I previously wrote about Adam M. Smith, the ex-CFO of a Tucson medical supplies manufacturer who filmed himself dressing down a Chick-fil-A drive-in employee and placed the video on YouTube. I said in part…
“He’s a vile bully and a jerk, who thinks it appropriate to embarrass and abuse an innocent employee of a restaurant because he happens not to agree with the politics and moral positions of the company’s owner…The video served to alert millions to beware of this rude, rabid and self-righteous champion of gay rights, who equates faith-based advocacy for the current law of the United States of America with “hate.”
I was more accurate than I knew. Now we learn that since that August, 2012 fiasco which cost him his job, Mr. Smith has fallen on hard times. His self-posted indictment of his own character has poisoned his reputation and career. When he found a new job, he was later fired for not alerting his employers about the incident. When he has raised the video to potential employers, they have declined to hire him. Where he was once earning a six-figure salary, had $1 million in stock options, and lived in a stylish home, he now lives in an RV with his wife and four children, and is existing on public assistance.
It all sounds like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is…
Is Adam M. Smith the victim of excessive social media punishment for one ill-considered act?
At Salon, Jon Ronson, the author of “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” discussed the plights of various individuals who have experienced the consequences of online shaming. Some of his subjects have been defended here, notably Justine Sacco, who lost her job and became an international pariah due to a harmless tweet to her 170 Twitter followers. Ethics Alarms was not so sympathetic to another web-shaming victim Ronson discusses, Lindsey Stone, who along with her friend lost her job after posting a photo of herself shouting and giving an upturned middle finger to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Her explanation was that she meant no disrespect. Yes, it really was. I wrote:
“My father is buried at Arlington, and I don’t feel vindicated or soothed by the firing of the two women. I agree that they shouldn’t be punished by society for one epically stupid gesture. That’s not the real issue, however.The issue is whether her employers, a company that provides care and living alternatives for the cognitively disabled, should want to have two women working for them who grievously insulted a substantial part of the country, embarrassed the company, and showed such miserable judgment that it calls into question the competence of anyone who would hire such insensitive jerks.”
This encapsulates my feelings about Adam Smith as well. No, he and his family shouldn’t be reduced to penury and their lives turned to ashes because of one outrageous example of rudeness and arrogance. He deserves a second chance, as do we all: his biggest mistake was posting the video, showing pride in his bad behavior as well as a stunning lack of comprehension regarding the eternity of online evidence of jerkishness. I’d hire him. If he hasn’t learned his lesson ten times over, I’d be shocked.
Nevertheless, I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to be represented by a man whose judgment was this wretched and who is best known for bullying an innocent minimum wage employee because he didn’t like her boss’s take on gay marriage. Actions have consequences, and while the cumulative effects of the foolish and damning video have been excessive, no individual component of it is. Someone should be kind, obey the Golden Rule and give Smith a shot at redemption, but no one individual is ethically obligated to do so. Smith’s sad fate, which extends to his family, is still his own doing, and he alone is accountable.
No, Adam Smith is not a victim of a social media witch hunt. He’s the victim of his own terrible judgment, and is accountable. Now he needs someone to give him a break.
I sincerely wish him luck. He’s suffered enough.