Have you ever made a mistake; of course you have. It was probably forgiven and forgotten. But think about what it would have been like to be reminded of your mistake for weeks, months and years on end (about 17 years in total).

Monica Lewinsky was publicly shamed, vilified and ridiculed for a mistake made almost 20 years ago. In this brave talk she reveals much about her soul, but even more about of society that has come to make a blood sport of humiliation by exposing human weakness. How would you have reacted if you were subjected to the abuse that she was exposed too?

Who is she:

As a White house intern, Monica Lewinski learned a hard lesson; it he talk she said, “In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity. … I lost my sense of self,” Lewinsky continues. “When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyber-bullying.”

What was her offence? She fell in love with her boss!

After becoming the focus of the history-changing federal investigation into her private life, Monica Lewinsky found herself, at 24 years old, one of the first targets of a “culture of humiliation”: a now-familiar cycle of media, political and personal harassment – particularly online.

Lewinsky survived to reclaim her personal narrative. During a decade of silence she received her Masters in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 2014, Lewinsky returned to the public eye with an acclaimed essay for Vanity Fair, which has been nominated for a National Magazine Award for best Essay Writing, and with a widely viewed speech at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Summit.

Why you should listen:

This is a compelling talk by a very bright young woman, who was at the wrong place, with the wrong person at the wrong time. Her public shaming and media harassment shows us what is wrong with aberrant parts of our society, fuelled by a media seeking blood, showing little compassion for whose.

Her talk is a chilling tale when one realizes that her story could be easily repeated and next time it might be you in the cross-hairs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you have not done so, read The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, that tells the story Hester Prynne in 17th century Boston. Compare what happened Hester with what happened 3 centuries later to Monica.
  2. As a follow up to question one, define social justice and reconciliation. Where do we see those concepts operating today?
  3. What is the Nicolaus Mills’ concept of a “culture of humiliation”? Is it more and more prevalent today than in the past; or is it just over reported?
  4. Monica said, The Internet is the superhighway for the id”. Discuss.
  5. Do some motivational research. Survey a group of men and women (mixed ages) and ask them if they watched “humiliation TV” (as described by Mills – above). Were there gender or age differences in the responses?
  6. Write a letter to the editor of the local paper describing the consequences of cyber bullying; if you think that you have a good article, submit it to a major publication such as Parents magazine.

The price of shame with Monica Lewinsky


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