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19: Dirty laundry

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Today, we’re talking about the stinky stuff.

Specifically, How much dirty laundry should be aired in public?

Show notes and links:
“Game of Thrones” finale: Cersei’s public shaming has deep historical roots (Salon magazine)

Constitution Check: Is shaming a legal form of punishment for crime? (Constitution Daily)


Full episode text

Public shaming has a long history – from puritan colonies to the current resurgence of requiring sign holding as a punishment for minor crimes. Records surviving from Old French law in the 1200s and 1300s show that a person’s reputation was considered legal proof of their good standing. This is part of why public shaming was particularly effective – because a person’s reputation was, quite literally, everything. Airing their dirty laundry, so to speak, could have a lifelong impact.

In the United States, government supported public shaming has been, many times, found to be a violation of the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Yet it’s still making a resurgence, both as a legal punishment and as a social punishment technique. The purposeful violation of an individual’s privacy in order to shame them for their violations of social norms, perceived or real, is becoming incredibly common.

Doxxing, the public revealing of an individual’s private identifying information, has been done to individuals in response to everything from one racist tweet to a complaint about not enough holiday gifts. It’s a lot of dirty laundry to put in public just to reinforce social norms.

So how much of your own – or someone else’s – dirty laundry should be aired anyway? Have you experienced this involuntary airing?