Sunday, December 28, 2014

Quoted: Wayne Koestenbaum on humilation and the court of public opinon

When I see a public figure humiliated, I feel empty. I imagine that martyr could be me. Even if the public figure did something wrong, I empathize. Even if Michale Jackson slept with children. Even if Roman Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old. When I see the famous figure brought to trial, even if only trial-by-media, especially if the crime is sexual, I'm seized by horror and fascination, by pity, by terror: here again as if at the Acropolis or the Roman Colosseum, I see the dramatic onset of a familiar scene, and unveiling, a goring, a staining, a stripping away of privilege. -- Wayne Koestenbaum from Humiliation
Humiliation is Wayne Koestenbaum's contribution to the Small Books, Big Idea series. I included this quote because it demonstrates a huge part of outrage culture: the glee that comes from stripping away someone's glory. That isn't to say that's it's not deserved, but as part of a larger cultural phenomenon, it's become routine to watch someone fall from grace.

I shouldn't have to say it. I shouldn't have to post the caveat that I indeed think their crimes are terrible and punishable by law. I think men like Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski need to be prosecuted. But the truth is in today's climate of mob justice, any questioning of the methods in which not only celebrities accused of serious crimes, but average joes who work at Denny's who happened to write something abhorrent on a Facebook page are dealt with in the court of public opinion is seen as apologia. What happens when we're wrong? Pretend we weren't part of the mob?