Under normal circumstance, I might tend to agree that viral videos and Internet comments can take one bad moment out of context and unfairly taint a person for the rest of their lives. Anyone remember Justine Sacco, for instance? Of course you do.
However, when that moment involves a public official pulling out the “do you know who I am” card, all bets are off. CBS poses the question of overkill in the case of Susan Peirez, who finds herself on suspension after berating a flight attendant for seating her next to a crying baby:
A New York woman seen berating a flight attendant in an online video is on leave from her job. Nearly two million people watched the recording of her meltdown. Her suspension is raising new questions about the consequences of sharing someone else's embarrassing moments online: pic.twitter.com/RHU0xR0j9B
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 19, 2018
A New York woman seen berating a flight attendant on a viral video is on forced leave from her job. Nearly two million people watched a recording of a woman boarding a Delta Air Lines flight caught not only threatening a flight attendant’s job, but also saying she worked for New York Governor Cuomo.
But after the video was posted online, her own job may be in jeopardy, reports correspondent Kris Van Cleave. …
The mom who took the video, Marissa Rundell, says she shared it on Facebook to raise awareness about Peirez’s behavior. It was then viewed nearly two million times.
Peirez’s employer, the New York State Council on the Arts, started an investigation, and says she’s been “placed on leave until further notice.”
In almost any other circumstance, this would raise questions about the reach and impact of viral videos. Should one bad moment in a person’s life define them forever? Should an instance of rude behavior outside of the work environment impact one’s employment? Everyone has a bad moment, and air travel seems to produce many of them, a larger point about the flying experience which should not be lost in this debate. Safety and commercial pressures have made air travel a high-stress, miserable experience for both travelers and employees, which might have had a little to do with Peirez’ meltdown.
However, political appointees have to understand that they work in a fishbowl and represent their patrons at all times. That’s especially true when the appointee points out in the middle of a tirade just who hired her, and the kind of clout she wields. Until Peirez played that card, she was just an anonymous jerk whose bad moment got caught on video. After that, she made the confrontation a public issue for Cuomo and the Council on the Arts. The agency had little choice at that point but to respond to that arrogance by trumping her “do you know who I am” card with a “We don’t know you” card of their own.
In the end, then, this really doesn’t raise any “new questions,” as CBS suggests. It does remind us that we live in a kind of voluntary Big Brother system, in which our worst moments will likely become part of a recorded archive of all our public lives. The best thing to do in those moments is to do everything possible to keep them anonymous.