BLINDED TRIALS: On being Russell
Since I joined my current practice, I’ve been made partner. Even if the other partners were upset by my writing, it would be costly and difficult to fire me now. However, they all know I write, and have voiced support for my dropping the pen name and using my own.
But I suspect none of them have ever heard of Justine Sacco.
Sacco, for those of you who may also not know who she is, was a corporate communications director at IAC in 2013. (IAC is the parent company that owns The Daily Beast, for what it’s worth.) Right before leaving on a trip to Africa, she tweeted a joke about not being afraid of catching AIDS there, because she is white. It was meant to be taken as an ironic comment on white cluelessness by her very small number of Twitter followers, a statement so outrageous as to be obviously in wry jest. But on its face, it was a staggeringly racist thing to say, and that’s how people took it when it exploded on social media. Though she didn’t know it, she’d been fired before her plane even landed. Hers is one of the most famous cases of public shaming you’ll find.
Now, I bring up Sacco not because I’m afraid I’ll say something thoughtless that will blow up my career in the same way. (*pauses the knock the shit out of some wood*) But I know all too well how social media can magnify the reaction to something people don’t like, and how difficult that can be to manage.