Social sanction is a form of public reaction towards the attitude of a person or group. When the attitude violates the social norm, the person or group usually will get backlash from society as a result of negative sanction. Social sanction is usually used to frown, humiliate, and shame the violators. It mostly takes action in society when the law seems didn’t serve the justice well.
I never experience social sanction in real life but I’ve witnessed some that happened on the internet. One of the examples is the viral public condemnation of a FEB student. In brief, the case involved a student who was accused of ridiculing a lecturer. The case popped up when a friend of the student wrote a tweet regarding the event in a humorous tone. From there, the story spread and garnered responses, both from students and fellow lecturers alike. Many people feel sorry for the lecturer, but there are also some people throwing hatred towards the alleged scornful student.
Social sanction relates to the result of consequence. There are always consequences in every action that we choose. For instance, if I cheated during the final exam in my high school and I got caught, I would get detention and have to redo my exam. That’s the consequence that I would have to take if I violated the school rules. It is the same with this ridiculement case. There wouldn’t be hate comments if the student didn’t ridicule the lecturer by muting him in a video conference class, or did a mischievous pose afterward in the first place. If he chooses to mock someone, they will have to take care of the consequences.
If law won’t serve justice, society will do. Society took action because they thought restorative justice won’t solve the ridiculement case. Many people then condemned and denounced the perpetrator, questioning the morality of a so-called high education student. Society wanted the alleged mocker to regret his behavior by giving public humiliation on the internet. We can see that the power in society is surreal and we don’t want to be guilty or else we’ll end up in public humiliation.
When the case became viral within a day, it also reached the downfall in the same week. It turns out that the story is exaggerated and faked. The student wasn’t muting the lecturer intentionally. He was merely trying to mute himself but ended up muting the whole class, not just the perpetrator. Now that the society was already humiliating the alleged mocker which now seems like the victim too, who should we blame? Society then feels disappointed and betrayed as all the efforts to fight justice look meaningless.
It Can’t Serve Justice in Some Ways
Social sanction seems promising at the beginning but it’s actually ironic. It is ironic because it looks more like an act of revenge rather than serving justice. Putting aside the fake news, if society really wanted justice to be served, they should’ve focused on the victim instead of humiliating the perpetrator. Humiliating or shaming the perpetrators too much means we are making the perpetrators suffer by it. Yes, it is the consequence that they have to deal with. But then, aren’t we just the same with the guilties if we serve justice by making them suffer more?
After everything went south, social sanction in the end cannot serve justice. People feel right when they give sanction, they feel like a hero because they fight for justice. Nevertheless, these people weren’t actually fighting for justice. Sending hate comments and death threats are aimed to make the perpetrators regret their action but there is also a possibility where the perpetrators hold their grudge and may do violence in the future as revenge.
Social sanction can serve justice if it’s done rationally without being emotionally driven. Public shaming and humiliation are still needed to embarrass the perpetrators, but doing it too much won’t give us any benefit instead it only feeds our ego. For this case, I would rather see the condemned and the alleged victim to reconcile with each other and straighten up the misunderstanding.
Perhaps society wasn’t that nice, we were just the lesser evil. After all, we are the third party in this case. We aren’t relatives or friends, we were just people that were influenced by the virality of news. We are trapped in this situation where we thought we were standing with the victim but we are actually turning ourselves into one. This is where social sanction becomes tricky. There is no legal sign to show who has the rights to humiliate. It just happens naturally in our society. With that being said, legal law is still needed before executing social sanction whether in real life or the internet.
Editor: Philipus Susanto