Why is Monica Lewinsky in a tiny town in Norway?
A week before her much-heralded TED talk on cyberbullying, Monica Lewinsky spoke in a small town in Norway, warning the audience about the “immeasurable humiliation” it can cause.
Lewinsky, whose affair with former US President Bill Clinton nearly saw him forcibly removed from office, began her campaign against cyber-bullying last year, writing an article in Vanity Fair in May and speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in October.
On March 19th, Lewinsky is set to talk about her experiences at the annual TED conference in Vancouver.
But first, in what appears to be her first public talk outside the US, she spoke to a small conference for local businesswomen in Horten, south of Oslo.
“I was the world's first victim of cyberbullying,” she told the crowd at the Marie Høeg Conference, according to Norway's Dagbladet Newspaper.
“Thanks to a small website called the Drudge Report I went overnight from being a completely private and anonymous person to be humiliated worldwide.”
Lewinsky is not the first global figure to be lured to speak in Horten by Publicom, a motivational conference company based in the town of 20,000 people. The comedian John Cleese and the astronaut Neil Armstrong have previously spoken at events.
Lewinsky plans to make a second Norwegian appearance on Friday at a conference in the Arctic town of Narvik.
She told the crowd in Horten that she had been moved to use her fame to campaign against cyberbullying after reading about the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay student at Rutgers University, in 2010, days after his roommate had secretly filmed him kissing another man in their shared dorm room.
She said she believed that the 'Monica Lewinsky Scandal', which happened in 1998, the same year Google was founded, was a landmark in the history of web harassment.
”I was probably the first person in the world who got my life destroyed worldwide because of the internet,” she claimed. “What happened to me was that I lost my entire reputation. I lost myself and the whole world was given a picture of me that I did not recognise at all.”
She said that the damage inflicted by cyberbullying was often as bad as that inflicted by physical violence.
”How does it feel to be torn to pieces digitally? It is not as if some stranger comes up to you and pummels you. There is immeasurable humiliation. It is the feeling that the whole world is laughing at you. I just thought I would die,” she said.
Lewinsky spoke candidly in Horten about her affair with President Bill Clinton in 1998.
“I fell in love with my boss. But my boss was the president of the United States. Now I regret it for many reasons. Primarily because many were wounded,” she said.
She hoped that by publicizing her story, she would be able to make people think twice before laying into others online.
”My story can help. What we need is a radical change in how we talk about each other. Forget budget deficits: we have a deficit of empathy online that is much more important,” she said.
[Note: The quotes in this article did not come directly from Lewinsky's speech in English, but were instead translated back into English from a report in Norwegian].