“…public humiliation could play a role in suicide because ‘hopelessness is often a major risk factor, and if you’ve been publicly humiliated and your reputation has been tarnished forever, you could see how someone could become hopeless.’ Such situations … could contribute to feeling that life is unbearable. …”

That’s a short excerpt from this article in the NYT entitled “After Suicide, Blog Insults Are Debated.” Below is another:

… unlike some other forms of public humiliation, online insults can live in perpetuity. Whether that increases suicide risk, Mr. Brown said, is an open question, adding,”Although it’s plausible that’s the case, we know very little about the role of the Internet.”

Before his death, Mr. Tilley had come under particularly harsh criticism on the advertising blogs. AgencySpy, which is written by an anonymous advertising industry employee, was perhaps the most biting.

In a Feb. 19 posting, the site quoted excerpts from an internal e-mail message Mr. Tilley had sent to subordinates, in which he wrote:”Too many of you are only doing good work. And some of you are doing work that simply isn’t good enough.”

AgencySpy wrote that Mr. Tilley”needs to go back to management 101,”adding:”At one point, Paul thought he could make it as a game show host. Doesn’t one need to be charming for that?”

The site then published 12 comments peppered with personal insults aimed at Mr. Tilley : among them an insult signed by George Parker, the author of the AdScam blog.

But a colleague and friend of Mr. Tilley’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said,”There’s no way you or I will know why he did this, but it’s certainly not because of blogs.”

“I know it bothered him,”the colleague said, referring to the public criticism.”However, he was very intelligent, with lots of talents and skills, and this was not his whole life. Pointing to blogging and the media just trivializes a man whose life was not trivial.”

After Mr. Tilley’s death was reported, the comments beneath the AgencySpy blog posting turned sharply to recriminations from people identifying themselves as friends, colleagues or relatives of the DDB executive.”You should all be ashamed. Because you contributed to this,”a message from someone who signed as LSA said.

A similar post on AdScam said:”I knew him. And I know that the vile attacks inflicted on him by you and others tortured his soul. He told me so.”…

Sadly, the possibility of really hurting other people is so enjoyable to some people, accounts like this could actually encourage them.   I try to keep the focus at this blog on issues and away from personal attacks, though I’m sure I’ve done so imperfectly. If you see me failing at that in the future, please let me know.

–Ann Bartow

This entry was posted in Blog Administration, Feminism and Technology. Bookmark the permalink.