“The Price of Shame,” Monica Lewinsky
Iowa Memorial Union (Main Lounge) — Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Monica Lewinsky was 24 years old was she suddenly became internationally famous in January 1998. In a 2015 TED Talk, Lewinsky described what it was like when the news broke that she, a White House intern, had been having an affair with President Bill Clinton.
“What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide,” Lewinsky said. “I was patient zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”
In recent years, Lewinsky has used her unique fame and experiences to draw attention to the problems of cyberbullying and online harassment, and that is the focus of “The Price of Shame.”
Lewinsky noted in the 2015 version of her speech that before the rise of social media the sort of public shaming she experienced was relatively rare. “The landscape has sadly become much more populated with instances like mine, whether or not someone actually make a mistake, and now it’s for both public and private people,” she said.
Cruelty to others is nothing new, but online, technologically enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained and permanently accessible. The echo of embarrassment used to extend only as far as your family, village, school or community, but now it’s the online community too. Millions of people, often anonymously, can stab you with their words, and that’s a lot of pain, and there are no perimeters around how many people can publicly observe you and put you in a public stockade. There is a very personal price to public humiliation, and the growth of the internet has jacked up that price.
In her speech, Lewinsky advocated a “return to a long-held value of compassion — compassion and empathy.” She said, “Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop, and it’s time for an intervention on the internet and in our culture.”
Lewinsky’s speech will be in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.