Wall of Shame

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"Wall of Shame" is originally a term used by western politicians and media to refer to the Berlin Wall, and more generally a negative term for a wall, fence or barrier that, in the opinion of those using the term, brings shame upon the builders or others. In some cases, it is the circumstances of the wall's construction or its intended purpose that is fingered as bringing dishonor. In other cases, a collection of photographs or names is posted on the wall, for the purpose of shaming those listed there, or the actions or situations depicted or described. The term may also be used to refer to a published collection of names or photographs (such as newspaper columns or web pages) which follow this convention.

In the sense of a collection of information, a wall of shame is the opposite of a "wall of hope", "hall of fame" or an "honor roll". Another name for "wall of shame" is "hall of shame".

Original use of the term[edit]

The term was first used in reference to the Berlin Wall, which separated East Berlin from West Berlin. In 1961 the government of East Germany named the erected wall as the "Anti-fascist protection wall", a part of the inner German border; many Berliners, however, called it "Schandmauer" ("Wall of Shame"). Outside Germany it first appeared as "Wall of Shame" in a cover story published by Time Magazine in 1962,[1] and President of the United States John F. Kennedy used the term in his Annual Message to the US Congress on the State of the Union, January 14, 1963.[2]

The Berlin Wall was referred to as the "Wall of Shame" in many more recent notable works, such as:

Other uses[edit]

Some people have referred to other walls, fences and barriers in this manner, including:

Cultural references:

  • In 1998, UNIFEM organized a photo exhibit at the United Nations that contrasted a "wall of shame," focusing on women's plight and suffering, with a "wall of hope" showcasing initiatives to end violence against women.[12]
  • An academic paper by M. Lachance (York University) talks about the Quebec "wall of shame".[13]

Criticism of term[edit]

The modern physical walls described above are often criticized as "walls of shame" because as such barriers prevent the free flow of civilians. They may also be perceived as a tool of some other form of oppression or injustice, such as the maintenance of an authoritarian regime or territorial expansion.

The term "wall of shame" is not used by the creators of these physical walls. Military, security, and economic reasons are most commonly cited to justify the building of such barriers.


  1. ^ "CNN Cold War - First Draft: Title". [dead link]
  2. ^ Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley (January 14, 1963). "John F. Kennedy: "Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union."". The American Presidency Project. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Journal of Democracy 10.2 (1999) 105-112 [1]
  4. ^ http://www.fedtrust.co.uk/uploads/Essays/Essay_9.pdf
  5. ^ http://www.lex.unict.it/cde/documenti/vari/2002/021009prodiallarg_en.pdf
  6. ^ NO MORE WALLS : europeus
  7. ^ MOROCCAN MIGRANTS TRY, TRY AGAIN TO ENTER SPAIN :: The Online Pioneer and Ideals - World News :: Bringing you the International News
  8. ^ J. E. S. Fawcett: "Gibraltar: The Legal Issues" International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs), Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1967), pp. 236-251, mentioning Spain and British Gibraltar border as a "Wall of Shame" [2]
  9. ^ WSO| Moroccan Wall of Shame
  10. ^ Tami Amanda Jacoby, Bridging the Barrier: Israeli Unilateral Disengagement, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013, p 1, ISBN 1409498085, 9781409498087
  11. ^ http://www.kacike.org/FerbelEnglish.html
  12. ^ Spindel, Cheywa; Levy, Elisa; Connor, Melissa (2000). Judd, Karen, ed. With an End in Sight: Strategies from the UNIFEM Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women (PDF). The United Nations Development Fund for Women. ISBN 0-9679502-9-5. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  13. ^ M. Lachance (York University): "Geographies of protests: spatialities of social movements activities" (2003) [3]