Opinion: Time to shame white supremacists

Shaming people on the internet is never something I’ve had a taste for, even when those being shamed have made genuinely stupid, offensive mistakes – for example, laughing at sexist or homophobic jokes. I’d give you a few specific examples of this, but I don’t even want to mention the names of the shamed. They’ve paid their dues.

What I will say is that I don’t think a guy who makes a penis joke at work is necessarily a misogynist, nor is a diehard fan of Duck Dynasty necessarily a homophobe (neither one, however, is likely a card-carrying member of Mensa).

I’ve been called both a feminist Uncle Tom and a lesbian Uncle Tom for my aversion to social media shaming, which I suppose is a kind of meta-shaming – “For shame, you will not shame!”

But in light of horrific events in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend, I firmly believe that a shame-pass is in order. If you recognize one of the participants photographed marching in the Unite the Right demonstration where an anti-racist protester was murdered and you have access to the internet, please: shame away.

Shame away, because carrying Tiki torches in the name of white supremacy, as Unite the Right racists did this weekend, is not a mistake or a lapse in judgment. It’s not a slip-up akin to laughing at the wrong joke or living for a brief moment on the “wrong side of history.”

No, it’s a loud and proud commitment to hatred and a direct threat to the way of life of every decent person on this earth.

Identifying that threat and exposing those who would make it is not grandstanding or virtue signalling. It’s nothing but necessary in a nation whose leader refuses to condemn voices of hate because without those voices, he wouldn’t be a leader.

In light of this weekend’s events, a number of social media users have taken to Twitter, specifically the shaming account YesYoureRacist, to identify by name some of the young men photographed marching for hate in Charlottesville.

Even preternaturally laid-back actress Jennifer Lawrence joined the shaming party, tweeting the following early this week, alongside a photo of some of the white supremacist marchers: “These are the faces of hate. Look closely and post anyone you find. You can’t hide with the internet you pathetic cowards!”

No, they can’t. Since social media users set out to shame Unite the Right participants this week, one white supremacist marcher lost his job at a restaurant and another was publicly denounced by his father who wrote in a post online that his son will not be welcome at home until he sheds his white nationalist views.

Peter Cvjetanovic, a university student photographed carrying a Tiki torch at the Friday night rally, his face contorted in what looks like an expression of rage, told the press his life has spiralled out of control since the photo went viral.

He is no longer just a white nationalist. He’s an internationally known and reviled one.

Social media has come under intense scrutiny since Donald Trump rose to power in the United States. Facebook and Twitter are routinely denounced as engines of fake news and misinformation and indeed they are these things.

But they are also invaluable at a time like this because the mass shaming that they enable delivers a clear message to men such as Peter Cvjetanovic still operating in the shadows that should they choose to come into the light and bare their hatred to the world, they will lose friends, family and, likely, work. Life will be as hard for them as they’d like to make it for others.

So they’d do best to keep their bile where it belongs: buried deep within.

Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

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