I wouldn’t want to be Karen Speitel right now. The former Silverlake Neighborhood Council member is being pilloried for unkind things she wrote recently on social media about “illegals” and Mexicans.
First amendment rights aside, Speitel was an elected official and therefore subject to a higher standard of public conduct. Resigning from the council – even if done under pressure – was entirely appropriate. As was her apology to those offended. But that was the easy part of her punishment
Speitel has been placed in the digital version of the village stocks and the townsfolk have turned out to throw heaping piles of rotten invective. According to the Times story, people have come to her Pilates studio to criticize her in person and posted nasty-grams on her businesses’ Yelp page. One poster on Tuesday commented on her apparent weight, with no evident awareness of his own bigotry.
Ouch. I am of Mexican heritage and bristled when I read Speitel's comments. But the ferocity of the backlash against her against made me cringe.
It probably won’t comfort Speitel to know that she’s not the only person to have experienced this type of public shaming. It’s a relic from less enlightened days that is seeing a renaissance thanks to social media, author Jon Ronson writes in his entertaining newish book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” The book is filled with stories of how lives were upended when inappropriate comments or tasteless jokes sparked a digital fire that raged out of control and consumed their reputations and careers, including one of the author's own in which his Twitter followers show a disturbing tendency toward violence when coming to his defense in a battle with a spambot.
What do you think? Did the shaming of Speitel go too far – or not far enough? Take our unscientific poll to weigh in.