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Monica Lewinsky: Ted Talks

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Submitted By bcampbell
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The story of Monica Lewinsky is synonymous with the presidency and subsequent impeachment of President Bill Clinton by the house of Assembly on December 19, 1998. However, the story is also a cursory tale about the impact of social media in our society. In this sincere, very somber reflective narrative, Monica details the part social media played in the saga and its destructive effects on her life. She narrates the effect of the saga on her life, how she contemplated suicide in the depths of her despair and what helped her get through it all.
The main focus of the talk was harassment and bullying especially on social media. With her story as the backdrop, Monica erased from my mind the image of her in that blue beret and replaced it with the image of a confident woman who has made mistakes, suffered from her mistakes, learnt from her mistakes and grown from her mistakes. In taking this very public stance against bullying, she attacks the institutional mentality that makes public shaming permissible and acceptable. She denounces the environment that makes “humiliation” a commodity and gives perfect strangers the permission to “stab” you with their words. She criticizes the internet community for pacing a value on the clicks that a story generates and blames that value for the rampant abuse and reckless rise of cyber bullying.
Monica’s speech was heartfelt and humanized her for all those who had labeled her and called her all sorts of names based on the one side of the story that had been retold over and over again on the internet about the Bill Clinton/ Monica Lewinski saga. By taking responsibility for her part in the saga and reminding all that “everyone” makes mistakes, Monica humanized herself and directed the discussion towards the main topic of her talk, bullying. She redefined herself and characterized public humiliation as “a commodity” and shame as “an industry”
The issue of cyber bullying is a growing problem thanks to the emergence and proliferation of internet usage by many. It has been found that cyber bullying is more devastating to the bullied because of the sheer number of people who can access the story, read about the shame and comment or add to the bullying behavior. However, research shows that traditional bullies are often also cyber bullies. Raskauskas and Stoltz (2007) found that cyber bullies constituted a subgroup of traditional bullies at school and suggested that traditional bullying leads to cyber bullying. Which shows that the bullying, which has always been a social problem has suddenly just been elevated due to the availability of the internet.
Bullying generally as a culture has to be addressed to stop the spread and in this talk, she addresses the issue and calls on everyone to do something to stop the epidemic by becoming “upstanders” not “bystanders” and post positive comments or report the situation. She encourages listeners to support organizations that fight cyber bullying. She states that change happens when people do things consistently, so a consistent stand against cyber bulling is important.
Her reference to the suicide of Tyler Clementi and the issue of private photos of celebrities stolen and leaked on the internet was a true reference and pointer to the harsh and sometimes tragic effects of cyber bullying. In a poignant, reflective moment, Monica reflects on how she became the person who was
“seen by many but actually known by few. I get it, it was easy to forget “that woman” was dimensional and had a soul” Monica Lewinski attempted in this talk to bring the story full circle by taking the focus away from her personal situation and relating it to a common issue in the society today. She masterfully wove her story, told her truth, took responsibility for her part, reminded all about the part we could play in the discourse and finally, provided support and words of encouragement to those going through the same situation.
“Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy. But you can insist on a different ending to your story.”
In this brave and public explanation of her historic situation, she brings home the fact that cyber bullying is dangerous and has caused people to take their own life. More importantly for me though, she put words together that gives a face to the issue of cyber bullying because for most of us, we think cyber bullying only happens to teenagers. This is a stark reminder that cyber bullying can and does happen to adults too, not just teenagers or young people. Monica was masterful in telling her story and I am hopeful that the discourse generated by her talk will help in somehow to stem the spread of cyber bullying which is a dangerous cultural phenomenon eroding the fiber of our society.

Jose, P. E., Kljakovic, M., Scheib, E., & Notter, O. (2011). The Joint Development of Traditional Bullying and Victimization With Cyber Bullying and Victimization in Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(2), 301-309. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00764.x
Miller, M. (n.d.). 4 Things We Learned About Monica Lewinsky From Her Recent TED Talk. Retrieved from
Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame | TED Talk | (n.d.). Retrieved from

LEWINSKI, M. (2015) SHAME SELLS. Vital speeches of the day. 81(9), 291-295

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