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  #1  
Old 11-13-2012, 11:20 AM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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Punish like it's 1699: Public shaming is back

When you think of being publicly humiliated for committing a crime in the United States, your thoughts might go to images of Puritans in stocks or Nathaniel Hawthorne novels. However, increasingly, judges are sentencing people convicted of minor crimes to punishments which include public shaming.
  • In Cleveland a woman is forced to wear a sign that says "Only an idiot would drive around a school bus" at the corner where she swerved around a stopped school bus.
  • Judge Peter Miller of Putnam County, Florida - who just retired this year - has sentenced over 2,000 first-time offenders to wear signs relevant to their crimes. For example, first-time shoplifters are ordered to stand outside the store they stole from with a sign that reads "I stole from this store."
  • Ohio Municipal Court Judge Michael A. Cicconetti sentenced two teenagers who scrawled 666 on a nativity figure of Jesus to lead a donkey through the streets with a sign saying "Sorry for the jackass offense," a man who shouted "pigs" at police officers to stand on a street corner with a pig and a sign that said "This is not a police officer," and an 18 year old male who stole pornography from an adult book store was ordered to sit outside the store wearing a blindfold and holding a sign that read "See no evil."
Meanwhile, beleaguered parents have turned to public shaming as a disciplinary tool.
  • A 12-year old Colorado boy who took $100 from the wallet of his cousin was forced by his father to stand on a corner in downtown Denver with a bright yellow sign announcing: "I am a thief. I took money from a family member."
  • A 13-year-old Memphis girl learned quite a lesson, “Don't steal from your family.” Her mom made sure plenty of people saw what she did, forcing her to carry a sign that said that at a busy intersection in town.
  • A father in Illinois punished his daughter by forcing the 8-year old to wear a sign that read "I like to steal from others and lie about it".
  • A mother grew tired of her 14-year old daughter's poor grades, chronic lateness to class and her talking back to her teachers, so she made her stand at a busy Oklahoma City intersection with a cardboard sign that read "I don't do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food."
To me these are two separate issues since legal ramifications for convicted adults seems quite different than discipline techniques against children or teenagers by their parents or guardians, in terms of both who is doing the punishing (and why) and who is being punished.

In the case of throwback judges, is this punishment a good idea? Some people seem to think that it works in rehabilitating, that the sting of shame often scares them straight, far more effective than a fine and a small time in jail. Or is this a horrific harkening to a time of cultural insensitivity whose barbarity should remain a footnote in our history along with witch burning?

Conversely, do kids learn a lesson when they are shamed in front of their friends, family and community? Or is such a punishment a blow to the fragile psyches of youth, something which can actually cause long-term damage to the child rather than a lesson learned?
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  #2  
Old 11-13-2012, 11:27 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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I wonder if the 8th Amendment applies here. I mean, does a punishment have to be both cruel and unusual to apply?

Last edited by Alessan; 11-13-2012 at 11:27 AM..
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  #3  
Old 11-13-2012, 11:48 AM
kayaker kayaker is offline
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The offender has the option of going along with the unusual punishment, right?
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  #4  
Old 11-13-2012, 11:53 AM
leahcim leahcim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
a man who shouted "pigs" at police officers to stand on a street corner with a pig and a sign that said "This is not a police officer,"
I can see the other ones, but is this even a crime?
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  #5  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:02 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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I blame the culture-war right for this kind of thing. The thought of a touchy-feely future, where ethics replace morals and the only authority is reasonable, over-educated, and often female, has them clinging to their vengeful God and determined to bring His whup-ass on general principle.
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  #6  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:03 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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I actually like the idea in general. Some of the specific examples, though, bother me—mainly, the ones that require the miscreants to say "I am..." rather than "I did...." For example:
Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
A 12-year old Colorado boy who took $100 from the wallet of his cousin was forced by his father to stand on a corner in downtown Denver with a bright yellow sign announcing: "I am a thief.
Do we really want to be sending this kid the message that his fundamental identity is that of Thief?
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  #7  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:07 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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The people doing this don't care what damage it causes the individual. They don't believe you can care for individual and still care for society - society has to come first, last and always.

Last edited by Beware of Doug; 11-13-2012 at 12:09 PM..
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  #8  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:22 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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Originally Posted by Beware of Doug View Post
The people doing this don't care what damage it causes the individual.
There is evidence that it damages the individual?
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  #9  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:27 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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It seems kind borderline abusive on the part of the parents, and from judges it's just petty. I don't see these punishments serving justice at all. They just satisfy the public's desire to see criminals humiliated.
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  #10  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:32 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
There is evidence that it damages the individual?
The people doing this don't even care that it might damage the individual. Any evidence one might produce would be disregarded out of hand by the one giving the punishment, and by you, too, I imagine.
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  #11  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:33 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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Originally Posted by Beware of Doug View Post
The people doing this don't even care that it might damage the individual. Any evidence one might produce would be disregarded out of hand by the one giving the punishment, and by you, too, I imagine.
Have I expressed an opinion one way or another? Or have I just asked you to substantiate yours?
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  #12  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:43 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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I can't even speculate on whether these punishments are effective, or if they cause real harm to the convicted. However, for minor crimes, I'm willing to entertain the possibility that such punishments are a much better use of resources than locking someone up for a few days (or whatever). If it turns out these shaming punishments are effective, I'd love to see them applied to the jerkface speeders, stop sign runners, drive on the freeway shoulder 'cuz traffic sucks types, and other jackhole drivers that exist around here.
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  #13  
Old 11-13-2012, 12:43 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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(@ Beware of Doug et al) Yes, please, substantiate your claims, without ad hominems if possible.

Granted that specific implememtations may be cruel, barbaric, or counterproductive, what's wrong with public shaming-type punishments in principle?

Last edited by Thudlow Boink; 11-13-2012 at 12:44 PM..
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  #14  
Old 11-13-2012, 01:04 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
If it turns out these shaming punishments are effective, I'd love to see them applied to the jerkface speeders, stop sign runners, drive on the freeway shoulder 'cuz traffic sucks types, and other jackhole drivers that exist around here.
Here's guessing that won't happen because municipalities won't want to give up the money they get from traffic tickets.
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  #15  
Old 11-13-2012, 01:11 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
Here's guessing that won't happen because municipalities won't want to give up the money they get from traffic tickets.
Nay nay! Convicted of a speeding ticket? $100 fine. $75 court cost. $27 clerk fee. PLUS... a $45 sign approval fee (offender must provide own construction paper and paint) and a $15 official permit to stand on the sidewalk.
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  #16  
Old 11-13-2012, 01:34 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
(@ Beware of Doug et al) Yes, please, substantiate your claims, without ad hominems if possible.

Granted that specific implememtations may be cruel, barbaric, or counterproductive, what's wrong with public shaming-type punishments in principle?
IANA criminologist, so principle is all I can argue. I think it's excessive and leaves a door open for cruelty. For one thing, we have a public shaming mechanism in place called the media and internet. Publicity almost always follows these cases, even getting a name and picture on the local news site. If a person is a first offender who's committed a petty crime - and I'm assuming that the "shamees" here, especially the juveniles, mostly are - that exposure, and the fact of having a rapsheet, is often enough when combined with the usual punishments. More importantly, it ought to be enough.

Last edited by Beware of Doug; 11-13-2012 at 01:38 PM..
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  #17  
Old 11-13-2012, 01:47 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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Originally Posted by Beware of Doug View Post
Publicity almost always follows these cases, even getting a name and picture on the local news site.
Can you tell me the last time a person paid a fine for swerving around a school bus? I can't. I can tell you the time a woman had to hold up a sign where she did it.
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  #18  
Old 11-13-2012, 01:56 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Surely we can all agree that swerving onto a sidewalk to get past a stopped school bus should be punished in some way, no? And just as surely, any form of punishment can potentially be harmful to the punished. So if one is going to object to the shaming on that ground, one should be prepared to argue both that the harm is (not just might be) more severe than that from alternatives, and that the harm is an undue amount.
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  #19  
Old 11-13-2012, 02:25 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Surely we can all agree that swerving onto a sidewalk to get past a stopped school bus should be punished in some way, no?
Of course. Traffic tickets, criminal charges- there are plenty of options that actually make sense even though they might not give the public that reality-show thrill.
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  #20  
Old 11-13-2012, 03:07 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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Why did you cut off the important stuff he said and just left the qualifier that everyone can agree on?
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  #21  
Old 11-13-2012, 03:25 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
Why did you cut off the important stuff he said and just left the qualifier that everyone can agree on?
I thought the general point was also obvious, but I'm not sure about the equivalence Chronos was setting up. Yes, every type of punishment is going to have harms (that's part of the point and it's not the entirety of the objection to shaming) and those can always be compared and evaluated. The issues here include the proportionality of the harm to the crime, its justness, and its utility.
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  #22  
Old 11-13-2012, 03:50 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
Can you tell me the last time a person paid a fine for swerving around a school bus? I can't. I can tell you the time a woman had to hold up a sign where she did it.
Confirmation bias, perhaps?

I can tell you confidently that x people have paid traffic fines this day, x being a pretty damn big number, and some of them surely pretty damn big fines.
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  #23  
Old 11-13-2012, 04:04 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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How does that speak to your assertion that publicity alone about a crime and punishment is sufficient?
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:27 PM
XT XT is offline
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Thumbscrews and public whippings? How about a whirlygig?? The rack? Maybe burn a witch or two...or at least see if they float like a duck?? No? Well, it's not exactly old school...

Last edited by XT; 11-13-2012 at 05:28 PM..
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  #25  
Old 11-13-2012, 06:03 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
How does that speak to your assertion that publicity alone about a crime and punishment is sufficient?
I don't know. There, I said it! Tear me a new one!

Last edited by Beware of Doug; 11-13-2012 at 06:05 PM..
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  #26  
Old 11-13-2012, 08:54 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is offline
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Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
Judge Peter Miller of Putnam County, Florida - who just retired this year - has sentenced over 2,000 first-time offenders to wear signs relevant to their crimes. For example, first-time shoplifters are ordered to stand outside the store they stole from with a sign that reads "I stole from this store."
I've long been of he opinion that stocks or pillories should be set up in malls for shoplifters who are caught stealing there.
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  #27  
Old 11-14-2012, 09:59 AM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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The offender has the option of going along with the unusual punishment, right?
Nail on the head. The "shaming" punishment is usually offered as an alternative to the traditional punishment. As in, "Your punishment is set at a fine of $500, $80 court costs, and 24 hours in jail. Alternatively, you can wear this sign and stand on a street corner eight hours a day for three days." They all chose to wear the signs.
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  #28  
Old 11-14-2012, 10:06 AM
Dorjän Dorjän is offline
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For crimes against an individual or business (e.g. assault, shoplifting), I say no. For crimes against the safety of the general public (Driving on the sidewalk to get around a schoolbus , public drunkeness, etc), I think it's a great idea.
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  #29  
Old 11-14-2012, 10:13 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Stamos'_Left_Ear View Post
Or is such a punishment a blow to the fragile psyches of youth, something which can actually cause long-term damage to the child rather than a lesson learned?
As opposed to other punishment? Can we take the risk that grounding and forfeiting allowance might also cause emotional damage?
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  #30  
Old 11-14-2012, 10:19 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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The IMHO thread Why do/did you steal stuff? makes an interesting counterpart to this one. Would some sort of public shaming (the threat of or the experience of) have worked to cure the people in that thread of stealing?
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  #31  
Old 11-14-2012, 02:38 PM
John_Stamos'_Left_Ear John_Stamos'_Left_Ear is offline
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I am a little disappointed in this thread. It seems that there are two minds of thought:

"I think this is horrible because that's just horrible!" or
"I think it's great because isn't that great?"

I honestly am on the fence with this. When I watched the video of the Cleveland woman not answering questions and having people laugh at her and taking pictures, I audibly was thrilled she was going through this.

This woman in her impatience drove on the sidewalk around a school bus! As a parent of a 10-year old who is sometimes on a school bus, I wanted to throttle her. The video of the judge explaining her punishment shows footage from the bus of the woman who clearly put her own expedience ahead of the lives of children.

Yeah, some of my reaction was of the Nelson from The Simpsons "Haha!" variety. While this may not rehabilitate and may not be justice as much as a show for the public and myself to point and laugh... The fact is that the people pointing and laughing might just think twice before doing something stupid, lest they wind up on the other side of the cameras and barbs.

Is it demeaning to the person? Yes, but not unnecessarily so. Paying a fine either hurts only because you cannot afford it or doesn't if you can. The fact that most people would rather hold a sign for a day or two than be strip-searched and have to sleep in jail for a day or two tells me that among adults, I'm cool with it.

Now, since I based my treatment of adult criminals in part because I have a 10-year old, I can also apply my real life situation as well for kids:

My kid is a thief. My kid is a liar. My kid is sometimes completely out of control - has been suspended from school countless times because he verbally harasses and threatens teachers. And as he gets older, it's getting worse.

(Please, let's not comment on my specific situation: My son is in weekly therapy and on meds and has been for several years. We don't need an intervention. All of the numerous people at school and in therapy he has seen have no questions we are doing the best we can for our child and his issues. IOW: We're fine.)

So a part of me wants to put a sign around his neck and embarrass the hell out of him because we have tried everything else! Maybe this will be the punishment that finally helps turn him around when nothing else would!

Of course, another part of me realizes that it might be bad for our son to be publicly shamed and embarrassed. He's got a lot of problems. Many of them will not go away even as he gets older and all we can hope to do is manage them so he can be a functional adult. The thought of making his burden greater paralyzes me with fear.

So I started this thread looking for answers. I'm not getting any, or at least anything with substantive reasoning behind it besides conjectures based on personal biases.

Is there any evidence that public shaming actually does rehabilitate or deter others from doing bad things? Is there any evidence that public shaming has long-term psychological effects which outweigh any benefit that might exist?

I see lots of arguments from emotion, and that's fine. That's important. But I see precious little science. And to me anyway, that's more important. Especially when we are trying to figure out the best ways to protect a 10-year old from an asshole driver, or to prevent a 10-year old from growing up to be an asshole.
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  #32  
Old 11-16-2012, 02:41 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
As opposed to other punishment? Can we take the risk that grounding and forfeiting allowance might also cause emotional damage?
Well, we have mostly decided (on this board at least) that spanking does.

The problem I have with it is that, when people are given permission to shame, they almost always take it to the nth degree. Shame in and of itself is a good thing, but what happens when people are told shaming is necessary is that they become absolute assholes. Even if the punishment works, you have to balance it with the damage encouraging such assholishness does to society.

Sure, these people did choose this punishment. They clearly thought it was worth it not to pay the fine or do the jail time. But should they get to decide?
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  #33  
Old 11-16-2012, 02:54 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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The problem I have with it is that, when people are given permission to shame, they almost always take it to the nth degree.
Well then, people who overdo it should be shamed!
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  #34  
Old 11-17-2012, 10:22 AM
Bamboo Boy Bamboo Boy is offline
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Well then, people who overdo it should be shamed!
Meta-shaming!
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  #35  
Old 11-19-2012, 05:10 AM
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I think there's some truth to the idea of using social pressure. Think of normal people who, say, drive at a speed or in a way they know is dangerous. That's probably because, even if they get a big fine or points on their license, they expect that to be accepted as normal middle class behaviour. If there was a ritual humiliation, even quite a mild one, people would probably not. In a way, social pressure (from your genuine peers) can be stronger than quite serious threats.

But I think it should be systematic and fair. I think asking random Joe Parent or Susan Judge to judge what's an effective deterrent is likely to lead to them more taking out their frustration on the perpetrator because they can, even if they don't mean to.

I also think that standing with a pig and a sign saying "this is not a police officer" is likely to lead to you getting arrested
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  #36  
Old 11-19-2012, 05:26 AM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
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Thank you so much for this thread. I was going to post a similar one, but with regard to the Gawker (?) outing of the Reddit (?) upskirter and anti Obama "nigger" tweets teens.

Personally I feel that freedom of speech means that objection to speech should remain proportional to and within the original context of the offending speech.

Major blogs should not be outing the personal information of trollers on specific websites unless they breach the context if that site, and should never out the personal information of underage trollers, except to their parents or guardians.

Last edited by jackdavinci; 11-19-2012 at 05:26 AM..
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  #37  
Old 11-19-2012, 05:43 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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There are only a limited number of behavioral "handles" that can be used to alter antisocial behavior.

This one is cheap, and does no measurable harm.

Sounds good.
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~~~Literally "world pain" in German, the term describes the pain idealists feel upon realizing that the world does not live up to their expectations of what it should be.
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  #38  
Old 11-19-2012, 11:15 AM
Clothahump Clothahump is offline
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It's a good idea and we need more of it.

For one thing, it keeps petty criminals out of the justice system. Ted Poe used to hand out sentences like that when he was a judge here in Houston and he had a very low recidivism rate.

For parents to do it, it can keep their kid out of the justice system altogether by teaching them a basic principle: actions have consequences.
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