- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books (31 March 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594487138
- ISBN-13: 978-1594487132
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,59,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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So You've Been Publicly Shamed Hardcover – 31 Mar 2015
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“Gutsy and smart. Without losing any of the clever agility that makes his books so winning, he has taken on truly consequential material and risen to the challenge….fascinating…shocking…Mr. Ronson’s gift for detail-picking is, as ever, a treat.” –The New York Times
“A sharp-eyed and often hilarious book…Jon Ronson has written a fresh, big-hearted take on an important and timely topic. He has nothing to be ashamed of.” –NPR.org
“A diligent investigator and a wry, funny writer, Ronson manages to be at once academic and entertaining.” –The Boston Globe
“This is a wonderful book.” –Jon Stewart
“This book really needed to be written.” –Salon.com
“Required reading for the internet age.” – Entertainment Weekly
“With an introspective and often funny lens, [Ronson] tracks down those whose blunders have exploded in the public eye…So You've Been Publicly Shamed is an insightful, well-researched, and important text about how we react to others' poor decisions.” –The Huffington Post
“Personable and empathetic, Ronson is an entertaining guide to the odd corners of the shame-o-sphere.” –The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“It’s sharply observed, amusingly told, and, while its conclusions may stop just short of profound, the true pleasure of the book lies in arriving at those conclusions.”
“Like all of Ronson’s books, this one is hard to put down, but you will absolutely do so at some point to Google yourself.” –TheMillions.com
“An irresistibly gossipy cocktail with a chaser of guilt.” –Newsday
“With So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Ronson has written a timely, interesting and titillating read for any Internet drama junkie.” –PopMatters.com
“[A] simultaneously lightweight and necessary book.” –Esquire
"A work of original, inspired journalism, it considers thecomplex dynamics between those who shame and those who are shamed, both of whom can become the focus ofsocial media’s grotesque, disproportionate judgments." –The Financial Times
"[So You've Been Publicly Shamed] is both entertaining and fair -- a balance we could use a lot more of, online and off." –Vulture
“Ronson is an entertaining and provocative writer, with a broad reach …[So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed] is a well-reported, entertainingly written account of an important subject.” –The Oregonian
"Ronson is a fun writer to read...fascinating." –Fast Company
“I was mesmerized. And I was also disturbed.” –Forbes
"[So You've Been Publicly Shamed] promises to be the most relevant book of the year." –FlavorWire
"I was sickly fascinated by the book. I think it's Ronson's best book." –Mark Frauenfelder for BoingBoing
"With confidence, verve, and empathy, Ronson skillfully informs and engages the reader without excusing those caught up in the shame game. As he stresses, we are the ones wielding this incredible power over others' lives, often with no regard for the lasting consequences of our actions." –Starred Booklist Review
"Clever and thought-provoking, this book has the potential to open an important dialogue about faux moral posturing online and its potentially disastrous consequences." –Publishers Weekly
“Relentlessly entertaining and thought-provoking.” –The Guardian
“Certainly, no reader could finish it without feeling a need to be gentler online, to defer judgment, not to press the retweet button, to resist that primal impulse to stoke the fires of shame.” –The Times
“Excruciating, un-put-downable…So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a gripping read, packed with humor and compassion and Ronson's characteristic linguistic juggling of the poignant and the absurd.” –Chapter16.org
“A powerful and rewarding read, a book utterly of the moment.”—The Hamilton Spectator
“Ronson is a lovely, fluid writer, and he has a keen eye for painful, telling details.” —The Bloomberg View
“Fascinating and trenchant.” –The Denver Post
“[Ronson] is one of our most important modern day thinkers…[So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed] is one of the most therapeutic books imaginable.” – US News & Word Report
“Personable and empathetic, Ronson is an entertaining guide to the odd corners of the shame-o-sphere.” –The Houston Chronicle
“[A] satirical Malcolm Gladwell… an accessible, fun read.” – Everyday Ebook
"We love Jon Ronson. He’s thoughtful and very funny. [So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed] is a great book about the way the internet can gang up on people and shame them, when they deserve it, when they don’t deserve it and it’s great." – Judd Apatow
"Jon Ronson is unreal. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed –everyone should read that book. He’s one of my favorite human beings." – Bill Hader
"[A] brilliant, thought-provoking book – a fascinating examination of citizen justice, which has enjoyed a great renaissance since the advent of the internet." – Tatler
"A terrifying and keen insight into a new form of misguided mass hysteria." – Jesse Eisenberg
"A fascinating exploration of modern media and public shaming… It's a great conversation starter. Is Twitter the new Salem Witch trials?"– Reese Witherspoon
About the Author
Jon Ronson’s books include the New York Times bestsellers The Psychopath Test and Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, and international bestsellers Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats. He also cowrote the screenplay for Frank, which will be released in theaters August 2014, and which stars Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ronson is a regular contributor to This American Life and lives in London and New York City.See all Product description
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"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" - never has a more false proverb been more convincingly uttered. The power of words has been underestimated; severely, grossly, terribly, massively underestimated. If you don't believe me, ask James Gilligan, described as "about the world's best chronicler of what a shaming can do to our inner lives." In the 1970s, he was a "young psychiatrist at the Harvard Medical School", and was "invited to lead" a group of a "team of investigative psychiatrists" ordered by a US District Court judge to "make sense of the chaos" that were Massachusetts prisons and mental hospitals. What was the scene like?
"Inmates were swallowing razor blades and blinding and castrating themselves and each other. ... Prisoners were getting killed, officers were getting killed, visitors were getting killed."
Such were the inmates that James Gilligan worked with and interviewed. What did he observe and what were his findings?
"Gilligan filled notepads with observations from his interviews with the men.
He wrote, ‘Some have told me that they feel like robots or zombies, that their bodies are empty or filled with straw, not flesh and blood, that instead of having veins and nerves they have ropes or cords. One inmate told me he feels like “food that is decomposing”. These men’s souls did not just die. They have dead souls because their souls were murdered. How did it happen? How were they murdered?’ This was, he felt, the mystery he’d been invited inside Massachusetts’ prisons and mental hospitals to solve. And one day it hit him. ‘Universal among the violent criminals was the fact that they were keeping a secret,’ Gilligan wrote. ‘A central secret. And that secret was that they felt ashamed - deeply ashamed, chronically ashamed, acutely ashamed.’ It was shame, every time. ‘I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed or humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed. As children these men were shot, axed, scalded, beaten, strangled, tortured, drugged, starved, suffocated, set on fire, thrown out of the window, raped, or prostituted by mothers who were their pimps. For others words alone shamed and rejected, insulted and humiliated, dishonoured and disgraced, tore down their self-esteem, and murdered their soul.’ For each of them the shaming ‘occurred on a scale so extreme, so bizarre, and so frequent that one cannot fail to see that the men who occupy the extreme end of the continuum of violent behaviour in adulthood occupied an equally extreme end of the continuum of violent child abuse earlier in life.’" [pg 235, paperback]
Is it any wonder that shaming is such a powerful weapon in the hands of the individual and the mob alike? Is it any wonder also that shaming has become so endemic in the world of the tubes - the Internet? Shaming is, in a lot of was, an act of assault and robbery. It robs the victim of something he had held private, and makes it public. This loss of a private memory, experience, can be dehumanizing at times. This is what makes it so attractive and irresistible as a weapon in the hands of the individual or the mob, and what arouses the most violent of passions and feelings of retribution in the victim. Jon Ronson's book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed", is in his inimitable style, a quick, breezy look at some recent public shamings and an attempt to understand the why.
Remember Jonah Lehrer, the once-bestselling author of pop-science books and a Malcolm Gladwell in the making (in whatever way you choose to see Gladwell notwithstanding)? He was exposed as a serial plagiarizer and then saw his attempt at a public apology go up in smoke in front of his eyes, in real-time - you see, the organizers, Knight Frank, had helpfully arranged for one "giant-screen live Twitter feed behind his head" and a "second screen .. positioned within his eyeline" even as he read his prepared speech-apology.
Lehrer's case is at least understandable. Justine Sacco's case was less of a public shaming - though that it certainly also was - as much as a cyber-lynching. In case you are looking for a tale to complete the circle here, then the case of "Hank" and Adria Richards is the one for you. A public shaming via Twitter was followed by an even more vicious retributive cyber-lynching orchestrated by and on 4chan. The author's conversation with "twenty-one-year-old 4chan denizen, Mercedes Haefer" sheds light, though not a whole lot though, on the psychology of shaming. Throw in your prejudices, pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, then add in a dash of the spice of technology, and you get the perfect recipe for shamings in the modern era:
"She paused. ‘But 4chan aims to degrade the target, right? And one of the highest degradations for women in our culture is r*pe. We don’t talk about r*pe of men, so I think it doesn’t occur to most people as a male degradation. With men they talk about getting them fired. In our society men are supposed to be employed."
Shaming is a form of control, an assertion of power over the victim, a no-hods barred degradation of the victim - where physical violence is not possible or not practical.
Reading through the book, I felt it hit a high somewhere around the chapter on 4chan and the lynching-counter-lynching episodes. But it seemed to drift for a chapter or two after that. Reading chapter 9 I started to think, "Is this going someplace?" Perhaps there was a glimmer of light I could see, but where would it lead to? Perhaps it is the inevitable moment of reader-fatigue that one experiences when reading a book where the urge to abandon a book seems to exert an inexorable pull. "But this is a short book. I can finish this. Onward!" I said to myself. And turned the page. The book did pick up. The chapters got shorter, or at least it seemed that way. This however is not a book on cyber-bullying. Emily Bazelon wrote a book on that topic. This is not even a book on how the Internet enables cyber-bullying. Nor is it about hate crimes in cyberwar- there is an eponymous book on that by Danielle Keats Citron.
What "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" is, at the end of the day, a short, breezy look at a few aspects of shaming, with a little bit of history, a dash of personal anecdotes, some curative as well as palliative ruminations, and the trademark (surely by now) Jon Ronson wry humour. Does this book provide any hope, any solution to the malaise of this relentless form of mob frenzy of shaming? Yes, and no.
The weirdest line I can recall reading in a book - actually "incongruous" is a better phrase than "weirdest" - would be this: "Porn professionals were being so nice and considerate towards me it was almost as if I was the person about to have their g**itals electrocuted." I suppose one could call this one of the occasional perks of being a writer, eh Mr Ronson?
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The tool of shaming someone publicly for breaking the law or violating the social contract in some other way is as old as time. But with the advent of the Internet, and specifically, the rise of tools like Twitter, shaming can go viral instantly. Instead of your immediate community knowing what you did wrong -- and deciding whether and when to forgive you, because they may have a sense of the broader context and of who you are as a person beyond that misstep -- the entire world now becomes aware, instantly, without any of that context. And the results, as Ronson shows, can be horrifying and potentially disproportionate. Imagine cracking a joke that you know that some folks might consider off color to a buddy sitting next to you at a conference presentation -- then having the woman in front of you turn around, snap your picture, smile at you -- and tweet about how offensive your comments were to women, already a minority and arguably struggling to find a way to feel comfortable in Silicon Valley's "bro culture". That's "D***legate", and it's one of the case studies that Ronson looks at to explore how the Internet has transformed public shaming from one form of potentially violent public pillorying and whipping to a non-violent but far longer lasting and even more damaging variant.
Since Ronson's focus is on the post-Twitter era, you won't find much here about folks like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, although Ronson explores an argument that suggests sexual misdeeds are viewed with more tolerance by potential shamers than other transgressions (in contrast to the past, when swingers "outed" by the News of the World committed suicide). But whether the name is a familiar one -- Jonah Lehrer, popular science writer pilloried for inventing quotes and for recycling his own content -- or someone unknown, such as the teenager turned into a pariah for mocking what she saw as a self-evident and superfluous sign at Arlington national cemetery requesting silence and respect -- he does a good job of exploring different examples of shame and reasons for shaming, as well as the societal and historical context.
Ronson does occasionally fall into the trap of what I refer to as "stunt" anecdotes: going off to explore things as a participant and taking notes because he knows it will make a good part of the copy to be a fly on the wall. So, the workshop on how to manage and address shame in which he participates becomes a gratuitous anecdote, and some other similar segments felt like overkill.
My five-star rating is as much for the timeliness of the topic as for the book's style and structure, which are really more average than the rating would suggest. It's an OK book, on a standalone basis, but it's the first to really assemble in a coherent fashion all the individual anecdotes and events around this particular theme. It certainly made me think. I've long been aware of the dangers of having a personal "brand", and been vigilant about what I say on social media and my privacy settings on Facebook, for instance. In the social media universe, there simply is no privacy -- or at least, none that you can count on -- and few of those "shame victims" that Ronson profiles in these pages are evil or malicious. Stupid, foolish, careless -- yes. Thoughtless, absolutely. But the shaming, the "mass online destruction" in which people seem to take such delight, seems so disproportionate. "We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside of it."
This is a great starting point for dialog and discussion, and for that reason alone merits the full five stars.
I'd been thinking about this topic quite a bit before I saw this book had been written, because there have been several examples recently of massive, scorched earth web campaigns against things that I thought was fairly innocuous. It seemed like yet another example of how quickly seemingly civilized people can turn into a vicious pack of animals, and it's frightening, even in the service of a "good" cause.
The web can be a powerful tool for justice when other avenues have failed, for example, when an individual is fighting a powerful company. On the other hand, sometimes the punishment can vastly outweigh the crime, and peoples' lives end up ruined for one tasteless joke on Twitter, or even a complete misunderstanding.
Ronson goes through numerous examples, some of which I'd heard of and some of which I hadn't. He then connects internet shaming to historical public shaming, and explores other sorts of shaming, going so far as to visit the filming of an S&M movie.
It's interesting and entertaining from beginning to end. I was particularly fascinated to learn that there are now companies who (for a very large fee) will "obscure" your internet presence, so embarrassing things won't be quite so prominent.
My heart gave it five stars because it was fun to read. My head might ding it one, because it never really comes together with a coherent theme. Much as he did in The Men Who Stare at Goats, he tells a lot of very entertaining stories, and then tries to tie it together by connecting dots that don't really connect. A lot of things - like the trip the the S&M club - are just enjoyable non-sequiturs. It seems like he's trying to overthink something that's not really that complicated - just a natural extension of human nature into the digital age.
There's no great epiphany, and it's not clear anything can be "done" about the situation. Still, the book is very entertaining, and serves as a good cautionary tale, both for our own behavior, and for our reactions to the behavior of others. Highly recommended.
I can think of people I read about where I felt so angry that I thought no punishment was bad enough. But I think it could happen to most people who use social media, given the right circumstances. Maybe instead of all of us getting our 15 minutes of fame, we will all get 15+ minutes of shame.
I think Ronson does an excellent job of identifying the problem. The solutions he describes, like professional reputation management, are too expensive for most people, though.