Suppose someone wrongs you and you want to emphatically mar their reputation, but only insofar as doing so is conducive to the best utilitarian outcomes. I was thinking about this one time and it occurred to me that there are at least two fairly different routes to positive utilitarian outcomes from publicly shaming people for apparent wrongdoings*:

A) People fear such shaming and avoid activities that may bring it about (possibly including the original perpetrator)

B) People internalize your values and actually agree more that the sin is bad, and then do it less

These things are fairly different, and don’t necessarily come together. I can think of shaming efforts that seem to inspire substantial fear of social retribution in many people (A) while often reducing sympathy for the object-level moral claims (B).

It seems like on a basic strategical level (ignoring the politeness of trying to change others’ values) you would much prefer have 2 than 1, because it is longer lasting, and doesn’t involve you threatening conflict with other people for the duration.

It seems to me that whether you name the person in your shaming makes a big difference to which of these you hit. If I say “Sarah Smith did [—]”, then Sarah is perhaps punished, and people in general fear being punished like Sarah (A). If I say “Today somebody did [—]”, then Sarah can’t get any social punishment, so nobody need fear that much (except for private shame), but you still get B—people having the sense that people think [—] is bad, and thus also having the sense that it is bad. Clearly not naming Sarah makes it harder for A) to happen, but I also have the sense—much less clearly—that by naming Sarah you actually get less of B).

This might be too weak a sense to warrant speculation, but in case not—why would this be? Is it because you are allowed to choose without being threatened, and with your freedom, you want to choose the socially sanctioned one? Whereas if someone is named you might be resentful and defensive, which is antithetical with going along with the norm that has been bid for? Is it that if you say Sarah did the thing, you have set up two concrete sides, you and Sarah, and observers might be inclined to join Sarah’s side instead of yours? (Or might already be on Sarah’s side in all manner of you-Sarah distinctions?)

Is it even true that not naming gets you more of B?

*NB: I haven’t decided if it’s almost ever appropriate to try to cause other people to feel shame, but it remains true that under certain circumstances fantasizing about it is an apparently natural response.