Going from champ to chump at Ludicrous Speed. Three stories.
They say it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but only seconds to destroy one.
That’s especially true nowadays with the internet and social media. It’s almost impossible to just move to another town and start over in life. Bing knows all. And Google, too, I guess.
As we’ll see in the cases below, sometimes one little bad decision can lead to truly catstrophic (and even deadly) consequences.
Here are three such stories.
1.) Justine Sacco
How long does it take to tweet? A few seconds? Maybe only one or two. That’s about as long as it probably took Ms. Justine Sacco, the former senior director of corporate communications at IAC to tweet this little “joke” out in 2013, and inadvertantly become global enemy number one online:
At the time the 30-year old PR rep was traveling home to South Africa on the holidays to visit family. Right after she tweeted, her flight took off, and she went to sleep, unaware of the whirlwind she had just unleashed.
At first Sacco’s tweet went largely ignored, as she only had 170 followers. But then Sam Biddle, the editor of Gawker’s Valleywag, discovered the tweet via an anonymous tip, and retweeted it out to his 15,000 followers.
From there outrage and fury spread like a viral outbreak, and the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet trended worldwide, as people eagerly awaited Ms. Sacco to land and get the nasty surprise of her life. There was the added dramatic irony component, as Ms. Sacco went the whole 11-hour flight unaware she was trending all over the internet as a virtual punching bag.
Ms. Sacco got sacked from her cushy PR job, naturally. Even while insisting that she didn’t mean for her joke to come across as insensitive and bigoted. Instead, she says she meant it as a commentary on Western privilege, stating in an interview with the NY Times:
To put it simply, I wasn’t trying to raise awareness of AIDS or piss off the world or ruin my life. Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the third world. I was making fun of that bubble.
Meanwhile, the bubble was unamused.
The internet, with all its collective wisdom of mankind, obviously disagreed with the intent behind Ms. Sacco’s ham-handed cultural musings. After losing her job, and becoming a worldwide hate magnet, she did eventually rebound. She volunteered in Addis Ababa in a PR job for a stint. Then landed a marketing and promotions gig at Hot or Not, a website used to rank stranger’s looks on a scale of 1 to 10, that was transitioning into a dating service.
Wait, Hot or Not? That site’s still around? I remember being a healthy 5.5 there back in the day.
:::sad slide whistle:::
Anyway, in a surprise twist, Ms. Sacco later returned to her former employer IAC, where she works in corporate communications for Match Group, the online dating company. According to her LinkedIn page, she’s still there.
Sacco’s experience at least proves it is possible to reconstitute yourself after being trampled to smithereens by a frenzied mob online, and get to a somewhat happy ending. I say good for her. Hopefully next time she decides to pop off irreverently about racy cultural stereotypes, she’ll remember she’s not a character on South Park.
2. Dr. Maurice Wolin (aka “talldreamy_doc”)
Ahh, To Catch a Predator, the gift that keeps on giving. That show, and the community of perv-busters it spawned, has proven a never ending source of entertainment.
Honestly, it was tough to decide which pervert to pick, as there is a cornucopia of creeps to choose from, all thanks to the hard work of giga chad Chris Handsome. But for me, Dr. Wolin stands head and shoulders (literally) above everyone else, given his high status and education, not to mention the staggering cost of his sick blunder. Most of the cretins caught on TCAP were already bottom-feeding low life losers anyway, with few prospects in life, who could barely even dress themselves.
Not Dr. Wolin. The year was 2006. The 48-year old was a prominent cancer research director in the San Fransisco area, married to a wife who was also a doctor, who had two daughters. Using the screen name “talldreamy_doc,” Dr. Wolin chatted online with a girl he believed to be 13 years old, but who was actually a decoy employed by an organization called Perverted Justice.
Wait — “talldreamy_doc?” Tall? Yes (Wolin was 6’2″). Doc? Yes. Dreamy? Oh, hell no.
After making a number of disgusting solicitations toward the decoy, Wolin made plans for a meet-up. Driving from Piedmont, CA to Peteluma, the affluent physician strolled inside the trap house, no doubt envisioning how he was about to indulge all his sick fantasies, only to be met by a camera crew and the police. Wolin desperately tried to fight the charges in a two-year legal battle. He even hired Blair Berk, a celebrity attorney who’d once represented Leonardo DiCaprio.
Guess that makes him the second person she’s represented who’s life got sunk like the Titanic for chasing some girl.
Eventually Wolin plead no contest. He was sentenced to two months of house arrest, three years probation, and lifetime registry as a sex offender. In addition, his license to practice medicine was revoked.
Out of all the TCAP cases, this particular one seriously amazes and disturbs me the most because of Dr. Wolin’s precipitous fall from grace, and the quickness of how his life unraveled. He’d only chatted with the decoy for a few days, maybe weeks, before visiting. Then it took all of a minute from the time he left his car, entered the backyard, to realizing he’d actually walked into a sex sting.
Imagine that. Throwing away a medical license you spent eight or more years in school to acquire, a high-paying, well-respected career, your reputation, and the respect of your family. All gone in less time than it takes to read the back of a Trix cereal box. And all for what? To be branded a sex offender forever. I mean, the guy could have cured cancer the next day at his lab and still nobody would ever think of him as anything other than a pedo. What a moron.
Dr. Wolin’s wife did later divorce him. And unlike Sacco’s story above, there is no happy ending here. Dr. Wolin recently committed suicide in January 2021, according to an offical coronor’s report as investigated by YouTuber “The Skip Tracer.”
3.) Garry Hoy
I have to admit, when I first heard about the tragic tale of Garry Hoy, I didn’t believe it. I thought it had to be a myth. There was just no way a lawyer could ever do something that wreckless and foolish. It seemed impossible.
But we’ve just seen a C-suite corporate ladder climber self-immolate, and a top cancer doc commit seppuku. Hey, why not an attorney, too? It sure seems these supposed “elite” types aren’t as bright as we’re led to believe.
Garry Hoy was a highly successful and regarded corporate and securities lawyer who worked at the Toronto-based law firm Holden Day Wilson. His office was located on the 24th floor of the Torono-Dominion Bank Tower Building (seen in the above pic).
Hoy liked to perform a little parlor trick on occassion. He would run into the office windows to show off their strength, surprising and shocking guests. On July 9, 1993, while showing some visiting law students around. Hoy decided to demonstrate his love of resilent window glass. He slammed into the glass the first time, bouncing off like he had so many times before. But when he tried a second time, he wound up crashing through and plunging 24 stories to his death. For sure he proved the toughness of the glass. It hadn’t shattered upon impact. Instead, it had popped out of its frame.
Police declared Hoy’s death “accidental self-defenestration,” which aside from sounding like a Jeopardy category, is a polite way of describing a dude accidentally killing himself in a stupidly avoidable way.
I mean, if you’re going to risk your life at high heights like that, at least do something cool like Philippe Petit did, the French high-wire artist who walked across the Twin Towers in 1974. Throwing yourself against a window? Kind of lame, really.
Hoy’s plummet may have even sunk his firm. Within three years of his lousy Peter Pan impression there was a mass exodus of attorneys, who evidently didn’t like working under the dark cloud of the Darwin Award-style death Hoy had left in his wake. In 1996, the firm finally closed for good.
Word on the street is the firm tried to sue gravity. And lost.
So, a good lesson there. If you’re a lawyer, please leave all the crazy antics to Saul Goodman. Chicago Sunroof, anyone?
As Nicolas Cage proved in the year 2000, you can steal almost any car in 60 seconds, not to mention Angelie Jolie’s heart. But as these poor people above proved, you can destroy your life just as quickly, if not faster. So be careful out there.