Thursday, November 22, 2012

Heart of Stone

When are people going to learn that when you post things on the internet it's next to impossible to make them disappear? Unfortunately, some learn the hard way in the fact it can yield potentially ruinous consequences.

A Massachusetts woman is facing enormous criticism for a disgraceful act at one of America's most revered locations. The woman went to Arlington National Cemetery, mocked a sign near the Tomb of the Unknowns, and then posted that photo online.

Thousands of tourists visit Arlington Cemetery every year to pay their respects to this country's fallen soldiers. But last month, 30-year-old Lindsey Stone photographed herself doing something very different.

In the picture, Lindsey can be seen 'flipping off' the Tomb of the Unknowns and pretending to scream in front of a sign requesting silence and respect.

From what I understand, this was merely one of a series of zany photographs that Ms. Stone and a co-worker were taking on their little excursion. Apparently the theme was "challenging authority." In fact, Ms. Stone made the following declaration on her Facebook page when people took umbrage with the above photo.

In this era known as the Information Age, the name of Ms. Stone's employer was soon ascertained. LIFE, Inc., an organization which serves learning disabled adults, was besieged with demands that Ms. Stone and her co-worker (and co-conspirator), Jamie Schuh, be fired as employees of the organization. There was even a Facebook page started, entitled Fire Lindsey Stone.

By approximately 6:00 PM Central Time Wednesday, LIFE released an official statement on the action they have taken.

We wish to announce that the two employees recently involved in the Arlington Cemetery incident are no longer employees of LIFE. Again, we deeply regret any disrespect to members of the military and their families. The incident and publicity has been very upsetting to the learning disabled population we serve. To protect our residents, any comments, however well-intentioned, will be deleted. We appreciate your concern and understanding as we focus on the care of our community.

Naturally these women will have their apologists. You're likely to read/hear something along the lines of "Those soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery laid down their lives for freedom yet these women aren't able to express themselves freely. HYPOCRISY I tell ya!!!"

What people often seem to misunderstand about freedom of speech/expression is such exercise thereof is free without fear of retribution from government. LIFE, while technically a non-profit organization, is a business which has caretakers (e.g. Board of Directors, CEO, etc.) who make decisions. Obviously said decisions are made in the spirit of maximizing the effectiveness of the enterprise they oversee. There's no doubt that LIFE was suffering a huge public relations nightmare as a result of the behavior of the two employees in question. Given the sensitive nature of their enterprise (i.e. caring for the learning disabled), a bad vibe surrounding the organization would likely be a detriment to the residents. In the end, it appeared LIFE had little recourse.

I don't believe Ms. Stone or Ms. Schuh should have to suffer endlessly for what was a horrific lapse in judgement. Unfortunately for them, the court of public opinion in the Information Age can be a rather harsh magistrate.


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