The Importance of Social Media "Tyranny"

Pointing fingers is an art form (photo credit)

In case you haven’t noticed, we are witnessing a kind of a backlash against Abed’s successful online campaign against Middle East Airlines. There are increasingly comments, facebook posts and tweets about how the MEA woman, the one who got fired for making racist remarks, was scapegoated for a sin that we are all guilty as a society of.

The nasty ones are criticizing online activists for holier-than-thou hypocrisy, and the big hearts are asking us to start from home and from schools and things like this will stop happening. Those are fine and fair arguments, but they are beside the point.

The media’s (and now social media) role is not to reform society, it is to expose and shame those who break the rules that we have promised ourselves as a society to uphold. If Lebanese politicians, businessmen, intellectuals, celebrities and institutions all declare publicly that we should fight racism, then people have the right to be outraged when someone representing that elite is “caught”. Activists and the media should not by any mean take part of the conspiracy of “everybody does it, therefore we should not talk about it”, it defeats their raison-d’etre.

Let’s all point fingers

There are still many Nazi sympathizers in Germany. There are also many American racists who call black people –including their president– “nigger”. But we don’t hear much from them in American and German media, movies, and public spaces. That’s because a culture of shame and deterrence was built to prevent such people from airing their view in public. Some people call that the “tyranny of political correctness”, a tyranny that was built by the collective effort of people who are publicly naming and shaming the transgressors.

I am not saying that virtue shouldn’t start at home. I’m just underlining the importance of individual acts like those of Abed, and saying that the more such acts we have, the less blatant our social ills become. In Egypt, sexual harassment can very well be reduced by having better education at home and in schools. But it could also be reduced when predators are afraid that they will get caught on camera and shamed on YouTube. People greatly underestimate the deterrence effect of public shame, and as tyrannies go, this is a wonderful one to have..

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  • Fadi

    I think both go hand in hand. Education helps spread these values so that they become part of the culture. Shaming is a good deterrence measure. Education without shaming is like a law that isn’t enforced, and shaming without education is counter-productive.
    All in all, the MEA employee got fired, and if the accounts of what she was saying were true, she deserved it, so she hardly qualifies as a scapegoat. Other MEA employees will now think twice before engaging in similar acts, As the news spreads I’m sure this will affect many employees who are in the public eye, and people will be treated more fairly, at least for now while the issue is still hot. This is what I would call a win.

  • Dania

    Nicely put Fadi.

  • LibanoholiC (@Fadi_Dalati)

    Our society is infected with an awful infection of “cho we2fet 3layyi??!” “شو وقفت عليّي ؟” and unfortunately, the only way to get rid of this horrible infection is by baldly espousing these shameful act, and held people responsible for their mistakes and bad behavior!
    Change is TAKING place, and social media and bloggers are doing a GREAT job exposing such shameful attitudes, and what’s even better is that companies and society are responding, and measures….harsh ones are being made against such people. A very good other example is what IVY went through at Benetton
    We need to EXPOSE these acts, and put people on the spot, and make sure harsh measures are made to prevent future events, only then will the lebanese individual stop thinking of “cho we2fet 3layyi?” And begin thinking about the consequences of his/her behavior


    May I even add that we need to expose those who break the smoking ban law! We all have cameras…..whenever you see a punk-idiot-shmuck lighting up a smoke in public place…..take a photo of that ass and post it directly on twitter, Facebook, blogs…….soon enough…..such ignorants will think not twice….but all the time before even thinking about breaking the law……

  • romeo

    How about catching people/companies doing the right thing? Celebrating the good. Does it work? I am open to discuss options, suggestions, etc.

  • Ned

    I’m sorry, but you conflate two issues here that are only peripherally related. The creation of the public sanction against overtly racist terminology like ‘nigger’ and ‘coon’ long pre-dates the politically correct movement, which is a phenomenon of the 1980’s and 90’s.

    Political correctness movement grew out of relativism and identity politics, and while it began as a benign and very well-intentioned movement to extend the gains made by the racial equality movements of the 50’s and 60’s to other minority groups and did achieve a great deal, it ultimately fell foul of America’s ongoing cultural war and degenerated into a form of sanctimonious censorship that closed, rather than opened, minds, afflicting public discourse for a generation.

  • OldHand

    Agreed, and good post

    We all should take responsibility for our actions, what this woman did was unacceptable period, let alone probably against MEA company rules (that are barely enforced, it seems).

    Reminds me of Sawsan Whatever of NBN TV who wanted Fatfat dead on the air and who still has her PUBLIC job.

    Nothing to do here with Political Correcteness, all successful societies have rules to shame “bad” or counterproductive benavior. Rejecting racism and promoting respect for people is not PC correcteness.

    PC correcteness is good intentions gone mad, such as saying the word “niggardgly” is racist because it sounds like that other word (no connection), that “Chairman” is racist so now we have the Chair of the Math dept. etc …..

  • GuyLeb

    Firing that person is good first step, but the tyranny (or tragedy) would be if they don’t do anything else to follow through, i.e. if they think that’s enough to “appease” people.