Detroit Today: Are we living in a shameless society?

Two experts on shame joined Nick Austin on the show to talk about if shame is necessary, positive, and if it still has the same impact on society. 

Our ever-changing societal norms now accept a wider range of behavior from individuals, politicians, and corporations. For some, one example is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who continues to be his party’s front-runner while facing 91 charges in four indictments on criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions.

Another example is New York Congressman George Santos, who was indicted for 13 counts of financial crimes, including defrauding donors and wrongfully claiming unemployment benefits. He continues on despite being scandalized while he awaits his criminal trial and House Ethics committee investigation. 

Two experts on shame, Jennifer Jacquet, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University and Dr. Laura Brown, an expert on political scandals joined Nick Austin on Detroit Today to talk about if shame is necessary, positive, and if it still has the same impact on society. 

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Jennifer Jacquet is an associate professor of environmental studies at New York University. She says while shame can be positive and used as a tool for accountability in society, overuse and misuse can lessen its effectiveness. 

“We’re dying for eyeballs, we’re dying to be on the stage — especially for these politicians, right?” said Jacquet. “So one of the worries is that shaming is a little bit like antibiotics. That you can overuse it and then deflate its effectiveness.”

Dr. Lara Brown is an expert on national elections, candidate strategies, and political scandals. She says many today would rather have notoriety than anonymity, pushing the boundaries of societal norms.

“I think what’s happened is that the legal system has always been the floor for behavior, right? If you break a law, then certainly you shouldn’t be permitted to retain or stay in office,” said Brown. “But it was only the floor, and it seems as though the law is now the ceiling.”

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