Monica Lewinsky is now speaking out against cancel culture. She claims that efforts to hold individuals accountable for their actions by publicly shaming them has become “a little too broad.”
Lewinsky is the latest public personality to criticize what has become a social phenomenon online and offline.
Lewinsky is one of the earliest contemporary victims of cancel culture, who was subject to a campaign of media-driven humiliation after the former president Bill Clinton took advantage of her when she was an intern in the White House. The affair became public knowledge in the late 90s and subjected Lewinsky, who was then in her early 20s, to widespread mockery and ridicule from political pundits, popular feminists, and late night show hosts.
Lewinsky made her remarks in an appearance on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, where she was on to talk about a new documentary called 15 Minutes of Shame. The documentary details how public shaming has only exacerbated with the development of the internet, and targets both the vulnerable as well as people in power.
“I don’t know what you think about cancel culture and the term ‘cancel culture,’ but I think, for me, it’s just become a little too broad,” Lewinsky said.
“I think that really what felt important was for people to come to understand what happens in these shamings, and what does it feel like to be on the receiving end of that tidal wave of negativity. It has exacerbated from being just shamed; it also can be violence, and that violence — particularly for women — it doesn’t just live online,” she continued.
Lewinsky stated that it is now evident that “what happened to me — and I made a mistake — but what happened to me was now happening to many other people, especially young people.”
Lewinsky says that public shaming is “very much about power,” adding that there are many people in power who should face consequences, “But are there people who are not in positions of power who are facing the same consequence and it’s ruining their lives in a way that is very different? Yes to that, too.”
Broadcasted on HBO Max, Lewinsky’s documentary addresses cancel culture by going through the history of public shaming, to detailing its current-day incarnation.
“One of the factors — and we do take people through this in the film — is around the idea of how shame had been used since the beginning of time as a social tool. When the printing press was invented, it all of the sudden leap-frogged into being something that could now be commoditized,” Lewinsky said about the documentary.
“Once the tabloid culture bled into every area of our culture, leading up to Princess Diana’s death — which was a function of paparazzi living in that world, the tabloid world, that’s where their income comes from – and so there was that moment,” she said. “That was only five months before 1998, so we didn’t make a cultural shift.”