'Creature From the Media Lagoon' Monica Lewinsky Speaks on Bullying

Monica Lewinsky had a big Monday morning: she joined Twitter and she gave her first public speech at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit about her new passion project, battling online bullying.

After beginning by saying that she was nervous “and a little emotional too,” Lewinsky recapped her story, as she did in her recent piece for Vanity Fair. She made some jokes, thanking all the artists who have included her in their “rap lyrics.” Her voice wobbled when she discussed how much her trials and tribulations have worried her mother.

“I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of way,” was how Lewinsky categorized her affair with President Bill Clinton. “Overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was Patient Zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet.”

Lewinsky went on to discuss how she “came close to disintegrating” over the vitriol and judgment thrown her way, realizing eventually (as she has written before) “there were two Monica Lewinskys” – the one that everyone was writing about in the press (“the creature from the media lagoon”), and her true self.

“What does it feel like when your name or your likeness is ripped apart online?” she asked. “It feels like a punch in the gut, as if a stranger walked up to you on the street and punched you hard and sharp in the gut. For me, that was every day in 1998.” She continued:

Thankfully, people aren’t punched every day on the street. But it happens all the time on the internet. Even as i’m talking to you now, this is happening to someone online. And depending on what you guys are tweeting, this might be happening to you later. The experience of shame and humiliation online is different from offline. There is no way to wrap your mind around where the humiliation ends. There are no boarders. It honestly feels like the whole world is laughing at you. I know. I lived it.

Lewinsky again brought up the case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate used a webcam to spy on his sexual activities. “I too might have been humiliated to death,” she said. “What I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive too.”

Though Lewinsky hasn’t outlined specifically how she plans to do that, one can presume it will be through talks like this. (Ultimately, her somewhat vague goal is to help spark “a cultural revolution.”) And as the Daily Intel points out, people attending her speech (which you can listen to here or read here) actually loved it, despite her consistently expressed concern throughout that people “will say I should shut up.” So that’s a good first step.

Image via Getty

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