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The Milton Measure

@theloraxpolice: #stoppublicshaming

by Ned Sheehan on Friday, April 24th, 2015

With a vehemence and fury that borders on the realm of self-parody, @theloraxpolice attacks members of the student body through public shaming and cyberbullying. The Instagram-based wing of Milton’s environmentalist group has gained in popularity over the past several months. Most of the Milton community has likely heard of the social media account. With a following of 166 people (at the time of this article), the force driving The Lorax Police appears to be one of humiliation harmful to the Milton community. A picture of two girls carrying paper plates in Forbes is captioned with the famous Mean Girls quote: “Boo, you whores”. In the description of another photo in which an upperclassman is “caught” drinking from a paper cup, “The Lorax Police” includes the hashtag, #PublicShamingIsFun. Yet another picture of three upperclassmen drinking Smartwater (by the way, the only water sold in the snack bar or bookstore) is labelled, “Do you think that smart water will actually make you smarter? If you do, you need to find better ways of getting smarter because you need it.” Comments like these are absolutely intolerable. Although @theloraxpolice stands for a good cause, we cannot let it become an excuse for cyberbullying or public shaming.

I am not, in any way, against environmentalism. I feel that anyone who is against it is either directly profiting from the its causes or is seriously disillusioned about humans’ negative influence on the environment. That being said, I am adamant that there are far more effective ways for Lorax to get its point across. The group could petition for Flik to end the use of paper plates and cups instead of attacking students who use these items. They could take advantage of official channels to convey their message rather than hiding behind the anonymity of social media. I would personally find it less disgusting if members had the courage to confront people face-to-face instead of using passive-aggressive attacks online. In short, The Lorax Police should be concerned with activism, not bullying. What I disapprove of is not the club members’ motives, but the humiliation of their peers. They should not use the fact that they stand for a good cause as an excuse for cyberbullying. There is no excuse for cyberbullying and other such petty attacks- period. In fact, these types of attacks on others are illegal. The law states that distribution of images of persons in a private place without written consent is illegal, as all individuals have a right to privacy.

In addition to cyberbullying, @theloraxpolice risks alienating the very people the group wishes to reach. Although The Lorax’s shaming tactics might pressure some to use reusable utensils and cups, other students could easily grow angry and resentful. People have already left comments saying that the account should be taken down. The Lorax Police stand for a cause of great importance. In a sense, they must hold themselves to a higher standard so that nobody associates environmental protection with the actions of the creators of @theloraxpolice. Mean and petty, the actions of @theloraxpolice are actually counterproductive to the cause.

The third problem with @theloraxpolice’s approach is that it damages the strong sense of community at Milton. Milton prides itself on being a place where people of all different backgrounds can come together and express their opinions in an open and accepting community. The way that @theloraxpolice behaves can only damage this sense of community. The acceptance that Milton shows towards people’s opinions makes these acts of public shaming even more absurd. It also detracts from the safety and acceptance that exists within the “Milton Bubble.” If people are bullied online for something as simple as drinking from a paper cup, then how can they feel safe expressing their opinion in a classroom? It reminds me of a poster from Norman Rockwell, urging citizens to buy war bonds to protect freedom of speech. It shows a blue-collar man standing up and speaking at a town assembly, surrounded by older and wealthier men. The difference between the groups is clear, but the man speaks with a clear, convicted air. This kind of thing is what makes Milton special; different people can voice their opinion without fear of reprimand. If we lose that sort of environment, then there is nothing that distinguishes Milton from a dozen other schools in the area. I feel that @theloraxpolice threatens this atmosphere. If any members of The Lorax or @theloraxpolice are reading this, then I will quote Robert Redford’s Bob Woodward in “All The President’s Men” by saying “It’s not what you did, it’s the way you did it”.

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Posted by Ned Sheehan on Apr 24 2015. Filed under Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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