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In The Pipeline: Texting vs. drinking: Aren't they the same?

November 24, 2010|By Chris Epting

Huntington Beach, back in the news again.

From the Los Angeles Times: "Huntington Beach is considering a new tactic in its crusade against drunk driving: public shaming on Facebook. Councilman Devin Dwyer asked police Monday during a City Council meeting if they would be willing to post the names of people arrested for drunk driving on the city's Facebook page, because the local newspaper has stopped publishing the listings. 'I didn't think public shaming for driving under the influence was such a bad idea,' Dwyer said. 'I would use any tool necessary to bring down the numbers of drunk drivers.'"

From 89.3, KPCC public radio: "From tar-and-featherings and the stockades to websites like dontdatehimgirl.com and Las Vegas newspapers, public shaming is nothing new, but now the city of Huntington Beach may be taking the humiliation to new social media extremes."

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Even a Drudge Report headline: "City to shame drunk drivers on Facebook"

Wow. Fresh on the heels of the national attention received for the (now dropped) idea of charging out-of-towners for at-fault car crashes comes this.

I was always a little torn about the DUI arrests being in the paper. For me, if the names were posted after a conviction versus after merely being arrested, it seems like it would be fairer. Also, with more information about the specific event/driver in question — was it a first-time offense? Or a fourth? What was the blood count? Are we talking habitually a drunk driver or someone who had an extra half glass of wine? There's a huge range to consider in DUI offenses.

Is it "scarlet lettering"? Perhaps a bit. But convicted drunk drivers pose a threat to the public — these crimes occur on city streets — so why can't we know about these people?

As far as shaming people, I think that's the wrong mindset. The public humiliation angle, for me, takes a backseat to simply creating public awareness about people who pose a public risk. It's the thinking behind the websites that publish information on sex offenders and child molesters; it's not to shame the convicted predators, it's to warn innocent people at large.

I'd say the same thing applies to this Facebook idea. Once convictions are in, what's the big deal? It's a matter of public record anyway for whoever wants to look it up.

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