Monica Lewinsky fights cyberbullying. Hero, villain or fool?

Monica Lewinsky made news again a week ago. Yes, that White House intern whose famous blue dress caused President Bill Clinton—and perhaps a future president, Hillary Clinton—so much distress. Lewinsky has reinvented herself of late as the poster child for cyberbullying victims. Utilizing the AIDs and ebola epidemic term for the first victim, she claims she was the “ground zero patient” of cyberbullying.

Taking a stand against cyberbullying.

Monica Lewinsky Then (1997)

Monica Lewinsky Then (1997)

These words—from Alexandra  Schwartz’ New Yorker piece last week—sum up Lewinsky’s TED talk speech:
 “In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity,” she tells the audience. “I lost almost everything. And I almost lost my life.” She recounts the humiliation that she experienced after the news of her affair with Bill Clinton broke: the mortification of being required to listen, in Ken Starr’s dingy, windowless office, to twenty hours of phone calls recorded without her knowledge by her friend Linda Tripp, in which she described her encounters with Clinton and her feelings for him, and the unbearable amplification of that humiliation by the subsequent release of the Starr report.

Still, the worst abuse didn’t come from public authority figures like Starr, who was outmatched in his sickly blend of prudishness and prurience only by the members of the federal grand jury, who made Lewinsky retread the same sad ground in their own interrogation of her. (“When you look at it now, was it love or a sexual obsession?” one juror asked. “Did you think that the President was in love with you also?”) The worst abuse resulted from the widespread, and unprecedented, distribution of those materials online, and the ensuing spectacle of derision that has continued, with radioactive endurance, for a decade and a half. [Emphasis mine.] 

…In her TED talk, she speaks of her anguish at watching other young people suffer through experiences like hers, with more drastic consequences and for behavior far less risky than having an affair with a sitting President—young people like Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate captured him on a webcam kissing another man. “We need to return to a long-held value of compassion—compassion and empathy,” Lewinsky says. “Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit, an empathy crisis.”

Do you think Lewinsky’s correct in her assessment of how she’s been treated? More importantly, is she the best anti-cyberbulling warrior out there. Is she, for example, of the caliber of Monte Blue, my  9 lb rescue dog who was abused and now labors as an anti-bully warrior?  Just kidding about the comparison, but am serious about whether or not Lewinsky is a good spokeswoman for the cause.

She was called “tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo” as she often states, and she was thrown under the bus by Clinton and his Administration. But was she not naive to enter into a relationship with a sitting US President and expect not to be dragged into a brutal, long-term orgy of character assassination? 

Hero, villain or Fool?

One way to figure this out is to examine her character pre and post the Clinton assignation scandal.

 Monica Lewinsky Now

Monica Lewinsky Now

Check out this abridged Wiki bio of Lewinsky and then weigh in on whether you think she’s a hero, villain, or fool with regard to social media bullying.

Early life and education

Monica S. Lewinsky was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in an affluent family in Southern California in the Westside Brentwood area of Los Angeles and in Beverly Hills.[Her father is Bernard Lewinsky, an oncologist, Her mother, born Marcia Kay Vilensky, is an author who uses the name Marcia Lewis.

She then attended Beverly Hills High School, but for her senior year transferred to, and graduated from, Bel Air Prep (later known as Pacific Hills School) in 1991.[3][4]

Following high school graduation, Lewinsky attended Santa Monica College, a two-year community college, In 1993, she enrolled at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, graduating with a psychology degree in 1995.

[In 1995] with the assistance of a family connection, Lewinsky got an unpaid summer White House internship in the office of White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. . . .She moved to a paid position in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in December 1995.

Lewinsky stated that between November 1995 and March 1997, she had nine sexual encounters with then-President Bill Clinton that, according to her testimony, involved fellatio and other sexual acts in the Oval Office, but not sexual intercourse.

In April 1996, Lewinsky’s superiors transferred her from the White House to The Pentagon because they felt she was spending too much time around Clinton. Lewinsky told co-worker Linda Tripp about her relationship with the President. Beginning in September 1997, Tripp began secretly recording their telephone conversations regarding the affair with Clinton. . . . Tripp reported the taped conversations to literary agent Lucianne Goldberg. She also convinced Lewinsky to save the gifts that Clinton had given her during their relationship, and not to dry clean what would later become known as “the blue dress”. Under oath, Clinton denied having had “a sexual affair”, “sexual relations”, or “a sexual relationship” with Lewinsky.

Both Clinton and Lewinsky were called before a grand jury; Clinton testified via closed-circuit television, Lewinsky in person. She was granted transactional immunity by the United States Office of the Independent Counsel, in exchange for her testimony.

Life after the scandal

The affair led to pop culture celebrity for Lewinsky as she had become the focus of a political storm. . .[A] book was published in March 1999 and also was excerpted as a cover story in Time magazine.[24][25] On March 3, 1999, Lewinsky was interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20. The program was watched by 70 million Americans, which ABC said was a record for a news show.[24] Lewinsky made about $500,000 from her participation in the book and another $1 million from international rights to the Walters interview, but was still beset by high legal bills and living costs.

. . .By her own account Lewinsky had survived the intense media attention during the scandal period by knitting. In September 1999, Lewinsky took this interest further by beginning to sell a line of handbags bearing her name[31] under the company name The Real Monica, Inc. They were sold online as well as at Henri Bendel in New York, Fred Segal in California, and The Cross in London.

At the start of 2000, Lewinsky began appearing in television commercials for diet company Jenny Craig, Inc] The $1 million endorsement deal, which required Lewinsky to lose 40 or more pounds in six months, gained considerable publicity at the time. Lewinsky said that despite her desire to return to a more private life, she needed the money to pay off legal fees and that she believed in the product. . .The company stopped running the Lewinsky ads in February 2000, concluded her campaign entirely in April 2000, and paid her only $300,000 of the $1 million contracted for her involvement.

 . . .Lewinsky was the host of the reality television dating program, Mr. Personality, on Fox Television Network in 2003, where she advised young women contestants who were picking men hidden by masks. Some Americans tried to organize a boycott of advertisers on the show, in protest of Lewinsky capitalizing on her notoriety. Nevertheless, the show debuted to very high ratings, and Alessandra Stanley wrote in The New York Times that “after years of trying to cash in on her fame by designing handbags and other self-marketing schemes, Ms. Lewinsky has finally found a fitting niche on television.” The ratings, however, slid downward each successive week, and after the show completed its initial limited run, it did not reappear

By 2005, Lewinsky found that she could not escape the spotlight in the U.S., which made both her professional and personal life difficult. She stopped selling her handbag line and moved to London to study social psychology at the London School of Economics. In December 2006, Lewinsky graduated with a Master of Science degree.

. . .During her decade out of the public eye, Lewinsky lived in London, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland, but due to her notoriety had trouble finding employment in the communications and marketing jobs for nonprofit organizations where she’d been interviewed. A stable relationship leading to marriage, which she reportedly desired, had also not happened.

Public re-emergence

In May 2014, Lewinsky wrote an essay for Vanity Fair magazine entitled “Shame and Survival” where she discussed her life and the scandal. . . . 

In October 2014 she took a public stand against cyberbullying, calling herself “patient zero” of online harassment. Speaking at a Forbes magazine “30 Under 30” Summit about her experiences in the aftermath of the scandal, she said, “Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too.” She said she was influenced by reading about the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman where cyberbullying was involved and joined Twitter to facilitate her efforts.In March 2015, Lewinsky continued to speak out publicly against cyberbullying, delivering a TED talk calling for a more compassionate Internet.

So, what do you think?

To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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