The Huffington Post recently ran an article regarding a photograph a woman had taken of a fellow train traveler and then posted it to Facebook with the following comment:
“If this is your husband, I have endured a 2 hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends brag about their multiple affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Oh please repost…”
The photo went viral and therein lies the dilemma. Was she right to publish a photo of a man claiming he was bragging of being a serial adulterer?
My take on this is that the photograph is not evidence of the behavior the man is being accused of at all. It merely identifies an anonymous stranger on the same train as “Stephanie”, the witness to the alleged vulgarity who snapped the picture. The photo tells us nothing other than what the man looks like. Is “Stephanie” lying? I don’t know but I remain skeptical that the man is guilty as she charges solely because it is a “he said,she said” situation. Had she videotaped him that would settle the veracity issue but still leave open the question of whether she should have posted it all.
Second, in a confined yet public place, you will undoubtedly overhear conversations that will not meet with your own standards of appropriateness. Back when I was a 20-something, I was in a restaurant and could not help overhearing the table of men next to me seriously discuss why women were inferior to men. It made my blood boil but I had no right to intrude on their conversation whatsoever. Freedom of speech is still a cherished Constitutional right in the US and like it or not, you will hear topics discussed that will offend you.
So, “Stephanie” overheard a conversation among several men on a train discussing their serial adulteries and how stupid their wives were for not knowing. While disgusting that they are braggart adulterers, I’m not sure that rises to the level of being offensive to the welfare of the train passengers. Committing adultery is an offense against the wife and family but not against the transient population of the train. What would make the overheard conversation rise to the level of being offensive to their fellow train passengers is if those conversations contained graphic descriptions of sex acts in language most people would consider to be vulgar. There is a time and place for everything and a public mode of transportation is not the venue to espouse one’s tales of sexual exploits loud enough to be overheard by passengers who cannot escape hearing it. In this scenario, I do think passenger(s) have the right to confront the offender with the request to cease the topic and switch to another.
“Gentlemen, we are not in a bar nor a men’s locker room therefore the loud, lurid and vulgar tales of your sexual exploits is offensive and out of place here where we are all compelled to overhear it. None of us want to hear it so please put a lid on it.”
And I would video their behavior and my request because if the behavior continued, I would have no hesitation to use social media to pressure a change in behavior.