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He murmured the joke to his friend sitting next to him, he told me. Moments later, he half-noticed when a woman one row in front of them stood up, turned around and took a photograph. He thought she was taking a crowd shot, so he looked straight ahead, trying to avoid ruining her picture. The woman had, in fact, overheard the joke. She considered it to be emblematic of the gender imbalance that plagues the tech industry and the toxic, male-dominated corporate culture that arises from it. Jokes about. A day later, his boss called him into his office, and he was fired.

Like Stone and Sacco, he had never before talked on the record about what happened to him. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid further damaging his career.


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Getting fired was terrifying. The woman who took the photograph, Adria Richards, soon felt the wrath of the crowd herself. The man responsible for the dongle joke had posted about losing his job on Hacker News, an online forum popular with developers. This led to a backlash from the other end of the political spectrum.


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SendGrid, her employer, was told the attacks would stop if Richards was fired. That same day she was publicly let go. I felt betrayed.

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I felt abandoned. I felt ashamed. I felt rejected. I felt alone.

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Dick and Dom's Big Fat and Very Silly Joke Book

Dressed in rather chic business attire, Sacco ordered a glass of white wine. Just three weeks had passed since her trip to Africa, and she was still a person of interest to the media. Websites had already ransacked her Twitter feed for more horrors. It was about the first thing she said to me when we sat down. Sacco had been three hours or so into her flight when retweets of her joke began to overwhelm my Twitter feed.

I could understand why some people found it offensive. More likely it was her apparently gleeful flaunting of her privilege that angered people. Sacco, like Stone, had been yanked violently out of the context of her small social circle. Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the third world. I was making fun of that bubble. I would be the only person she spoke to on the record about what happened to her, she said. You wake up in the middle of the night forgetting where you are. Workers were threatening to strike at the hotels she had booked if she showed up.

She was told no one could guarantee her safety. They were longtime activists for racial equality. As she told me this, Sacco started to cry. I sat looking at her for a moment. Then I tried to improve the mood.

Things even González can’t Fix

She dried her eyes. She glanced at her watch. It was nearly 6 p. The reason she wanted to meet me at this restaurant, and that she was wearing her work clothes, was that it was only a few blocks away from her office. At 6, she was due in there to clean out her desk. We agreed to meet again, but not for several months. She was determined to prove that she could turn her life around.

After she left, Sacco later told me, she got only as far as the lobby of her office building before she broke down crying. I wanted to learn about the last era of American history when public shaming was a common form of punishment, so I was seeking out court transcripts from the 18th and early 19th centuries. I had assumed that the demise of public punishments was caused by the migration from villages to cities.


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Shame became ineffectual, I thought, because a person in the stocks could just lose himself or herself in the anonymous crowd as soon as the chastisement was over. I took my seat at a microfilm reader and began to scroll slowly through the archives. For the first hundred years, as far as I could tell, all that happened in America was that various people named Nathaniel had purchased land near rivers. I scrolled faster, finally reaching an account of an early Colonial-era shaming. She was begging the judge to let her be whipped early, before the town awoke.

There was no record as to whether the judge consented to her plea, but I found a number of clips that offered clues as to why she might have requested private punishment. In a sermon, the Rev. Nathan Strong, of Hartford, Conn. Justice and judgment are there! Drunken fights and rows followed in rapid succession. The movement against public shaming had gained momentum in , when Benjamin Rush, a physician in Philadelphia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a paper calling for its demise — the stocks, the pillory, the whipping post, the lot.

The pillory and whippings were abolished at the federal level in , although Delaware kept the pillory until and whippings until An editorial in The Times excoriated the state for its obstinacy. The boy of 18 who is whipped at New Castle for larceny is in nine cases out of 10 ruined. With his self-respect destroyed and the taunt and sneer of public disgrace branded upon his forehead, he feels himself lost and abandoned by his fellows.

At the archives, I found no evidence that punitive shaming fell out of fashion as a result of newfound anonymity. But I did find plenty of people from centuries past bemoaning the outsize cruelty of the practice, warning that well-meaning people, in a crowd, often take punishment too far.

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In January , I received an email from Biddle, explaining his reasoning. Four months after we first met, Justine Sacco made good on her promise. We met for lunch at a French bistro downtown. I told her what Biddle had said — about how she was probably fine now. Everybody else was very happy about that. Sacco pushed her food around on her plate, and let me in on one of the hidden costs of her experience. When I first met her, she talked about the shame she had brought on her family. But she no longer felt that way. Instead, she said, she just felt personally humiliated.

Biddle was almost right about one thing: Sacco did get a job offer right away. But it was an odd one, from the owner of a Florida yachting company. This shop is not currently part of our online partner program. The offer information is here to help you compare against other offers. As soon as it is part of our program, we will have a direct link to the product page here.

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