Late last month, a Drexel Law School professor briefly became an internet sensation when she accidentally pasted the wrong link into a message to her class. Instead of a great article on writing briefs, they got an educational video: a PornHub clip titled “She loves her anal beads.”
A few weeks after her story was picked up on various websites and the school briefly placed her on leave for an “investigation,” Prof. Lisa McElroy has addressed her “public shaming” in a column for the Washington Post.
She faults blogs, the internet, and the students who clicked on the link for holding her up to public ridicule over her tiny mistake. She even blames those who wrote sympathetically that an official investigation might be going overboard, considering that we all watch porn and we all occasionally paste the wrong thing.
“In criticizing my institution, these people were dismissing the dignity of the law, giving no consideration to an atmosphere in which the law exists to protect people and an investigation may be necessary,” she writes.
Drexel’s investigation ultimately reached the same result as the supportive bloggers, deciding McElroy hadn’t violated any sexual harassment policies by accidentally failing to push ctrl-C before she pushed ctrl-V, and shouldn’t lose her job. But they did it with dignity, or something, not like those dirty websites with their dirty pageviews.
“What’s really fascinating about this story is not that a law professor inadvertently shared a porn link with her students. What’s newsworthy is that, actually, there was nothing newsworthy about it. What happened was, in the grand scheme, pretty trivial,” she concludes.
That doesn’t seem to give enough credit to how fascinated people are by law professors and anal beads. But it also might not give enough credit to the internet’s collective attention span, which—while it’s marked by intense flares of faux-outrage (and it’s impossible to overestimate the glee with which anonymous online assholes harass women in particular)—is incredibly short.
An innocent, briefly entertaining mistake that was (as McElroy points out) “pretty trivial” may not go away as quickly as it should—people are dicks, y’all—but writing in a major newspaper about something you want people to forget is classic Streisand Effect.