“Trashing is insidious. It can damage its subject for life, personally and professionally. Whether or not people sympathize, the damage has been done.”

— Laurie Penny, Who Does She Think She Is?

In the right context, moral outrage can be justified and effective. When marginalized or less-empowered voices leverage a moral megaphone to remedy systemic injustice — when hate suffers consequences — those social repercussions help bend the arc of the moral universe in the right direction. In communities where we can all see each other in person, correcting bad behavior in judicious, measured proportion serves everyone in the long run.

Yet even justified social consequences can get out of hand quickly when they’re exacted by waves of anonymous online strangers. Constructive criticism tips over into merciless abuse that undermines whether transgressors can learn any semblance of an appropriate lesson.

In Mosaic, Gaia Vince examines how our first impulse offline…

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