Short Thought: The Internet is the new Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter was on TV last night (the one with Demi Moore), and following on the heels of the Don Imus story it seems clear that the internet has become the 21st century equivalent of carrying a big red “A” on your bodice. Don’t get me wrong, Don Imus had it coming. Shock jocks are an element that contributes to divisiveness in our society, frequently at the expense of people who don’t have a strong voice of their own. So I’m not shedding a tear for him. Or for, say, Michael Richards.

But just like back in Puritan times the rush to judgment is fast and not always fair or accurate. Today though, the “wisdom of the crowd” is both judge and jury, and the modern attention-deficit crowd has little patience for the slow grind that justice often requires to uncover the facts. Bang, boom, get it over with. Next! Whatever the Duke lacrosse players did or did not do, and whatever the biases inherent in the justice system, the public judgment on them was immediate and absolute, fueled by the 24 hour news cycle and the instant news feed of the web.