OPINION: Lefties love a pile on, even if it doesn’t help

In the wake of the ‘cricket crisis’, lefties took to Twitter to shame cricket fans for misdirected grieving. Ciara O’Riordan questions the constructiveness of public shaming.

The ball-tampering scandal has acted as a mirror that reflects what we each think is wrong with Australia.

Joe Hildebrand looked into the mirror and saw that, “we are a nation that has tolerated a huge amount of cheating ... we have seen pretty much every one of the past prime ministers in last decade come to office by cheating, basically, by backroom deals, by knives pulled in the dead of night ... and it’s only resulted in the other team doing the same thing.”

Stan Grant looked into the mirror and saw how unchecked neo-liberalism had hollowed out standards of decency; “Amid all the hyperventilating, outrage and disappointment at our cheating cricketers, we would do well to take a closer look at our society and how it has bred a winner-takes-all, win-at-all-costs attitude.”

When I looked in that mirror, I saw all the things on Australia’s National Shame List that rank above ball tampering and scoffed at any cricket fans who were grieving the sport they love.  

I’m a bleeding-heart lefty who doesn’t care about cricket. I had given in to a cathartic kind of schadenfreude – and in that mirror, I saw myself sneering.

Others I spoke to hoped that this social media shellacking might give our public discourse some much-needed perspective. Of course the never-ending dehumanisation of Australia’s piss poor action on indigenous deaths in custody, or domestic violence, or offshore detention should have triggered this level of national angst. But were we really trying to appeal to people's outrage on this issue to steer them to action on other issues we thought Australia *should* be outraged about?

No. We were competing for the sickest burn.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Shaming the shady cricketers does more harm than good. And by extension, we should know that shaming cricket fans is also not constructive.

When looking into the politics of shame, Brihana Joy Grey wrote, “social science confirms that shaming is an ineffective strategy for motivating moral behavior. […] She notes a key difference between guilt and shame, “where guilt evokes ‘other-oriented empathy’ and is more likely to lead to behavioral change, shame disrupts the empathy process. Instead of considering ways to remedy our behavior, shame prompts us to become self-protective and defensive of our identities.’

So beware that when you drag a cricket die-hard for their pain at the ball tampering scandal, you’re actually doing the causes you care about a deep disservice.

Grey continues, “There’s an additional strategic angle to this critique of shaming: it often causes us to misattribute the motives of our political opponents. Focused on the ethical implications of conservative political positions, the left often makes the arguments that feel most virtuous rather than those which are the most persuasive.”

We live in a time when we're more defined by how we're different than how we're the same. These moments of genuine national self-reflection are depressingly rare.

If we hadn't been furiously agreeing with those inside our echo chamber, we might have seen that here was a chance for all of us, cricket lover or not, to unite behind the values we share and redefine what ‘the fair go’ means in modern Australia.