Scolding someone for bad manners on the subway doesn’t always backfire, but in general, it’s not worth the risk. You have to be prepared for the possibility that the person you’re scolding is going to take offense, perhaps violently. Before you scold, ask yourself questions like, “Is this person a sociopath?” and “Could this person beat the crap out of me if he wanted to?” If you answer either question in the affirmative, then the potential downsides of scolding (getting the crap beaten out of you) have a high probability of outweighing the potential upsides (feeling good about enforcing societal norms?). Exhibit A: In the following stomach-turning and very graphic video, which was shot on the L train on November 8, a man appears to scold another man for spitting inside the train. While that’s obviously a disgusting thing to do, the Scolder should have noted that the Spitter (a) was not wearing a shirt, and (b) had two friends with him. He scolded anyway.
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