I'm not talking about mistakes which, while bad, don't actually fall into the grey area of "judgment"—at least corrections for those can be issued, and things hopefully made right. I'm talking about the more vague process set in motion against, say, Rainn Wilson for making an unfunny rape joke (a tautology in itself). That went something like this: unhappy retweets and DMs that prompt a conversation with his publicist (we're guessing) and the deletion of the offensive tweet followed by the issuing of a public apology. That happens in less than a day, and no one ends up boycotting The Office. But Wilson is famous. He's beloved among so many that he'll move on from this mistake without so much as a scratch.
On the other hand, there's Anthony Federico, the guy who wrote the "racist" (or, definitely, cliche-ist) headline about Jeremy Lin on ESPN.com. He posted it, right there on the page: "A chink in the armor," an awkward, offensive play on words that was seen by many as racist. ESPN was horribly embarrassed, notwithstanding the fact that the phrase has been used by many a sports writer, not to mention an announcer, in the past (and present).
But in this context, or at least the perceived context, it was far, far worse. And even though plenty of racist, stupid expressions have been used when writing about sports and other things over time, what befell Federico was essentially the opposite of the Rainn Wilson case. In the ESPN situation, we have a marginal character—a low level working guy writing about sports, living his dream— who wrote something ill advised on a large platform about someone spiking in popularity, thus ensuring that everyone would notice. On ESPN, a "small" person messed up "big"—so instead of a call to a publicist, a deletion, a public apology, and the entire internet moving on, Federico got fired. Not just fired, actually: Federico continues to be blasted across the Internet. The best case scenario for his mistake, he's an idiot with a penchant for poor word choices. Worst case scenario... well, that's far worse. I'm not taking particular issue with his firing; in this day and age, news organizations fire people for what they write and tweet all the time. A headline writer should know better. But there is some sort of a hypocrisy here—or, at least a punishment not quite commensurate with the crime.
I've felt complicated emotions about Federico being fired since it happened, and it's because it seems to support something happening on the Internet (as I've mentioned before) that it feels like we're not prepared to deal with, or not doing quite right. It's our shared willingness to pass immediate and final judgment on someone for their worst (undeniably worst!) moments in public and never give a thought to the person behind the blunder. These are mistakes, not war crimes. We've all made them.