Dave Trott: The devil is in the detail

Lindsey Stone had a joke going with a friend on Facebook.

They used to post cheeky, irreverent photos of themselves challenging authority.

If they saw a NO SMOKING sign they’d take a picture standing next to it with a cigarette.

If they saw KEEP OFF THE GRASS they’d take a photo on the grass in front of it.

At the supermarket in the BASKETS ONLY line, they’d take a photo with a fully loaded trolley.

Not hysterically funny maybe, but relatively harmless.

Then one day Lindsey saw a sign that said SILENCE AND RESPECT.

She took a photo of herself screaming at the word SILENCE and giving the finger to the word RESPECT.

Again just a harmless bit of fun.

Only this time it wasn’t a harmless bit of fun.

Because she hadn’t noticed what else it said on the sign.


Arlington Cemetery is where the USA’s war dead are buried.

Soldiers who’ve been killed fighting for their country.

And the photo didn’t look like a cheeky little dig at authority.

It looked like Lindsey was abusing the memory of all the people that had died defending America.

On Arlington’s website it says it the cemetery "serves as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within these hallowed grounds".

And Lindsey Stone was giving the finger to all those brave men and women.

Except of course she wasn’t.

All she saw was the words SILENCE AND RESPECT, an opportunity for a joke.

But all everyone else saw was the words ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

And two sets of people interpreted her photo completely differently.

Lindsey thought it was a bit of fun, and sent it to her friend’s Facebook page.

Which didn’t have any privacy settings.

So a lot of people saw it who weren’t in on Lindsey’s joke.

They were disgusted and they shared their disgust all over the Internet.

Because no one else was in on Lindsey’s joke the photo went viral and she became a national hate figure.

One response was a "Fire Lindsey Stone" page set up on Facebook, it immediately got 12,000 likes.

Among the milder responses were "Lindsey Stone needs to be fired, she isn’t American" and "send the dumb feminist to prison" and "fuck you whore, I hope you die a slow and painful death".

For a year Lindsey wasn’t even able to leave her house.

She was eventually fired from her job.

Which is ironic, because her job was caring for adults with learning and intellectual disabilities, and Lindsey was apparently very good at it.

In fact on that particular day she was taking twenty patients on a trip to visit Arlington Cemetery to show them where heroes are buried.

Lindsey Stone is a valuable lesson for all of us.

With any media: communication is everything.

And in all communication it’s not enough to take responsibility for speaking correctly.

We have to take responsibility for being heard correctly.