I previously wrote about oversharing and stranger shaming and how we should consider the impact on others. Now Monica Lewinsky is leading the charge for more empathy to be spread in order to combat online bullying and ‘slut shaming’.
Speaking frankly at Cannes International Festival of Creativity about the journey of her scandal with former president Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky called on the creative industries to use their influence to encourage greater empathy online.
Lewinsky won a standing ovation for her talk about how scandals and public shame have launched an industry, and how the ad world plays a role.
She placed a lot of blame on the media and gossip outlets that profit from publishing shaming articles, mentioning the leak of naked images of actress Jennifer Lawrence after her iCloud account was hacked.
Lewinsky asked the audience to picture an image of the hackers in a room, breaking into the private images and in the next, the journalists that re-published and documented the event. She said the journalists were worse than the hackers because they did what they did to make a point, not to make a profit.
“Violation of others is raw material, efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. Whether tallied in dollars, clicks, likes, or just the perverse thrill of exposure, a marketplace has emerged where shame is a commodity, and public humiliation an industry,” she said.
“How is the money made?” she asked. “Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. And the more advertising dollars… the more of what sells: shame.”
She believes she was the first real victim of very public cyber shaming, calling herself patient zero, but says more needs to be done as technology and the media has turned it into a blood sport and is profiting from other people’s misery. “Public shaming as a blood sport must stop. We need an intervention on the internet and in culture,” she says.
Her answer to this issue is empathy. She believes that spreading empathy, flagging bullies online and posting positive comments is the only way to combat the problem.
“The shift begins with something simple; a long held value of compassion and empathy. Online we have a compassion deficit and an empathy crisis. Shame cannot survive empathy,” she says.
“We can change our behaviour….we can together make a society where the sometimes distancing effect of technology doesn’t remove our fundamental humanity.”
She ended her speech with a plea to the advertising world: “You are the creative engines that will drive forward our culture. Will you help me? …If you were a brand, what brand would you be?”
CEO and President at HopeLab Pat Christen found Monica’s talk quite courageous and wrote a piece for Huffington Post where she apologies for dehumanising Lewinsky at the time when the news broke about the affair with Clinton.