The latest subject in a string of online shaming incidents was scrabbling to make amends this week as her business life fell apart and the death threats flooded in.
Alison Ettel, until this week CEO of cannabis health product company TreatWell Health, found herself at the centre of a social media storm after threatening to call the police on eight year-old Jordan Rodgers.
Jordan was selling water on the street to raise money for a trip to Disneyland. Ettel reported her for not having a permit, and the girl’s mother, Erin Austin, captured the whole thing on video. “Make this bitch go viral like #BBQBecky,” an angry Austin said on Instagram.
The internet, loving a villain, eagerly obliged. Within hours, Ettel gained the nickname ‘Permit Patty’. The video topped 1.3m views.
In televised interviews, Ettel has said that she was exasperated because the girl had been making too much noise, and that she had asked her mother to keep it down. She has also refuted allegations of racism in the incident. Austin denies that version of events, instead arguing that Ettel made the call without warning and victimised a young child selling water on her family’s own property.
Shaming stories like these quickly sweep social media. Sometimes, the subjects might simply be targeted by memes that die out after a few days. In other cases, things can get far more serious.
Ettel effectively lost her job, resigning as CEO of TreatWell after multiple businesses cut ties with the company following the viral video. She has also received “all kinds of threats. Horrible, horrible images and death threats,” according to a TV interview during which she said that she regretted the incident and apologized.
Ettel joins a long list of online transgressors who have lost their jobs and been threatened over the years. Transgressors like Lindsey Stone who received death and rape threats after she posted a photo of herself making inappropriate gestures next to a sign in Arlington cemetery.
In his Ted Talk, Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, discusses the ramifications for another infamous target of social media immolation: former IAC PR exec Justine Sacco, who tweeted about HIV and race during a trip to South Africa.
The touchstone for these various shaming incidents are all different. Sacco’s was a poorly-crafted tweet, which she later said was intended to poke fun at those living in a privileged bubble but which was taken at face value by the Twitterverse. Stone’s was a picture that thousands took as a national insult but which she created as a series of pictures intended as a private joke between her and a friend.
Ettel’s was a neighbourhood escalation that could have been avoided with a deep breath and some fresh perspective, but which ended up on video for the internet to see and interpret as it wished.
A lack of civility often kindles escalations such as Ettel’s – and statistics suggest that civility is a dying skill in America. Civility In America, a nationwide survey of 1,126 adults conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, found this year that three quarters of Americans felt a lack of civility has reached crisis levels in American life. Americans experience incivility almost once each day, while 89% say that it leads to intimidation, threats, and harassment.
A rush to anger in real life may spark incidents such as Ettel’s but the lack of civility is often amplified online: 25% have experienced digital incivility, up nearly threefold from 2011 while 69% blame the internet and social media for the erosion of compassion and manners.
25 comments on “Woman ruined, sent death threats after #PermitPatty shaming video goes viral”
Thank you for the correct headline and take on this story. I wish the rest of the media had your good sense.
Worse is the possibility of someone being the victim of a hoax. Too few check before they share such posts. In India, only recently, about a dozen people were murdered in separate incidents caused by fear and outrage over a fake video.
That’s one reason why I don’t tend to share these sort of shaming videos/pictures. Remember one a few years back when some superbike rider threw his boots into a crowd and pictures showed a boy crying and a man walking off with the boots. The story that then followed was the man hit the kid and ripped the boots from his hands. The bloke was tracked down on social media and received death threats and all sorts. Eventually the truth came out that the man beat the child to getting the boots and the kid was crying as he wasn’t quick enough. Both the man and the child were invited to a race day by the rider and everything was sorted out, but I still see the story going around on facebook every few months.
The lack of connectedness in the US society seems to be the key to using the Internet/Social Media to attack people who you feel have wronged you. Civility is something that is taught….it is NOT a natural component of human nature. And, sadly the use of shaming has become rather widespread. It can be found in advertising with some frequency. Perhaps older folks might remember the “Ring around the collar” ads from the 60s. Or the current commercial in the States that features a couple who “forgot their readers” (glasses) only to be handed huge sandwich board menus….it’s bad enough that advertising constantly uses fear to sell you products that you probably don’t need in the first place.
First sensible story I’ve seen about this. Thank you.
Hmm, is it a coincidence that all the stories mentioned here turn around a woman’s actions? Is it possible, in this supposed age of equality, that women are still supposed to behave in a particular way, and the moment that they stick their heads above the parapet, get whacked by an online community that doesn’t seem to tolerate behaviour that is far less likely to be commented on if done by a man?
This is not to condone bad behaviour by anyone, male or female, that most would call bad.
No. Simply no. If you make this about men and women then the only sexist around here are you.
Typical lunatic left going full tilt tardstain in Austin.
Exactly this ^^^
This is one of the few fair stories I’ve read about the incident. I know Alison and while I agree with her that she handled the situation badly, I don’t believe it was racially motivated. I’ve only ever witnessed kindness and openness from her and I’m in shock that the internet can ruin you so swiftly, even if you’re a good person 99.99% of your life.
All this poor woman wanted to do was get rich selling a gateway drug to people… this is… UH… this is STONER-PHOBIA!
Little girl was breaking the law. Very unfair.
Shes 8! She was selling water! Give me a break. And to note, this puece is NOT factual. Ms Ettel did not actually call the police. She pretended to.
The phone call that you say she did not make is now available to hear over on the CNN site. Journalists there obtained a copy.
Fantastic article. So much to say here. Like guns don’t kill, people do. What’s the point of civilisation if we’re not civil? Applies to everything from politics to AI, about a life the qualities of the person living it. Who needs encryption, security or even police; everyone knows the laws, right? Americans have pioneered spam and pushy salesman, still training salesteams how to be rude, for personal benefit/profit. And Americans built the internet, google, facebook, space flight, etc, etc (from which the world benefits). Same people, perhaps differing purposes or beliefs. Indigenous ‘religions’ often have a lot of ancestral beliefs; the present are living in their legacy (‘interconnectedness’). After all, you don’t take anything with you, but you do leave something behind. We all want a better world, the difficulty is making it better for everyone. My favourite American saying applies here; what goes around, comes around
It may be that African American are tired of having the cops called on us for being guilty of living while black. For her to call the cops is a real threat to people of color since cops are quick to kill a person of color even if unarmed. That child could have been killed. That is just a FACT. There was no reason for even a suggestion to call cop. Cops are for murderers, rapist, drug dealers, people committing real crimes. Not for a child selling water or even if the child is being loud.
if you obey the law you won’t be at risk….
Tell that to Krebs, who has had guns shoved in his face by SWAT, and is a respectable journalist who looks like one.
ruined? her body don’t work anymore? how odd that words can ruin a complete human being like that.
anyhow. heres another take on civility
and for those who can’t get behind the paywall for reading too many free articles that month theres this quote.
“If a hateful person makes you hate, they win,” political analyst Matthew Dowd tweeted Monday. “If a bully makes you bully, they win. If a vulgar person makes you vulgar, they win. Let us meet hate with love. Let us meet bullying with an embrace. Let us meet vulgarity with civility. This is how our country and world win.”
Dowd’s plea, and others like it, are being criticized by those who say civility is a luxury of the privileged, who say civility didn’t free us from taxation without representation, abolish slavery, defeat the Nazis or integrate our schools. Civility doesn’t win elections — at least it didn’t in 2016.
Meeting hate with love, vulgarity with civility, is a wonderful idea in theory. But is it effective?
— Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune
I would add to that, that if your opponent knows you’ll turn the other cheek *no matter the provocation*, then they win too.
What’s required is a proportional response and it’s my personal opinion that it’s proportionality that’s missing on social media. Everyone behaves as if they’re at the centre of events rather than one of a million witnesses.
If you were in a room of thirty people, one person stepped out of line just a little bit, and another person spoke up to hold them to account, the silence from the other 28 would be an important moderating influence. The silent witnesses let the person holding the transgressor to account speak for them, so the response matches the transgression and escalation is prevented. If the person stepping out of line had stepped out of line a lot, it’s likely that a few more people would speak up but again, each person in the room manages their response as part of a crowd, according to what’s already been done on their behalf. This tells the transgressor how badly they’ve stepped out of line.
On social media, everybody responds as an individual at the centre of their own small world, rather than as one of a giant crowd, and we take the comments of others as permission to speak, rather than a reason not to.
hmm, I don’t do all socials, but I’m assuming people can see others responses. Seems like a mob mentality. Sometimes mobs win wars, sometimes lynch the innocent. Courts and processes have been implemented to try and make this fair, but again only as far as the people using the instrument; if a judge or policeman are biased, can skew the outcome.
I also don’t believe that being fair means I have to be weak. Turning the other cheek is often used in business, converted to ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, if everyone else is doing ‘wrong’ then that is required to survive in a (tough) market.
It’s not a matter of who’s right, it’s a matter of what’s right.
But we can have differing opinion of what’s right. It’s a discussion. Democracy is founded on the discussion; it’s slow, but necessary to be fair. Also, we don’t always get our way, both sides may have to compromise
How is the strength of a society measured?
Sadly, the brilliance and accuracy of this cannot be understated.
Crap. OVERstated. I claim lack of sleep. :,/
In either event, pretended to or not why did she instigate something like that? Did she think it would be like a prank? Im just questioning what was going through these peoples minds when they do something like this & then wonder why they get blasted.
Just like Justine Sacco, You buried yourself without thinking. If you think a email or text would be looked at in a negative way don’t send it. Don’t even think that one of your friends should see it.