How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life



The bbs for the “Tweet Heard Round the World” was a pretty big pile-on. Now I’m confused - are we walking it back?

I do not think Mark is excusing Sacco – just saying he is afraid to make mistakes that could also have repercussions?

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I’ve always felt the rapidity and the cavalier manner in which many people declare that someone should lose their job or have their life ruined has been part of a downward trend for humanity. The only exception to this is politicians and people who have lives in their hands, and even then, only when it’s directly relevant.

How about we all do what we do for people in general: Forgive them. Or forget about it. Honestly, it’s not even as if we really care. We don’t go after everyone who says the same stupid thing, just the people who happen to get caught or are identifiable. Even if someone was an asshole, we’re not exactly being just about it.


Tweet in haste, repent at leisure?

At least she didn’t end up in prison unlike some of the Brits who have made stupid/offensive jokes on Twitter.

I think you should probably a) not make any joke that could be construed as offensive on social media and b) not use your real name/be publically identifiable.

Perhaps a queuing system that holds your tweets for 5 minutes and asks you if you’re really sure you want to post something before it goes live?

I read the whole article on the NYT, great read (and great illustrations too). I just need to figure out how to get the author’s name right.

Sacco said she was making an insider’s sarcastic dig at white privilege.

I think reflection and re-evaluation are to be encouraged. In some ways, it’s a milestone moment in the mass adoption of social media.


The Phrase “Walking it back” is a phrase that politicians and pundits get to use, not regular people.

Because if you say something really offensive and you don’t get a chance to explain it away you are screwed.

Some people don’t “walk it back” they 'double down" and then they have a chance to appeal to a different audience. Who she worked for made the difference. And the timing of the tweet.

If you work for Fox you can lie. If Jon Stewart calls you out or Media Matters calls you out that can be ignored. But if you work for NBC and lie and Stars and Stripes calls you out about a lie and the person calling you our is a solider then you can’t “walk it back” or ignore it.

how people apologize of change their statement is an function of their stated values (or brand) and their position of responsibility and status.

Also the kind of statement that can get you in trouble has changed over time.


The problem, of course, is that ‘offensive’ is totally subjective - and that ‘risqué’ or ‘edgy’ is close to offensive but so much more entertaining than ‘safe’; so people will consciously choose to sail as close to the wind as they can without crossing over.

I have an inbuilt spinelessness that prevents me from posting anything I consider risqué - but pro social media users do the opposite, for the retweets.

It’s hard to read this particular tweet as anything other than tone-deaf and ill-advised - but there are still no absolutes. I doubt if a queue would have done her any good - it’s her judgement that’s not functioning as well as it should.


I think the person that comes off worst in that article is (shock!) Sam Biddle.

I really hate Gawker. Joel Johnson is well off away from those tossers.

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On the Internet, you’re just a click away from an angry mob.


I kept telling my wife how great this book was while I was reading it, and she became intrigued, so I had to rip it down the spine and give the first half to her while I finished the second half.

Possibly because I was just reading about Sacco again not so long ago, this is the most shocking part of this post. :anguished:


Not with my follower count, you’re not.

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In a networked world, a single retweet of a message, if done by a highly connected person with lots of followers, a “superconnector”, can start an avalanche of Righteous Wrath. That retweet can result from a Righteous Wrath retweet of a random reader who got it by a keyword search when looking for something else.

Even in the pre-Internet world, we were separated by average of six degrees. I assume now it could be significantly less.


This sort of thing explains why I don’t like Twitter. Not the angry mobs - I have dealt with some in meatspace - but people’s inability to deal with the lack of context. Assuming that you know what anybody meant by what they posted in such a tiny chunk of data is poor rhetoric, and dangerously stupid. Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” springs to mind. Is it a joke? An insult? A provocative point of discussion? A heartfelt belief? A quote one heard elsewhere? Without any sort of dialectic process to frame it in, there is no room for a kneejerk into righteous indignation.


Oh, wow, I had forgotten about that thread.

[deleted commentary wherein I get all worked up again, ultimately reminding me of why I didn’t post there in the first place.]

At least we won’t make this mistake with Brian Williams.

Dude, there were at least 140 characters and 11 rebuttal-free hours of context. The meaning was CRYSTAL CLEAR.


Not pointing at anyone in particular, but I wonder what the crossover is between the people who were arguing against shaming in the previous thread and those who were familiar with being publicly shamed by the crowd earlier in life? Sometimes the internet seems like eternal middle school, and people are often mocked not because they actually did a lot of harm (this tweet would have been seen by very few people if it hadn’t blown up), but because it’s a chance to place the guilt for the bad things in our culture onto one person’s shoulders. That, or that it’s just an example of the fact that the internet has no sense of proportion. Make a cooler with extra features, get $13,285,226. Tweet a dumb AIDS joke that may well have been a poorly phrased criticism of entitlement, become top of the week’s shit list and lose your job. Not that she didn’t deserve criticism, but it reminds me of the saying “When China spits, we drown”.


Agreed. Sacco’s bad joke is still a bad joke and I didn’t mean to imply Mark doesn’t think so. I was just commenting on the seemingly anti-pile on post related to a previous post here that was pile on in nature.

The most shocking thing about the post was definitely the book desecration. I get twitchy when people bend the cover right back to hold a paperback in one hand! :anguished: