The Case of Justine Sacco and the Twitter Lynch Mob

The Case of Justine Sacco and the Twitter Lynch Mob

As sport in the Twitterverse, destroying Justine Sacco should bother all of us

The case of Justine Sacco horrifies me. The PR executive made a numskull remark on Twitter – who knows why? – and within hours found herself at the center of a digital lynch mob, the object of global derision by thousands who felt entitled – in fact, thrilled – to condemn her.

Sacco was an easy target. She stupidly tweeted that she was going to Africa and hoped she wouldn't get AIDS. And then doubled down on that stupidity by adding: “Just kidding. I'm white!” Then she got on a plane and was blithely offline while the tweet gathered steam, and more steam.

Also read: Justine Sacco Deletes ‘Hope I Don't Get Aids’ Tweet – and Her Account – After Landing in Africa

The comments ranged from people calling her “racist,” to “stupid” to “ignorant fool,” to others counting down the minutes waiting for her plane to land for what one Tweeter called “another amazing Twitter reality show.”

“Maybe Paula Deen is looking for a communications director” tweeted Lizz Winstead.

Google jumped into the fray – offering “justine sacco” searchers up a timeline of her flight – and Gogo inflight, the airplane internet service, felt compelled to share a point of view too (and later apologized).

Also read: In-Flight Wifi Provider Gogo Apologizes for Justine Sacco Tweet.

Donald Trump chimed in – late to the party – tweeting “Justine, what the hell are you doing, are you crazy? Not nice or fair!… Justine is FIRED!”

Upon landing in Cape Town on Friday night/Saturday morning she'd become a global meme, #hasjustinelandedyet, and a magnet for vicious commentary.

Sacco, with whom TheWrap has worked on myriad stories with professionalism, deserved condemnation for the tweet. But she also deserved a chance to explain herself.

As sport in the Twitterverse, destroying Justine Sacco disgusted me. Some got the joke, and the grotesque lack of perspective. One @Baratunde  tweeted: ‏ Amazing how #HasJustineLandedYet results in Sacco's firing in under 24 hours. Now, what about #HasABankerBeenJailedYet? #AnyBankerAtAll?

After two days of the tirade, another person tweeted: Gayle L. McDowell@gayle 5h “Enough with the internet hate machine. It's too much.”

One thoughtful person tweeted the question: Is it bullying if the person deserves it?

On Sunday Sacco apologized, profusely, saying: “For being insensitive to this crisis — which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly — and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.”

But by then it was too late. Sacco had already lost her job as the spokeswoman for IAC, the Barry Diller-owned parent of Expedia, Electus, The Daily Beast, CollegeHumor and other companies.

Also read: Justine Sacco Issues Apology for Her ‘Needless and Careless’ Tweet

It is no surprise that Sacco would lose her job,  that was clear from the first moment. IAC has to look out for its interests, and with PR expertise like that, well… you get my point. But – the mob. It makes no moral equivalence between true crimes and careless remarks. The mob just likes to point and jeer and wallow in the fact that someone else gets to be the object of ridicule. South Africa could use our attention. The news stories in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death remind us  that the country's social and political struggles are serious – AIDS chief among them, violent crime a close second. That is worthy of debate and discussion.

But this incident is the worst of the social web.  Parents lock up your children's Twitter accounts, lest they ruin their lives in a moment of careless sharing.

  • Ana M…

    If someone is willing to put a nasty thought like that for the universe to see, what could they possibly be keeping private? It is a crazy lynch mob mentality. But this is a professional adult who is responsible for the representation of herself and the company she was representing. At some point you have to learn to not make racist remarks, particularly about your fellow countrymen. You get what you give.

    • Jimmy

      Thank you! No one forced this woman to put something so stupid on Twitter, but she paid the price for that stupidity.

    • get Ana

      Fellow countryperson, you sexist.

      Hey internet, go get Ana!

      • Ana M…

        Did you miss the statement where she says that her father was from South Africa and she was born there? What makes me sexist?

        • get Ana

          Hilarious that you still don't see it. And you're a woman.

          • Ana M…

            Because I said “countrymen” instead of “countryperson.” I get it. No, I get it. You are so hilarious. wow. totally. yeah.

          • Rob

            A swing and a miss! Try again Ana

          • jen

            And you're an idiot, Rob.

          • MRASoldier

            the proper term is countrymen. Man in gender neutral in those contexts and originally man was gender neutral. Do you go around saying “Huperson” “Wuperson” or “personslaughter”? What sexist is “countryperson” it's sexist because the only reason those stupid words exist is because of Feminism. I find it funny how women and liberals have no issue with saying “gunman” when there is an unknown shooter..

    • conlakappa

      I was with you up until “It is a crazy lynch mob mentality.” It isn't. Nothing is like a lynching but another lynching. She's still walking around, isn't she? She's an adult who was confronted by the results of her own actions.

      • walkrrrr

        I agree. Of all people, it's not as if she was some teenage newbie, naively unmindful of the nature of the web and social media and simply didn't realize that her offensive tweet would be visible to billions in a matter of 10 seconds or less. She was a highly placed **PR EXECUTIVE for an internet company**.

        If this isn't the quintessential textbook example of a supposedly intelligent adult needing to take personal responsibility for their own actions, then I don't know what is.

      • PureObamaHackery

        She said “lynch” about a white person. Maybe Martin Bashir will threaten to use her mouth as a toilet.

    • Seo

      Well, you can just imagine what she keeps private is even more disgusting. It also tells a lot about the racial issues in SA…and how some people are still raised, even after apartheid. It isn't “stupid” …it just means saying these nasty remarks is well accepted in certain circles…probably worse. Moving to the US does not change that mentality…it made it even worse when people succeed, professionally.
      The mob is probably exaggerating, most probably missing the point …but imagine if how those “whites or not”, living with the virus, within or outside Africa. How should they feel?

    • randomness

      “But this is a professional adult who is responsible for the representation of herself and the company she was representing.”

      Never understood this crazy USA mentality – why is she responsible for and representing the company she is working for in her personal tweets?! Mixing professional and personal all the time, but with a huge bias toward professional. You get fired if you say something that could ruin the business image of the company you are working for, but if the company ruins your life on a daily basis with its ridiculous forms of control, you can do nothing. It should be a two-way street, but it is not. Stupid mentality.

      And Twitter sucks, obviously.

      • LoLoPones

        I never understood people who generalize (you just typed “crazy USA mentality) to make a point. You are an idiot. Not your whole country. You.

        • randomness

          It's a fact, not generalization. You have probably never lived in another country but USA, I've lived in 8. I've witnessed how legal systems work in all of them. I have witnessed what the connection between professional and personal life is in all them. AND I know 100% that such a huge overlap that directionally benefits business while ignoring the personal self of the individual exists ONLY in the USA. Period.

          And your comment is ridiculous … actually, the lack of an argument makes you use only personal attacks, offensive words. Have a good day, I hope you survive.

          • LoLoPones

            Interesting. As an international development doctor, I have lived in six countries (USA, Australia, Tajikistan, Tanzania,Democratic Republic of Congo and now South Africa)….

            Want some water to wash down that foot? Does it taste good with crow?

            The only one here that is full or generalizations (all incorrect) and abject, breathtaking stupidity…is you.

          • randomness

            You are either drunk or logically incapable. Either way, waste of my time.

          • LoLoPones

            How's the crow?

      • KM

        Her position at IAC was the first thing noted on her personal twitter profile.

    • MRASoldier

      if someone is stupid enough to put their real name and info on a social media website and say something really crazy/stupid like she did they deserve the “mob mentality”.

  • Victor nyc

    People are sick of the sheer douchebaggery of the likes of Peter Shih, Greg Gorman #askjpm and now Justine Sacco. The public beat downs of such boorish behavior are instructive to the offenders and justified. It's the only way they'll become aware of life outside their bubble.

    • everyone has an agenda

      so what it's REALLY all about is class warfare and giving vengeful “beat downs”…you sound like you know these people and it's personal…also douchebag is offensive to many enlightened worldly guy like you would know that

      • Victor nyc

        There hasn't been a word yet invented that expresses what the term douchebag has come to signify. Guy or girl thinks he or she “has arrived” and engages in cringe worthy acts of vanity and tackiness. It's part of the established lexicon, I'm afraid. An Yeah in this case, it fits like a glove., Twitter flames are on the whole harmless, unless they incite violence. Beat down, in this case was a metaphor. Lastly, I have no class warfare agenda. I just really don't like people of any social stratum who spit on those less fortunate than they.

  • K DUBB

    hahahaha. It's about to be Monday morning and I just found out about this story. EPIC JUST EPIC.

    Yo player, you ever the cliche “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”…?

    Great Sean Bean meme

    • Justine

      Adria Richards: feminist wacko of the year.

  • guestwho?

    she deserved the consequences of her tweet

  • dafneink

    If ever you require the services of IAC remember that they do not get semiotics nor post colonial analysis. They never did and probably never will. Be aware.

  • Masterman

    “Sacco, with whom TheWrap has worked on myriad stories with professionalism, deserved condemnation for the tweet. But she also deserved a chance to explain herself.”
    No she doesn't, the Tweet speaks for itself and only someone who agrees with her racist views thinks she doesn't deserve to lose her job ASAP. There's no careless remark, only a hardcore racist with a deep rooted hate for blacks will think being white makes you immune to AIDS.

    • Trish Chasity

      Once you release it from your lips you quickly sink ships (can never take it back)

    • crazed villagers

      Ugh, the shrill stridency of your tone and your hyperbole are just cringe worthy.

      Stories like this give disenfranchised people a chance to stick it to someone under the pretense of moral indignation. Such hypocrisy.

      • LoLoPones

        But not you're certainly not upset about the “shrill” tone of racism, are you?

        You just exposed yourself.

    • Nknow

      Nah…. just another ill advised joke in poor taste. If I owned the PR Firm where she worked I'd definitely fire her out of a cannon though. PR Firms can ill afford bad press.

    • mymorna

      Actually, there was a number of reasons why the post could have been stupid rather than racist. Like – it could be completely misplaced sarcasm on het part.
      Yes, I do think she deserves to lose her job ASAP. Not merely because she made the remark, but because with such remarks she doesn't seem too suitable as a spokesperson for a large company.
      I'm really sorry but there is so much going on in this world that is actually far more hate-provoking, hateful and violent. There is a lot more discrimination going on than just some stupid tweet, that has insulted people but didn't do anything other than that (e.g. didn't harm anyone physically). Why don't we care as much about that? Easy: because – as noted above – Justine is an easy target. It's so easy to fight racism condemning people online. Try to actually do something about it, make sure jobs and wealth are more evenly divided, make sure people of all skin colors and ethnicities feel save, make sure we don't have a continuous cold civil war here.

      • MRASoldier

        “spokesman” man is gender neutral in that context(and originally man was gender neutral) do you go around saying “huperson” or “personslaughter” or “Sharon Waxperson”..the reason why “spokesperson” and those other nonsense words exist is because of Feminism.

        • mymorna

          Lol don't get all worked up. Spokesperson is – according to what I found on Google – a perfectly acceptable word. Personally, I used it with no ulterior motives :) If you prefer spokesman – spokesman it is ;-)

      • Victor nyc

        Have you read Sacco's previous posts? She's incapable of nuance. She engages in sophomoric verbal slapstick, usually with a snipe at a religion, disability or ethnicity.

        • mymorna

          I hadn't when I replied, I have now. Okay, so Sacco is an incredible idiot who – unfortunately – reinforces the image of arrogant Americans in the outside world. So yeah – as far as I'm concerned she does kind of have it coming Not being threatened of course, but being despised – sure. She doesn't come over as a usually kind person or anything.
          That being said, I still think the problem is much more fundamental and her comments are not actually causing as much trouble as violence or unfair employment practices.
          Also… Now that we know she had previous posts: I totally don't buy it that her colleagues / employer had no idea about her tweets. She doesn't seem like a very private person. Apparently, they did not care enough, until it hurt them in the media… Now they're suddenly trying to save themselves.

    • Paul S.

      And you don't for a moment consider that maybe you are the one who lacks any level of nuance to be able to recognize a self-deprecating socially aware joke that points out and satirizes the current situation in the world, where white people can live in close proximity to tragedy on a massive scale and still be unaffected by it? Not for a second do you consider that maybe you missed something deeper which is the oppoosite of racism and is rather an acknowledgement by a white person that they have been given privileges that others aren't just based on race. That acknowledgement is the first step to recognizing the injustice in the world. Justines mistake was in assuming people would understand something that complex but instead it fell on the ears and eyes of idiots like you who feel the need to lynch her for it.

      • Victor nyc

        Have you read Sacco's previous posts? She's incapable of nuance. She engages in sophomoric verbal slapstick, usually with a snipe at a religion, disability or ethnicity.

        Sorry for the double post, i.e., below. I misplaced my cursor the first time.

    • Beth Haute

      Agreed…. no way one could feel anything but total disgust unless they hold deep seeded racism themselves

  • DuBois

    “Parents lock up your children’s Twitter accounts, lest they ruin their lives in a moment of careless sharing.”

    Are you under the impression that Sacco is 13 years old, and needs her parents to make her decisions for her?

    She's a grown woman, she should be capable of handling her Twitter account on her own.

    And kudos on coming up with that “careless sharing” euphemism… it just might get the 2013 “Wardrobe Malfunction Award.” (The WMAs are always hotly contested.)

  • Musik Mann

    Waxman, it would have been easier to simply give Sacco a shoulder to cry on than try to have it both ways. There are an awful lot of qualifying “buts” in your piece (Sacco was a “numbskull,” but…; she was wrong, but…). True, the Twitter world is a cold place. However, you don't seem to understand (though you imply you do) that Sacco herself represents the very mob mentality you speak of; she's ONE of them. She chose to use social media to make a snarky, insensitive, racist “joke.” Under her own name, no less. Does it matter whether she was part of a “mob” when she made the statement? So she went rogue this time; she still used social media in the same mean-spirited way the mob does. The mob is made up of lots of people…like her. In addition to being clueless, Sacco also represents that generation of the vastly unqualified “professional”–people hired to do a job, with zilch knowledge or skill regarding the position. She's referred to as a “communication” executive. You have to wonder if she even realizes “PR” stands for Public Relations, let alone how Twitter truly works.

  • mheister

    Sacco's tweet wouldn't have blown up all over the Internet if she wasn't a PR flak. IOW, if her job didn't involve managing public opinion, making an offensive personal opinion public knowledge would have been irrelevant. As a PR pro she should have known better. If the follow-up story I read about 16 other tweets of Sacco's that were almost as offensive is accurate, Sacco had been dancing with the devil for awhile. I'm sure some folks went overboard jumping on her for this; however, the more thoughtful amongst us can sift through the trollery and get to the heart of the matter.

  • Dawn

    Look, I have no sympathy for this woman. Her comments are more shocking than normal because she was a PR professional!! More than that, the tweet(s) were just stupid. The so-called mob backlash in this case was justified. So what that it occurred while she was on a long flight and couldn't defend herself. What exactly was her defense going to be??

    Here's the real deal…Justine meant what she said and had no problem posting it along with other inflammatory tweets…that's who she is!! The thing is, she's just sorry she got caught.

  • MsAfroCAN

    You really should have began your title with this: “In Defense of Justine Sacco” because unfortunately that's how your post is being perceived.

  • Madley

    People that use Twitter should be a lot more careful before then post something to their account. You are going ahead and broadcasting to the world. I don't have Twitter and personally I'm sick and tired of being inundated with what people say on Twitter in news stories.

    I don't know this woman, I don't know what she was thinking but now that you brought this up, “Some got the joke” please explain to me how this is a joke?

    Explain to me if you go this joke in what way is it funny?

    • twits

      ” I don't have Twitter and personally I'm sick and tired of being inundated with what people say on Twitter in news stories.”



      • LoLoPones

        So don't click or comment on them.

  • David Perkins

    I'm so confused. Which social mob is good and which social mob is evil? Is the mob that condemned this PR lady for her offensive comment a good mob? Is the mob that attacked the duck call millionaire for his offensive comment an evil mob? What about the mob that slew Martin Bashir? Good or evil? Is there a scorecard or something?

    • LoLoPones

      And you shall remain confused.

  • erkcyclisme

    Your defense of Sacco might make sense if she was indeed a child. She's not. Her tweet was mean spirited and racist. The fact she was a PR executive only underscores the gravity of her wilful hate.

  • Karma Chameleon

    You obviously didn't read her other whiny, derisive, entitled Tweets.

    • weak sauce

      “..her.. entitled Tweets…”

      Oh, so you're part of the jealousy mob, too…you resent her social class but taking her down out of fake outrage is more socially acceptable especially when you have a mob to back you up.

  • disqus_I9ERiegRth

    This pretentious spoiled brat of a woman, so utterly oblivious to her privilege, gets her comeuppance and we pelebians are supposed to feel sorry for her? Give me a break. She never had to work a day in her life, got this job due to connections and money while people with Masters degrees work retail if they are lucky, and screwed herself out it because she's an idiot. Good. About time karma worked quickly.

    • pathetic

      I love this comment. It so crystallizes the hypocrisy of the mob and what the mob is really about.

      You protest her comments with a healthy dose of hate and discrimination yourself. This isn't about racial offense.

      This is about your jealousy of a rich girl who you perceive has had an easier life, so this is your chance to take her down a peg. You are pathetic.

      • Victor nyc

        “The mob.” You just outed yourself as a typical elite wannabe, defending other elite wannabes that deserve to be called out for horrible behavior. There is no mob here. It's just twitter, and they are only opinions about an act that begged scorn. Sacco ‘s denigration of an entire race and sufferers of a terrible disease were not merely an opinion. And your name calling doesn't advance any civilized conversation.

        • pathetic

          Oh puh-leeze. Again with the faux outrage and lynch mentality.

          You're playing a game of gotcha and calling me an “outed elite wannabe” and I'm the name caller? I called no names but maybe if you say I did with enough mustered outrage it will deflect attention away from your own flawed comment. That “I'm rubber, you're glue” meme is so played.

          You make a lot of hateful assumptions about me because I disagree with you, and you need to stuff me into some profile that is still acceptable to hate. Your name calling and presumptions are no different than those you pretend to malign.

          • Victor nyc

            My perception of your profile was formed from your own words – - the whole “your're just jealous because I'm rich” argument. How do you know how wealthy the initial poster is? There are a lot of decent rich folks who don't spout off hateful comments as a joke or give other rich folks a free pass when they do.And yeah, you calling the initial poster jealous and pathetic Is indeed name calling.

        • LoLoPones

          Excellent post!

  • Pyrrho Nist

    What a really stupid article. The lynch mob tongue alleviated the inefficiencies of justice. Because if no one had said anything and to the degree of anger, maybe she still might have her job.

    The power of negative momentum matters because there are too many leaderless organizations unwilling to hold its employees to account for their actions.

    Good grief, why don't you just write an article on why she had permission to put down an entire race.

    • pssst

      The dynamic of what you're saying is true…sometimes social pressure needs to right social wrongs when those in power do nothing.

      Now you just need to apply it to a meaningful cause, i.e. banksters, not a convenient buzz story of the day with an easy target

  • alfcab

    She deservedly lost her job for exercising monumentally bad judgement.

    Condemning the “mob” (the faceless internet masses) is even dumber than a PR “expert” blithely tweeting a racist “joke” before going offline for 12 hours. Human nature being what it is and the net being what it is, a marginally intelligent 12 year old could've foreseen the consequences.

    If a moron pricks her finger before jumping into a shark tank, you don't say to the sharks “Enough already! It isn't fair!” Duh.

  • Lindyhop

    The comments below are filled with PC indignation and calls for justice. Is there any mercy and compassion left for those who don't seem to deserve it? Are we so cynical and jaded? Or do we really think ourselves so righteous that we are in a position to judge others? Sacco should be fired because she did her job very poorly in that moment, but I agree with Waxman that we, the court of public opinion, need to temper our indignation, consider our own less-than-noble private thoughts and learn to be wiser about what we share with the world lest we too find ourselves instant pariahs of the global community. Have a little humility and love, people. It's not easy but it's best for her and for you.

    • Victor nyc

      Mercy and compassion are most needed by the sick, the poor, the suffering: you know, exactly the kind of people Sacco sneered at as she settled into her first class seat. Do you honestly think she doesn't have a large network of like minded associates privately boosting her spirits, supporting and insulating her? That is life in the bubble. This dose of reality is but a bump on the road to a shallow person with no character. After being momentarily chastened, defensiveness will set in and she'll emerge self-righteous and self-assured, narcissistic personality disorder completely intact.

      • Shane23

        For someone who preaches compassion and mercy and acceptance, you sure do rant with a barrage of vitriol and slurs. I find hypocrites like you far more offensive than what she said because she was up front and didn't hide, whereas you hide behind the crowd with feigned caring about the needy when what comes through loud and clear is not mercy or caring but your utter bitterness at those who have more than you.

        • Victor nyc

          I have all I need, thank you. So, no jealousy there. No feigned kindness either. Just some stated opinions that PEOPLE deserve compassion, but BEHAVIOR sometimes calls for judgement.

          • LoLoPones

            boo hoo

  • Kirsten Madison

    There's no denying that Ms. Sacco used poor judgment, particularly in light of her position as a PR executive. While it is manifest that she's careless, insensitive and unprofessional, I'm not sure that her tweet unequivocally demonstrates that she's racist. If anything, her tweet shows her internalized disdain for her own kind.

  • Mike Anderson

    “But she also deserved a chance to explain herself”…Really…? I wonder who the idiot is – the idiot who made the remark in the first place, or the idiot(s) who TRY to defend her by talking about the lynch mob mentality of the people responding to the first idiot. She is reaping what she has sown. Those who don't condemn what she said are bound to repeat it. I could go on with clichés, but you get the idea.

    • Eddy

      Haha great comment!

  • Guest

    Groups you can't make fun of: minorites, immigrants, gays. Groups that its OK to make fun of: Christians, whites, rednecks.

    • Joe Orlandino

      And Italian-Americans

    • ChiefHuntingBear

      Our morality is dictated to us by the descendants of John Lackland Plantagenet who have take over my White indigenous Terrapin tribespeople's homeland that outsiders call North America.

    • newsjunkie365

      You can make fun of anyone you want. Just don't expect what you say to be consequence free.


    I find it best to remove cancer, is to go after the growth, then the surrounding tissue.
    the writer Waxman, is surrounding tissue. When you see people defending hateful actions then they have to be rubbed out too. Im this article and a Forbes article you see people who have worked with Justine and want to in some way help take the public pressure off of her. No yeah she may be good at work, but as for her as a person in our society we dont want her. And no matter how well she can dance and bang a drum, we need tangibles in spirit. She has none as demonstrated time and time again. She seekes attention and a sence of belonging so she says either whats on her mind or what her followers want to her. I dont know what worse. but its obvious Waxman needs some public attentions too!

    • ChiefHuntingBear

      We right-minded people don't want censorship.

  • Christy

    You are what you tweet.

  • HR Error 101

    When tweeting has no bleeping.

  • derrklong


    There is no end to how disgusting her comment was. As such, there was an international spasm of disgust over it.

    Also, know your history. If you're going to lean on the Lynch Mob analogy, you should at least post a picture of the postcard.

    What? No postcard? Then it wasn't a lynching.

  • JustSayNotoTweeter.

    Have not pity on the woman. If you are stupid enough to be on Twitter, then you are a twit.

  • Jay

    I think its so brazen for sharon waxman to write this article defending Justine. I'm willing to bet the “lynch mob” she speaks of comprised mainly of non-white people on twitter who felt deeply offended by her comment. Given the name sharon waxman, i'm assuming she's white and is probably of the belief that George Zimmerman also acted in self defense.

    • TheWrap

      Hmmm, where to go with this one. Since you find presuming to be the way to go on this – over an article where I'm asking people to look before they presume to leap – you may as well presume based on my name that I'm an undercover white racialist, secret cousins with George Zimmerman – why not? Conversely, you could actually read some of my writing and not have to presume at all (it's posted alongside the column), but that would take more effort than you can presumably muster. sw.

      • LoLoPones

        Awful lonely in racist apologetic world there?

      • calilife4me

        So…do you think George Zimmerman was defending himself?

    • LoLoPones

      Bravo for this comment!

  • Andrew

    The authors personal ties with Justine dilute the strength of her argument. Internet bullying is a problem, yes, and Justine was overrun by vicious comments. BUT it is VERY important to make an example of people who parade hateful comments like this, even in jest. Justine's comments contribute to ignorance and inaction in our world. They are not acceptable ever, especially not from a PR EXEC and grown woman with more than enough intelligence to know right from wrong. She absolutely, 100% got what she deserved.

    • conlakappa

      What happens when comments overrun one–do they leave tread marks?

    • TheWrap

      I consider it honest reporting to let you readers know that I am familiar with Justine. Judge the argument as you will (and have). sw

      • Andrew

        Sharon, I did not say you weren't being an honest reporter. I just believe that your connection to her creates a bias that doesn't allow you to look at the situation in the same way as everyone else. I can tell that you feel the need to back her up, and this is most likely because your interactions with her have been positive and you see good in her as a person. I don't believe she is a horrible person. But I do believe that the internet response to her comment was justified. The punishment fits the crime. She will get beyond this at some point, and probably become a better person through this all. But we as adults, and members of the human race, must take responsibility for our actions, and reap the consequences of them. I have made horrible mistakes in my life and paid dearly for them. Justine should be no exception to this rule.

        • TheWrap

          ok. i don't know the long term consequences to justine's public shaming. but if the “internet,” by which i mean you and i, does not take the measure of what this dynamic creates, then we should not be surprised when one day true damage results (bullying has consequences), or if ever this beast were to turn on you or i. thanks for writing thoughtfully. sw.

        • calilife4me

          Great post, Andrew! You are 100% correct!

  • Marshall

    Freedom of speech means people have the right to be extremely stupid…especially with the Internet acting as the great equalizer on both sides of the posters stupidity.

    She, like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty infamy, are free to spout in public whatever asinine thoughts are rattling around in their empty skulls…just stand up and take responsibility for your empty thoughts and don't surprised when mob of people disagree.

  • George R. Blake

    Twitter has become nothing but an avenue for people with a grudge, gripe or pontification to let out their emotions without any forethought involved. This is because their are no Internet Police to monitor them or boot them if they get out of hand. That goes for both the original Tweeter and those following them. They need to start implementing banning and censorship for improper tweeting.

    • ChiefHuntingBear

      The thought police are the ones who need to be banned from the internet along with the trolls who are paid by the federal government to disrupt the conversations of people who don't have a voice in the mainstream media.

  • ChiefHuntingBear

    Donald Trump is so outraged that
    Justine Saccor used her personal Twitter account to say she hoped that a trip to Africa didn't result in her coming down with AIDS where according to official statistics almost everyone has it that he fired her from her job; But, He hasn't done anything to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from torturing ChiefHuntingBear for over a year now in a TRIAL BY ORDEAL in which his condominium and all of his other assets have been seized and he walks the streets of Chicago in sandals in freezing rain and single-digit temperatures as punishment for telling the world about how his three million White indigenous Terrapin tribespeople of this continent that outsiders call North America are being subjected to genocidal, forced medical experimentation, including lobotomies and the implantation of cyborg technology into their skuls.

  • Joe Orlandino

    Wondering if using the now popular term ‘guido’ or ‘guidette’ is racist?

    • ChiefHuntingBear

      Most people who grew-up watching spaghetti westerns think we indigenous Terrapin tribespeople must look exactly like Sicilians because they were the ones portraying us in the movies when fact we are White like Pintochurio painted us in 1493 for the Roman Catholic Pope Alexander VI, who presumed to own our continent which he gave to his Medicci relatives through a Papal Bull (sic).

    • calilife4me

      Desmond Sacco's father first name was Guido. Do you think his parents were racist?

  • Tex

    This is bullying, plain and simple, perpetuated by the Buzzfeed crowd. I can go on twitter now and read many racist tweets by morons all around the world. Tell me all you socially conscious twitter warriors, what have you actually done for Africa lately?

    • Tex

      By the way, I am an African who lives in Africa so don't lie, or I'll know.

      • spandrelmatic

        Because Africa is so small that anything that happens there is instantly known to anyone who is anywhere on the continent.

        You may be an African who lives in Africa and you may not, but the chances that you are up on daily events in Kibera AND in Khayelitsha AND Dar al-Salam AND Makoko AND … well, you get the idea.

        You really shouldn't assume that everyone else is an idiot.

    • ChiefHuntingBear

      The thought-police at the FBi are called ‘Squad Eight'. They're part of a larger group called the ‘Protectors Of Privilege'.

  • Klaatu

    Social media triumphs again with another endless display of ignorance, prejudice and pointless condemnations! Ms. Sacco's pathetic statements, and those of the commenters below make me question if the positive benefits of social media truly outweigh the negative effects of providing these people with a powerful forum to spread their hateful thoughts.

  • Jake Paris

    This article has a factual inaccuracy in that Google never actually posted a real-time flight tracker… that was an Internet hoax using a photoshopped image. But nice job on due diligence there.

    All these Justine Sacco supporters are crying about how she didn't get a chance to explain herself, but actually, she did. This wasn't the first time. Her Twitter feed was replete with racist, offensive, awful remarks about just about every locale she visited. It seems she took pleasure in putting people down publicly, including the Brits, and some guy sitting next to her on a plane who she said smelled (in First Class, poor baby!).

    Justine Sacco does not deserve our compassion or respect. She dug her hole, the Internet only filled in the dirt.

  • I thought it was hilarious. People should lighten up, and all the nasty little Twitter-monkeys should step off. It's not like they wouldn't offend half the world with all their nonsense if anybody ever noticed them. Screw them, and screw Africa.

  • Lee Pie

    Nice touch ending the article with the statement “Parents lock up your children’s Twitter accounts, lest they ruin their lives in a moment of careless sharing.” This is no case of an innocent child making a rash remark on twitter. Sacco is an adult and that too a PR professional. Obviously the mob knows better than her. Other follow up stories say this isn't the first time Sacco has made such offensive tweets.

  • charlie k

    What a great use of free public education. teachers association should be proud! But better yet great material for the news people at comedy center!

  • Mr. Miller

    What truly bothered me about the entire Justine Sacco story was that the
    same people defending Phil from Duck Dynasty were no where to be found.
    The overlapping timing of each story was perfect and the statements
    from both nearly equally stupid. Yet one is a pseudo-celebrity and other
    isn't. In a way, it shows the messed up priorities people can have in
    this country.

  • jimkress

    Who cares what Sacco (or anyone else, for that matter) “tweets”? Twitter is a useless piece of “social media” that only serves to provide moronic people with an opportunity to waste time in pursuit of posting useless drivel.

    • newsjunkie365

      Says someone who doesn't understand Twitter.

  • John

    I'm pretty furious that people in the news media actually turn to blame the “mob” for this. I also notice that every journalist who takes this stance is white. This makes me believe that they're scared of this because they know that they themselves can make such comments like Justine Sacco. If you post something for the world to see and the world turns on you, maybe you should self-reflect a little on not just what you say, but maybe on you're deepest and most secret views.

    Every writer who takes the stance of “what she said is indefensible, but the people who got mad went too far” should take a moment to really think twice about where they truly stand on society's scale of being a racist, especially when they spin this story to take the moral high-ground against the “mob”.

    • CrosbyTee

      Dats wacist!

  • emmeljay

    We're all free to express our reactions to her tweet. Both reactions of disgust as well as the rush to defend her from people like the author of the above article. The term “lynch mob” is an overstatement and a poor choice of metaphor, given the racial nature of the topic of discussion.

    • BeeKaaay

      Seeking to hurt or destroy people by what they say…..that's the very essence of a lynch mob.

  • emmeljay

    By the way… did she ever directly apologize to blacks, or just to aids sufferers? I can't find a quote where she apologizes directly to blacks in South Africa.

    • BeeKaaay

      Where did she insult blacks? She insulted the aids sufferers by making light of their suffering, and for that she apologized.

      • calilife4me

        You can't be serious! She implied AIDS was a black disease.

        • BeeKaaay

          I read the comment. Said nothing about blacks. She made an idiotic comment about AIDS. She was out of line by making fun of seriously ill people.

          Please enlighten me. Where did she mention blacks? She mentioned she was “white” – so are you saying whites don't get AIDS? Is AIDS a black only disease? I don't think so! AIDS is not a race. It is a disease that is gotten by sexual activity.

          Perhaps you need to put down Alinsky's book and actually read what people say.

          • calilife4me

            Her tweet:

            ”Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

            The comment above means AIDS in Africa has a genetic preference and that preference is not white. AIDS/HIV mostly affect black South Africans.

            You lack common sense and reading comprehension.

          • BeeKaaay

            Again, she didn't mention blacks. And there are only blacks in south africa?

            Perhaps you need to put down Alinsky's book and actually read what people say.

          • calilife4me

            Your reply proves you lack common sense and reading comprehension! Where in my post did I type or imply: “there are only blacks in south africa?” Sacco is S. African simpleton; is she black?

          • Eddy

            Stop feeding the troll.

  • Steph

    This article is so pretentious. Even if she'd never posted the tweet in question, her past public Twitter behavior was far from professional or appropriate. She's lucky she wasn't fired before Saturday. We all have lessons to learn from Justine's flub, yes, but a lynch mob? Let's come off it a bit.

  • BeeKaaay

    This is how leftwingwackoism works. Someone says something, apologizes and they still seek to destroy them. Leftwingwackos have no sense of compassion, forgiveness or conscience.

    • CrosbyTee

      This goes triple for rightwingwackos, junior.

      • BeeKaaay

        The right is gone, destroyed by the leftwingwackos.

        • CrosbyTee

          LOL! Stop sniffing airplane glue, son.

  • BSpray

    The Bible told her to write that. Who are you to question her religious beliefs? Stop interfering with her freedom of speech and her religious freedoms.

    • BeeKaaay

      Leftwingwackos love to do that. They hate both those freedoms.

  • schmoj

    Blah blah blah. She got EXACTLY what she deserved. Say stupid things on the internets and it will come back to bite you in the ***.

  • LoLoPones

    “destroying Justine Sacco should bother all of us..”

    Us who? meaning racist white people?

    You've totally missed the point here. Of course….

  • Larry Sumpter

    I'm sorry, but I haven't worked with her. I don't know her as an individual, and her explanation never disavowed those thoughts, or intimated that she was “joking”. What she basically said was “I am sorry that you all read that, and it upset you”. If she could have said it to a sympathetic audience, she wouldn't have batted an eye or reflected on this horribly insensitive thought for even a second.

    Yes, the world will be cruel when you are elevated to an exalted height, and you fall. That is the risk:value proposition that drives people to be successful, and it should be what causes them to honor the standards required to be a leader, in a high profile organization.

    I don't have sympathy for what has happened to her, though I feel badly that people have involved her children and family in threats. But I hope that she doesn't perversely exploit this, and end up on Fox News as a spokesperson for “Freedom Of Speech issues”…

  • Mark

    Gee, i can turn almost anywhere and hear about crackers- it's even humor on TV. Then there's the “professional” in education who said the gringos are dying and everything for the [master] race. But we get to take it- we're white.
    And for not nice or fair- like what, building a lux resort in a poor country to exploit the nice weather /cheap local labor opp?
    The wannabe virtuous among us…

  • KM

    As a female professional in marketing with a position that is somewhat high-profile, though not quite as much as Justine's, I can say for certain jealousy doesn't play a role in my disgust for her behavior. It's more that I feel lucky to be in the position I am in and I hold myself to a high standard professionally and personally. (At least I try!!) This woman's behavior is just so ludicrous, careless and cavalier, it's totally unacceptable. I think it's great that the internet brings to light horrible behavior by individuals that might go unnoticed. This woman has created (on purpose!) a highly unlikable and offensive public persona that is deeper than a one-off tweet. Besides AIDS, she covers topics like autistic children, skinning animals, starving jews. You couldn't create a character in a novel who readers would find less deserving of sympathy and compassion. Plus, her “jokes” are so poorly crafted and flat, they are impossible to even identify as jokes. So comedy is not the context here. Maybe she wishes it were.

    • Steph

      Hear! Hear!

    • KM

      I also just want to clarify that I only pointed out the relative similarities between our jobs because I believe some people on this thread who support her believe that the mob does not include any of her industry peers. It does.

    • Victor nyc

      Yes, the “jokes” were not even in the neighborhood of funny but, with their offensiveness, seemed to be a lame attempt by the author to be “edgy.” I guess money can't buy a personality. Also agree with your point about feeling lucky to have the position we do, as I am also in PR and marketing. It has nothing to do with envy. Such a crass, childish argument, that jealousy thing. Are we in junior high? I wish I had stated it all as eloquently. Well put.

  • Mithrandir

    Justine Sacco also removed a tweet that read, “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night.” This is the person you are trying to make a case for? A lot of these comments are focusing on mob mentalities and class and money. I don't care whether you are rich, poor, white, black, purple, South African, Korean or whatever. There is no way Sacco, a PR wiz, seriously thought this post was acceptable. Consequences–you say something stupid and discriminatory on social media, especially about a topic which so many are sensitive about, then you will receive backlash. The fact that she meant it as a joke doesn't matter–her posting it before boarding a flight to South Africa evinces her real feelings. And her company has every right to terminate her at-will employment due to her comments, seeing as they are a private and not governmental entity. Therefore, why are we even having this discussion? She got what was coming. Move on.

    People ask me why I don't use Twitter, Instagram, Vine etc. Well, one, I think Facebook is a big enough time-waster. Two, I don't think people would care for my posts; I don't seek attention like the likes Kimye. Three, as a law student and aspiring professional, I'd rather avoid the drama that risqué posts may bring. It boggles my mind that someone like Sacco, a professional who may or may not know how hard it is to get to a place you want to be career-wise, would make such a blunder. No sympathy for her.

  • NJD

    I think that lynch mob might be a little dramatic. That's the thing about Twitter – you are making a conscious choice to put your words out into the universe for all to read. When you act foolishly, you are doing so on a worldwide stage. It is a harsh lesson to learn, but as a professional…ahem…a PR Communications Professional…you really should know better. A little discretion goes a long way.

  • CommonSensePR

    Shame on you for supporting and trying to justify racist hate speech by calling it “careless” and “stupid”. She is a mean and vicious person and she is rightly being held accountable for her racist comments.

  • Peter Niftcom

    KM, why is it racist? Typical over-reaction.

    • KM

      I don't think I said racist. I said highly unlikable, offensive, cavalier, careless and ludicrous.

    • KM

      And bad at comedy. As in, no Tina Fey.

    • calilife4me

      Because Sacco clearly implied that AIDS is a black disease.

  • Sam

    I guess it tis the season for sticking a foot in the mouth. First Phil Robertson and then Justine. Hate to say it but I have to throw that Kane video in there as well.

  • Catherine DeTrizio

    I usually always refrain from getting to into the commenting on scandals such as this, but blatant bigoted superiority gets me hot under the collar. Who are you to think you are better than anyone? We are all so much more inherently similar than we are different… Look for differences and you will lead an insular life…Look for similarities and you will lead a life full of honest love, compassion and empathy for those around you..

  • KM

    Interesting question. His joke is CLEARLY racist. It is clearly crafted as an attempt at humor, with a Jay-Leno-style wordplay “punchline”. Only in this case, the wordplay punchline is completely offensive because it makes fun of a race's physical characteristics. Obviously meets all the criteria of unacceptable! If a twitter mob doesn't go after him it will only be because there's not the same incredible irony of a PR pro making a social media gaffe. Also, some people might not have the same high expectations of young football players to conduct themselves properly as they do of high-level professionals. In this case, people might truly believe he is really joking and just really stupid instead of mean-spirited. That's a double standard, of course.

    • calilife4me

      Dockett is a league nobody! Let Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or a top NFL exec. tweet this and watch how fast the wildfire spreads!

      • KM

        Good point. That, too.

        • KM

          Media is certainly going after him, calling him a racist dummy. Seems like an appropriate response to me!

  • calilife4me

    No, Desmond Sacco is not her father. Desmond Sacco has two sons.

  • Brandon

    Sorry, my outrage machine is broken

  • FinnHuckster

    Oh boy, let me hire all those folk so anxious to show their moral superiority by spewing ‘I hate you, you hater’ from their computers. That busy at work are you? AKA. Be liberal and vocal enough and Hollywood and the VC Angels will notice. Or as Madonna would say: Not!

    • KM

      I can only speak for myself, but I have the day off! In fact, a week off for the holiday. But I am not sure where condemning bad behavior is a liberal view or what that has to do with VC funding for startups. I am sorry you are on disability. I have a family member on disability, too, and the little amount he gets per month is barely liveable, so I pitch in to help. I honestly do hope someday you will become in the position to hire people. That would be nice! Happy holidays.

  • Kate Houston/trysweettalk

    Thank you for this article. I was horrified too. I've been insensitive in my life. I've said things carelessly. I've been ignorant too. I'm not happy with her remarks, but this lacks such compassion and forgiveness.

  • mrstimtebow

    She had been drinking heavily and let the world know this as well.
    They knew who they were hiring.
    It was funny until it wasn't.


    Sharon Waxman, doesn't it occur to you that Justine Sacco is THE lynch mob. She “lynched” an entire continent and beyond with that remark — yet you come to her defense. You really should spend that time and the podium coming to the defense of the helpless millions of kids across the globe who have been inflicted or died of AIDS.

    • ginbumboom

      Oh? Please explain what actual harm Sacco did to “an entire continent and beyond” with her remark. What actual, tangible harm she did, not the harm she did to our western, first world sensibilities.

      • PAT NYC

        Hey Ginbumboon: People who perpetuate stereotypes are as bad as people who put teeth on those perspectives. When you dehumanize people, you get, e.g., the holocaust, apartheid, oh—how about, actual lynching. You didn't know that? It starts with these little seemingly innocuous things we call words. It's nice the twitterverse is informed enough in this era to shut that nonsense down in minutes. You're free to say whatever you want, but, in this era, you'll get your comeuppance before it turns into something else.

        • sean1

          And what will you do, Pat, when someone arbitrarily decides it's time for YOUR comeuppance? I could be wrong, but I'm guessing your not perfect.

  • Libertin

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (Voltaire)

    Many a person in this story failed to act to this principle. Pity.

    • ginbumboom

      Voltaire was talking about one's RIGHT to say something. He was not saying “I will defend you against anybody who disagrees with anything you say to the death.”

    • Victor nyc

      Dumbest, most pedantic and most contradictory post of the year. Pity.

  • Jessica B.

    I don't think you know what “lynch mob” means. For one thing, at the end instead of fired, you're dead.

    • SharlieCheen

      Jessica B., I think she meant it as a metaphor. Which means similar but not exactly the same. For example, the saying “bubbly personality” does not actually mean the person is bubbling.

  • SharlieCheen

    Yeah, it was like the Mt. Everest of stupid tweets. I just wish people got this disgusted over actions also.

    “There is no end to how disgusting her comment was. As such, there was an international spasm of disgust over it.”

    Let's have an international spasm over the execution of gays in certain countries.

  • Joe

    A couple weeks after the passing of Nelson Mandela, it is quite revealing that so many among us choose the path of revenge, rather than the path of compassion and reconciliation. Perhaps we can learn from the Pope who uttered 2013's most meaningful question, “Who am I to judge?”
    Maybe Sacco deserves no compassion. Yet, the indignation of the commenters in the column reflect more about themselves than about Sacco. The same members who condemn Sacco do nothing about racists comments spewed by certain world leaders, media moguls, rich folks, and Fox News. Seems like everyone loves to pile on the weak.

    • Victor nyc

      No, some like to defend them. Sacco chose to do the opposite, revealing herself to be exactly the type of person you end your post with: media moguls, rich folks and Fox News. Just read her posting history. The poor, defenseless billionaire's globetrotting, hate-spewing daughter. I am personally gratified that most commenter's have stood up for the less fortunate, rather than the billionaire's kid whom, until recently, most Americans would have self-selected with, regardless of their economic situations. It shows that we are actually evolving. The thing about social media is that now everyone can voice their opinions against the anachronistic world view of such folks. Fat cats and their scion are not the only ones with the tools of mass communication at their disposal anymore. It's not exactly the storming of the Bastille, but this small digitally fueled revolution we are all living through and coming to grips with will have its unfortunate roadkill, like Sacco, and then people will learn from those mistakes and decide to be slightly better human beings. It's how history works. And Justine Sacco has just written herself on the wrong side of it.

  • Nknow

    Ummm… I'm not getting the part where her getting her come uppins should bother me.

  • Okeychukwu Anaso

    Ignorance, Ignorance and Ignorance. The tweet depicted ignorance and the apology more ignorance. Justine is just one of the millions that shares that sentiment and “ignorance” about Aids and Africa. So its time to begin to educate them all. You can't come to Cape Town and misbehave on “Long Street” and just clean up and go back home and think “I'm white and thus immune to AIDs”. Wake up world!!!!

  • InternetWorld

    This is pathetic….

  • Slyduh

    Two things – firstly, it is a ridiculously careless comment for someone who is in the PR business, despite what her personal thoughts and feelings are, and therefore she deserved to be fired. Most corporates these days, and certainly the PR-based ones, are strict on employment contracts to indicate that when your behaviour and attitude can reflect back on the company then you are obliged to behave in a way that is appropriate. Clearly she got that wrong! Secondly, I believe the point of the article was not so much based on whether or not what she did was wrong – there seems to be general agreement it was wrong, callous, insensitive and potentially racist (depending on her motives) – but rather how quickly the rest of the flawed, biased, self-righteous (and potentially worse) people on the internet assume the role of judge, jury and executioner. As the saying goes “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” but it seems that we have a cyber-abundance of perfect, mistake-less people waiting for the chance to show, savor and perpetuate their chance to kick someone while they are down, or show their mistakes and prejudices to the world.

    Ask yourself this – considering you all know yourselves best, what would the internet “lynch mob” do to you if they knew YOUR secrets, or saw the mistakes you made (luckily) in private??

    • Victor nyc

      I thank Justine Sacco for being one of the first pancakes on the griddle. She deserved to be. Now I know to line my glass house with lead.

  • Jessica B.

    Using metaphors like “Lynch Mob” take away from how truly horrifying they are. Like when you burn a cake you don't call it a “Cake Holocaust.” Words have power. Don't diminish them.

    • sean1

      Lemme guess – you find people who prefer vanilla to chocolate racist.

  • MsElle

    Her comments were just “numbskull” and the internet's were “viscious”? I realized what this was about when I saw that the Wrap has a relationship with this woman. Please. She has made insensitive remarks in the past and they appeared to be only getting worse the more she got away with it. She needed to be checked. The remarks themselves were horrible and for her to be in PR makes it really obvious that if she didn't realize how inappropriate it was to make such a statement, she really does not need that type of job.

  • Beth Haute

    The kkk doesn't “deserve” to “explain” themselves, neither does this woman … having such deeply held racist views is bad enough, then to be such an idiot when drinking so as to post it online (how MUCH did she drink after all?) – when PR is your biz – this struck me almost as hard as her vile post – and btw, no way this is first time this elitist ignoramas’ views have been expressed by her

  • PureObamaHackery

    Your type empowers the mob, Ms. Waxword. It is funny you put the George Zimmerman-related tweet up as an example of the mob. In the Zimmerman case Hollywood types were leading the mob to convict him when all the evidence was consistent with self defense.

  • Zoe

    Sharon, she deserved everything she got. This is the 21st century. if you're going to spout vile racist or intolerant sh!t you'd better be ready to face the music. Disable your accounts before you've kicked back a few cosmopolitans just in case you're too stupid to let your drunken id tweet your job away in 140 characters or less. Sorry your friend got her ass handed to her online and got a pink slip. Be a better friend next time and tell her to lower that ego a few notches.

  • Zoe

    Personally Sharon, I hope she never finds work in the pr field again and ends up working at Arby's so she can be made fun of like she made fun of so many people in the service industry on her twitter account. Justine Sacco is a disgusting human being.

  • sean1

    Justine Sacco, quite simply, is responsible for AIDS, world hunger, war, earthquakes, and acne. She should be sent away to GITMO as soon as possible. Now, if you don't mind, I'm got to scold my grandmother for her carbon foot print.