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When Media Shames the Little Guy 
(Commentary by Craig J Selby)

The whole world has been against a few Irish tourists who caused a bit of a fracas in my country of origin recently. British publications, Australian publications, Asian publications condemning the tourists for their “bad behavior”, and put their names and faces for all to see.

Oh, wow! If only the same attention to detail was put to every criminal in the world. The world might be a safer place, NOT.

The issue here is not when something goes viral, but it when something viral is perpetuated by mainstream media, and the “public shaming” goes far beyond the extent of the initial action/s.

Daily updates from the New Zealand Herald propagated story after story regarding the tourists – where they are now, the latest thing they ‘did’, and people’s reaction to them.


Did the tourists do wrong? Yes. Did they deserve to be called out for it? Yes. Did they deserve global attention and the constant condemnation they received for dropping rubbish, trying a quick scam at a restaurant or two? Probably not.

My point is not about the over-attention per se (although that is an issue), but more towards the fact that online content which goes viral can and will be picked up by mainstream media, and then it becomes mainstream media’s responsibility to determine where the ethical cutoff line is. They may have failed in this case.

The world is looking for NEGATIVES, and social media is driving this. Social media, which was meant to be friendly, a place for innocent cats and food photos. Not any more it seems.

Public shaming is part and parcel of the social media age, but the enthusiasm for it tends to snowball to mainstream media too. This is a dangerous development. We need to ask ourselves, are we doing the right thing by continuously pushing these little things to the point that they blow out of proportion.

Put yourself in the position of the Irish family. Not innocent at all, but the harassment they have received, both at the fingers of keyboard warriors and the hands of mainstream media – did we, as a society go overboard?

Closer to home, we see many examples where this happens too. Sometimes death threats, or threats of violence, are received. All for what? Some stupid, ill-advised action or statement.

As a society, we have allowed our shadow to be dominant, behind the guide of social media, without any thought to the consequence for all parties affected. It’s time to bring some ethics back, and look at the severity of our response to the issue at hand.

You might not agree with me, and that’s fine. But, boundaries are changing, and we have to decide when enough is enough.


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