In January of 1998, I was about to turn 5. I hadn’t yet started kindergarten and I rocked a curly afro with a bow– often pink– perpetually in my hair.
For a 24-year-old woman named Monica Lewinksy, life was about to change drastically for the worse. It was in January 1998 that the news of her affair with the then-President Bill Clinton while she was a was released.
Overnight, Lewinsky became a very public figure and she was put in a negative light. She was the mistress to the beloved President. I imagine almost everyone knows details of this story and you know as well as I do that this scandal didn’t just blow over like some scandals do. It did just the opposite.
The audio of recorded phone calls of Monica Lewinsky and her testimony in the trial against President Clinton were posted all over the news. Her pictures were published and her life was open for the world to judge.
Not to diminish the amount of pain Monica went through and how much negative attention she got for years and years, but had the scandal happened today there would have been much more backlash coming from everyone. Anyone could post a status on social media giving his or her two cents on the situation rather than just publishers and news sources.
At the same time, the Internet age has given Monica a platform to rebrand herself in a way that would not have been possible in the late 1990s or the early 2000s.
She wrote a piece for Vanity Fair sharing her side of the story in June of 2014 and even touched on that very point.
While participating in a question and answer session for the filming of an HBO documentary, a member of the audience asked her “‘How does it feel to be America’s premier blow-job queen?” Monica was able to bounce back and answer the question in a somewhat graceful manner but in reference to the incident, she had this to say.
“Had that awkward moment at Cooper Union aired only a few years later, with the advent of social media, the humiliation would have been even more devastating. That clip would have gone viral on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, TMZ, Gawker. It would have become a meme of its own on Tumblr.”
There would be memes made of her picture. Twitter accounts would be made as parodies of her (think fake Monica Lewinsky, Monica’s blue dress, etc.) that’d tweet jokes constantly.
The Internet opened the door for information, good or bad, to be spread quickly to an incredibly large amount of people, perpetuating the embarrassment Monica felt.
Though the Internet can be a force for spreading hate and cyberbullying, Monica has been given a platform to give the world her point of view through all of this.
She even gave a TED Talk in March of 2015. You can watch the video here. She was able to give the world a glimpse into the nightmare she experienced 17 years ago, and she did so on a platform so many people respect and– most importantly– in a way that will remain available for years to come.
I’m unsure if Monica can completely rebrand herself (I mean, she opened her TED Talk with the fact that she has been mentioned in 40 rap songs, included the great Beyonce) but she’s doing a great job of trying. The Internet, though not a part of her demise, is helping her make a comeback.