Brian Williams’ predicament reminds us of how a reputation is ruined in an instant. In our increasingly hyper-connected and always-on world, disaster is just a click away, even for the most ethical of individuals.
You may have heard about the case of Justine Sacco, a 30-year-old corporate communications specialist with a company called IAC. On a trip from John F. Kennedy Airport to South Africa in late 2013 via Heathrow, she did what any self-respecting millennial would do, tweet random thoughts about her trip and fellow travelers. It was the last tweet of the night that would be her undoing.
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Idiotic? Yes, but she claims that was the point, a sarcastic comment about her white privilege and the race inequality that still exists in the country to which she was traveling. She turned off her phone, thought nothing more of it and fell asleep for the duration of the 11-hour second leg of the flight.
“To me it was so insane of a comment for anyone to make,” she told The New York Times Magazine in piece about her experience that’s equal parts fascinating and horrific. “I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was literal.”