Why Shaming Works

Shaming is a tremendous sub-topic in the blog world these days. Most shaming isn’t really shaming as much as it is the acknowledgement of some kind of standard that should be applied to facets of life. So we have the shamers, mostly normal people, and the anti-shamers, the over-reactionary crybaby types.

While reading recently I came across something that made me think of shaming and its effects, the topic had to do with the UN and the international community. I came up with why shaming works by an example of how it doesn’t.

The modern UN is a shaming organization. It tries to shame countries into doing something or accepting something through shaming and bully tactics. The UN doesn’t physically do anything to its targets nations, the threat of violence doesn’t even exist. At best the UN threatens, “do what we want or we’ll sick the Americans on you”, which we Americans are too often enough obliged to do. So the UN uses shame as it’s method of motivation, yet it fails to work. More often than not I might guess.

The UN tries to shame Iran, North Korea, and lately Syria into doing things and what happens? Those countries mockingly laugh as they turn and walk away. They know nothing will be done and aren’t worried about empty threats.

That’s what makes shaming work or fail, not the shaming itself but the weight behind the shame. You can fat-shame grossly overweight people because they know it’s wrong and gross. If you shame them about it, and this doesn’t mean “go away fatass” namecalling, but the simple recognition of standards, there’s a chance they’ll get with the program.

However you can’t shame Syria or North Korea. Why? Because what are you going to do? They’re already in a bad enough spot that anything you try won’t make a noticeable difference. Shame didn’t remove Saddam Hussein after the first gulf war because there was no threat to him behind the shame, it was an unstated goal of the coalition but without anything behind it it was left to the hope that the Iraqi people might just raise the gumption to do it themselves, but if the war-winning coalition armed forces won’t touch him, why would they?

And that’s why shaming works, because it has the weight of society behind it and is not just an empty gesture. You can shame me into not liking The Steve Miller Band and I wouldn’t care, but in a room of people who like the Steve Miller band I’ll be more likely to admit that their not bad, just not my favorite either.

Shaming works, it worked in the past too, the only difference is that back then it wasn’t called shaming but was simply recognized as the standard by which we lived our lives.


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Posted on October 2, 2013, in No Hope For America, Problems to Ponder, The Life of Man and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I came across an anti-shamer, it was really funny. There is this really slutty girl I work with, and I was talking to her about an old aquitance of ours, a girl who is 19 directionless, slutty, and pregnate. I mentioned she was ‘misguided’ and the slut stuck up for her so fast, I guess she realized subconsciously her similarities. “Oh she is young, we can all make mistakes when we are young”

    No sense of reality.

  2. Shaming can work if it’s direct, and has an impact. In the past, shaming’s effectiveness didn’t necessarily rely on the receiver’s conscience so much as the impact that shaming would have (when one lived in smaller communities and relied heavily on those communities).

    Example, if you live in a village and one neighbor makes socks, but he’s an @sshole and you’ve seen him beating his kids/animals, you’ll probably elect to buy socks from another person and spread the word that this guy is a b@stard so others will avoid him, and his merchandize as well.
    By contrast, in the global marketplace we’re fat dumb and happy to buy from nations with horrible human rights conditions if their items are .01 percent less. We don’t even think about it, and when things become dire enough our society simply pickets the government to ‘do something’ to appease our collective consciences while also demanding nothing goes up in price. And the politicians make a bunch of statements, maybe talk about boycotting the olympics, or sending a missile over so show “we’re serious”. And we all feel better about ourselves and continue to buy from the cheapest, wherever, thus empowering bad ideologies and corporatocracy while endangering our own security (and paradoxically complaining about outsourcing at the same time).

    Example of shaming that is markedly more direct (sad, but very effective):

    • It’s an amazing coincidence that you put that video in there. After posting this I was looking through a WWII photo book and saw photos of that same thing and my thought was, “That would’ve been great to add”.

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