I wanted to name this post after one of many songs that mentions Monica Lewinsky in it, but pretty much all of them are very inappropriate.
In January 1998 the Drudge Report broke a story of a former White House intern who was in a sexual relationship with President Clinton. Drudge claimed that Newsweek magazine killed the story.
The media storm that that followed was unprecedented. 17 years after the event, Monica Lewinsky is making a comeback and is making sure that her side of the story is told on her own terms.
In May 2014, she wrote an op-ed for Vanity Fair magazine that would spearhead her role as an advocate against cyber bullying. Lewinsky spoke at the Forbes 30 under 30 conference and again at the TED conference last month.
Lewinsky mentions the scandal that made her infamous and the environment that existed for her life to be plastered for the entire world to see. Newspapers, the radio and television for a long time was all the media consisted of, but at the end of the 1990s, the digital revolution introduced the world to the Internet. Lewinsky calls herself “patient zero” in having her reputation ruined in such a public way.
She recalls the story of Rutgers student Tyler Clemente who committed suicide after he was recorded by his roommate being intimate with a partner, then the roommate posted it online. Lewinsky says that she can relate to this story because she was almost humiliated to death by her scandal.
The rise of the Internet brought us many great things, including the power to be connected, but cyber bullying is the dark side of that. Lewinsky says that the online community has no perimeter. We can see this in the popularity of Snapchat, as well as in the iCloud and Sony hacks. The price of shame is in the profit that organizations get from telling ones private stories that are measured in clicks and advertising dollars. Society is numb to the person’s humiliation that is entertaining them.
Lewinsky wants people to recognize what she went through as cyber-bullying, something that did not yet exist in 1998. Now, it seems that it is very easy to capitalize from an embarrassing moment in your life that the whole world gains access to.
Lewinsky’s message of learning to consume media with empathy and compassion is a message that can be taken to heart. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, one can only imagine that the Internet would break if Monica’s story came out in 2015.