the show Wife Swap, and when one thinks of it, isn’t being on a show like that sort of like being publicly shamed all by itself? Fowler decided to take it one step further when he got his new “wife” by insulting people who he considered a lower class than him, as well as soldiers and people who he considered to be overweight. Now you know it has to be bad when people that watch Wife Swap think that you went too far. Websites were created to protest his awful behavior, places that he was doing business with said they wanted nothing to do with him anymore, and he had to retire from two different charities. The real lesson of the story is, don’t go on Wife Swap. But I hope you probably already knew that.
10. Jennifer Wilbanks – Cold Feet
Now we have to admit some of these people did some monumentally dumb things to cause them to be publicly shamed. One of these is Jennifer Wilbanks, who became known all over the world as the “Runaway Bride.” She was set to be married when she got cold feet. While most of us just would have told our groom we were not into him, Jennifer ran away for real. When she could not be found it was theorized that it was possible that her husband killed her. Then she turned up on the other side of the country and made up a story she was kidnapped and raped. For some reason this story made news all over the country, and took on a life of its own. Well, it turns out she just took off and made up the whole story. She was made fun of mercilessly for this, and rightfully so. It certainly didn’t help her cause that her eyes make her look totally crazy.
9. Zhang Ya – Criticized Earthquake News Coverage
Natural disasters are really kind of a drag, don’t you think? You know who does not think so? Zhang Ya, a girl from China. For some reason she thought it would be a great idea to post a video in which she complained about how much attention victims of the Sichuan earthquake were getting. Needless to say, Internet thugs did not like this at all. They revealed all her personal information online, right down to her blood type, and a bunch of abusive blogs were put up to attack her. She was taken into police custody because of death threats. The moral of the story is: try to be nicer to people less fortunate than you, and if you can’t do that, then for the love of all that is holy, just keep it to yourself. Is that really so hard?
8. Glenn Taylor – Boy Scout Stupidity
This may be common sense to some of you, but if you happen to be a boy scout leader in a National Park and you come across a really cool rock formation, please don’t push it over. And if you do push it over, don’t record it on video. Glenn Taylor apparently didn’t get that memo, as he not only pushed over the ancient formation in Goblin Valley State Park, but his friend videotaped it; they then high-fived each other afterwards. The Internet obviously got just a little bit mad about this. The end result was Taylor being sentenced to a year probation and fined for criminal mischief. You do have to feel a little bad for this guy, if only because he is just so ridiculously numb. “Hey, let’s go to a park and push over some rock formations.” Really?
7. Adria Richards – The Tattletale
Adria Richards was at a computer programming conference when she heard two men behind her making jokes about “big dongles.” She took a picture of them and tweeted the photo and wrote how the guys were not cool for making jokes about big dongles. For some reason this took off all over the Internet and one of the men was eventually fired. Richards was also fired from her job for making all of this public. This was interesting in the sense that sometimes the person that is attempting to do the shaming ends up being shamed herself. Most of us can identify with the dub that makes a dumb dongle joke, no matter how dumb it is, much more than we can with the tattletale who tries to get someone fired for doing so.
6. Melissa King – Miss “Provocateur”
Melissa King is a former Miss Teen Delaware. That might be interesting to some people but not all that many, probably. What is interesting to a lot of people is that it turns out she was the star of an adult film. The story ended up on both CNN and Fox News, among other places. King ended up having to give up her crown and was publicly humiliated all over the world. On the one hand you have to feel kind of bad for Melissa- that must have been awful. On the other hand though, who does that? You only get to choose one, you either compete in a teen beauty contest, or you do adult films, there really is no “Hmmm, I think I will do both” option. While you have to feel badly for her, you also have to wonder how she thought the whole thing would fly.
5. Michael Brutsch – The Reddit Nightmare
Violentacrez was a well known Reddit troll and forum moderator. He often operated in some of the darker subreddits, ones that are purposely meant to be offensive. Some of the things that he wrote about were violence against women, incest, and rape. While these things are obviously awful, let me repeat: He was a troll on Reddit; if you don’t dig him, then just don’t go there. At one point a subreddit called Jailbait that featured young girls in bikinis that violentacrez moderated ended up being featured on a news show hosted by Anderson Cooper. A reporter from Gawker tracked him down and identified him as a 49- year-old man named Michael Brutsch. He ended up trying to defend himself publicly, but it did not go well, and he was fired from his job.
4. Justine Sacco – First Class Racist
This is one of the best public shamings ever. Or worst, depending on your perspective. Justine Sacco was flying from New York City to South Africa to meet family for the holidays. To pass the time she started tweeting. First it was “’Weird German Dude: You’re in First Class. It’s 2014. Get some deodorant.’ – Inner monologue as I inhale BO. Thank God for pharmaceuticals.” Then she tweeted “Chilly – cucumber sandwiches – bad teeth. Back in London!” Finally, she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Although it should be obvious to all she was just messing around, her tweet went viral. By the time she landed she was the number one trending topic on Twitter. Tens of thousands of people responded by insulting and threatening her. The funniest part was, to them at least, that she had no idea it was happening. By the time she landed her world had blown up and she was fired immediately and says she is still feeling repercussions in her professional and personal life. Just so you know Justine, I thought it was funny. Not really.
3. Lindsey Stone – Disrespecting The Fallen
This is one of the saddest ones of the bunch. Lindsey Stone was chaperoning a bunch of adults with learning disabilities at the Arlington National Cemetery. She decided it would be hilarious to do a funny photo in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where there is a sign that says “Arlington National Cemetery” and “Silence and Respect.” She put up a photo on Facebook of her yelling and giving the finger. It went viral. 30,000 people liked the post on Facebook, also saying she should be fired, She suffered through rape and death threats. She lost her job pretty much right away and didn’t leave her house for a year. She now has another job but is still afraid that people will come after her because of the photo.
2. Steve Bartman – He Cost The Cubs A Game
In game six of the 2003 National League Championship series, Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan, reached out into the field and deflected a ball that would have been caught. The Cubs outfielder, Moises Alou, was angered because he knew he could have caught it. The Cubs were leading at the time, but after that play they fell apart and lost the game. The TV broadcast showed the play constantly while the Cubs lost. Fans dumped beer on him, and he had to be secretly escorted out of the stadium. He was attacked on the Internet and message boards and police guarded his house so he would not be physically attacked. Bartman went into hiding and changed his phone number. Now with the Cubs win in the 2016 World Series, there has finally been some forgiveness.
1. Monica Lewinsky
No list of public shamings would be complete without talking about Monica Lewinsky . She, of course, was the White House intern who had an affair with President Bill Clinton. The story went all over the world as both serious news organizations and the tabloids were doing stories about her, and she became the subject of jokes for many comedians. She was also made fun of because people seemed to think she was not hot enough for the President to have an affair with. Lewinsky had trouble finding work and even was suicidal for a time. One wonders if situations like Monica’s make people less likely to do things that could blow up in their face publicly, or if they feel like these types of things could never happen to them. Because they definitely could. Once the Internet gets a hold of it, things never come back to the way they were.