From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame.
'It's about the terror, isn't it?' 'The terror of what?' I said. 'The terror of being found out.'
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us - people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.
A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people's faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.
Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws - and the very scary part we all play in it.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of two bestsellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, and two collections, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness and What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness. He lives in London.
©2015 Jon Ronson (P)2015 Audible Ltd
I expected this book to be a bit more light hearted, like a retrospective and sympathetic look at old memes like the Rebecca Blacks and Light Saber Ninja meme kids who the Internet turned into jokes. Instead Ronson takes the reader to the darkest levels of public shaming and forces us to see how we are all part of this modern epidemic of social media shaming. He focuses in on the way shame destroys people on such a fundamental level and how difficult it is to recover from being publicly shamed. My biggest complaint is probably the books length, I'm left wondering about so many people in the book and how their stores unfold, I also wish there were more explorations on shame as it effects physical wellbeing. Like all of Ronson's books it is a compilation of people's stories and experiences that are all centered around a single theme, but I feel in this instance there are so many more stories that could've been tied in. Regardless, I found it very intriguing, and entertaining (and I now feel ashamed for finding a book about shaming people entertaining...). Ronson's narration is fantastic as well.
Thought-provoking and sometimes terrifying, this book will give me pause before every tweet and before rushing to judgment on another. A must-read for anyone who uses social media.
I bought the audio book just so I hear it in his own voice, which I find very personable and engaging.
Jon Ronson books are typically a collection of amusing anecdotes about the lunatic fringe or bizarre situations. This book has a more sinister edge as it delves into the mire of the internet mob mentality. The narration is delivered with the usual seemingly naive earnestness that Jon is known for but in this book there is a sympathy for the victims of public shaming and disgust for the perpetrators that he seems honour bound to step back from straddling the line of journalistic objectivity.
The stories here stir you up as you hear of people's lives being ruined by the fury of an Internet of pathetic people hiding behind a keyboard. The subject of the first story probably deserved his shaming but stories of some of the poor people that follow make you sick as a private conversation or failed attempt at a joke goes viral and their lives and careers are permanently changed.
Does the Internet champion free speech or is it just a mouthpiece for cheap speech?
More entertaining than perhaps enlightening, what you have here are the experiences of a collection of individuals who have all experienced public shaming, most of whom, ironically, the typical reader has probably never heard of. Ronson has a knack for highlighting the issue without lapsing into cultural critique or self-help condescension. Are we living in a shameless society, as Ronson quotes one commentator, or an overcharged infocentric era where internet social media places every user under the scrutiny of countless, anonymous eyes (and commentators)? Ronson doesn’t really say, but the experiences of his subjects – who come across as neither loathsome or pitiable but instead, rather banal - leaves little doubt. In the end, I found this audiobook a worthwhile, enjoyable listen as well as a cautionary tale for anyone who has ever hit the send button on an e-mail, Facebook posting, or Twitter feed perhaps a little too quickly as well as for those who are apt to pin an electronic scarlet letter on someone without giving much thought to the consequences. The narration, by Ronson himself, is emotionally charged and first-rate.
There is embarrassment: walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe; then there is Shame... "the quintessential human emotion," says psychologist Michael Lewis, Ph.D. Shame tells you there is something wrong with you; you are flawed before the view of a judgmental world; a failure. It erodes your self-esteem and confidence. Even Sarte wrote that shame is "the most dreaded emotional experience."
Ronson gives us a look at the growing phenomenon of humans wielding their autonomy via the internet and social media to take a giant step beyond bullying. Telling the stories of a few individuals involved in some public scandals, he shows the effects of public shaming on the individual victims, their families, even new professions that have sprung up to deal with these cyber bullies. The accounts of the victims are candid and discernible as they relate the sense of embarrassment, guilt, and isolation they felt with such manipulated public exposure. These were events that happened on a big scale. It's the little oopsie moments that we all mindlessly fall into that were most frightening. An iPhone shot just clowning around that goes viral and winds up on the boss's desk, a comment taken not quite but almost out of context...a celebrity choosing to go out in black face for Halloween. The impact of *harmless* actions poorly thought out, if at all. How close we've all come to being fodder for the cyber bully or Shamer, trolling around waiting for the kill.
Ronson is an author that connects to the reader by giving you good information that is also entertaining and relevant. He knows how to make those moments of shock hit, and how to engage personal inventory, "Am I a Psychopath, is my neighbor?" And he can be funny, writing about military psychics that stare down goats, or conspiracy theorists. There's not much humor here, but he sticks his point with the same liveliness. It's an eye-opening look that forces you to think. Is the world becoming more hostile, and what are the ramifications. I would have liked more conversation with the Shamers, but how likely are we to listen -- beyond such actions.
Remembering Ryan's Daughter standing before the townsfolk with her shorn hair, tarred and feathered, and Hester Prynn with her scarlet "A" embroidered on her wardrobe, or even the stockades in the town square -- shaming is not new. But Ronson paints it neon, helping us realize that we have never had such a capacity to destroy another person as we do now.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
The only reason this isn't a full-on 5-star review is because Jon Ronson, damn him, believes in brevity, I guess! I could have listened to many hours more of this subject as reported with his insight and pathos, as delivered in his own neurotic style (He yells, he shrieks, he staggers!).
This all starts for Ronson when he feels personally violated by a spambot that has been given "his" identity and a Jon Ronson twitter account. Ronson then feels the savage thrill when the crowd supports him in having the spambot removed from the twitter sphere (tho' he does get a bit worried with some of the responses supporting him. He worries people might get hurt...)
And people do get hurt. Not in his case. But in the other public shamings (which have taken place since all the men in America were named Nathaniel). Some people bring it on themselves: self-playgiarism/bad or made up facts. Others have made jokes that they later really, really, REALLY regret.
Because the world is huge out there, and people are looking. Looking hard. The cruelty, the vindictiveness with which they go after others—they've smelled blood in the water and they won't stop the churning until lives are destroyed.
This is a wonderful, wonderful book and as usual Jon Ronson brings the right amount of humor and self-deprecating hubris with him as he walks with these people, even helps them as they try to rebuild their lives.
Definitely credit-worthy, and you will never, ever tweet or blog or Facebook... or plagiarize so blithely again...
Avid listener on my daily commute!
WOW, this was a riveting listen. I normally listen to nonfiction on my commute to work (so I can learn something useful while waking up sufficiently to be fully ready to learn more from my patients), and mysteries or thrillers on my way home (to keep me awake on the road). SYBPS was that incredibly rare nonfiction book that was so enthralling I found myself listening both to and from work and in any spare minutes I could find at home, eager to hear about the next case of real-life public shaming and what details Ronson, a crackerjack journalist, would dig up that would totally turn the story on its head. Jon Ronson, my new hero, has forever changed the way his readers view social media and the internet generally. I was especially astonished to read/hear about the flaws--which now appear glaringly obvious--in Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, a study which I had previously felt confident I understood and believed in the conclusions of. I'd say the only flaw in this book (a tiny one) is that the chapter on the Shame Eradication workshop is a little bit gratuitous and drawn out, probably to stretch it to closer to the length of other chapters. I recommend this book to every adult. Grade: A-plus.
Shaming--a practice that was abandoned by the judicial system as being overly cruel, has been re-invented by modern social media and in a form that makes the stocks of our ancestors look like child's play. We may think we have come a long way from the days when we picnicked and partied at public hangings, but that is far from the case as we revel in another's destruction, often with far less justification for our outrage at the misdeeds of the perceived wrongdoer.
Inspired by a personal experience of his own, Ronson turns his unique talents to the modern phenomenon of shaming through social media. Once again, he challenges us to confront the question of who we are as individuals and as a society, in this case as demonstrated by the fact that we are evidently compelled to vilify and even destroy in the public eye those who have committed a wrong (not a crime)--either real or perceived. While Ronson offers few explanations as to why we are driven to publicly condemn these individuals often in the most stunningly virulent and misogynistic terms, he does look at the impact this has on the lives of those who are the objects of this outpouring of vitriol. If it is justice, it is a justice of the mob and an often unthinking and nasty justice at that.
Ronson is the best narrator of his own work. In his hands, one can't help but wonder, often with dismay, at who we really are.
I'm not particularly good at giving reviews, so suffice it to say:
* If you're a fan of Mr Ronson's other written works, you'll undoubtedly enjoy this (although, like me, you may desire a slightly longer book).
* Jon Ronson's voice is incredibly pleasant to listen to, which is always a plus.
Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."
Jon Ronson begins "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" (2015) with an introduction about how a spam bot hatched by supposedly ethical college professors hijacked his Twitter identity. His ethereal alter ego started living an exciting but fictitious life, going to clubs and presumably mentioning how much he'd enjoyed drinking fabulous drinks and eating scrumptious food the bot creators had been paid to promote. Ronson, a gonzo journalist and inspired researcher, was at his wits' end trying to figure out who was doing it and how to stop it.
Dictionary dot com defines "empathy" as "the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." Ronson wasn't publicly shamed like the people he profiles, including Jonah Lehrer, a writer who made up Dylan quotes, and then lied to cover up his lies; Justine Sacco of the ill-conceived AIDS/South Africa tweet; and Lindsey Stone of the 'shouting into a cell phone while making a rude gesture at Arlington Cemetery' photo. Ronson's situation was a good way to ease those convinced that 'it can't happen to them' that it's possible to completely lose control of a digital life.
Ronson doesn't outright ask if the shamed "asked for it" but I think in the world of bullies, the bullied and bystanders, "asking for it" is a justification that everyone except the victim uses. I remember seeing that photo of Stone the first time it went around. Since I'm a veteran, I saw it a lot. I thought it was a joke then. It's a bad joke, a tasteless joke - but no kid should have her life ruined over an inept visual stunt. Did Stone deserve to have what must have felt like all 21.8 million American veterans condemning her? No, she did not - but it must be cold comfort for her that most of us knew it for what it was and just ignored it.
There is a portion of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" discussing people who are aroused by being shamed. It was sexually explicit and somewhat graphic, and it might be difficult for parents to explain to kids who read or hear it. The section on shaming by four chan (not quite the organization's name, but that's close enough for an Audible review) has some pretty disturbing descriptions of fetishes. Four chan denizens are notorious for trolling, but what Ronson describes in "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" is trolling on steroids.
Ronson's writing style for a bit of the book - using the collective "we" to examine the collective consciousness of the righteously offended - reminded me a bit of William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily" (1930). Faulkner used the collective "we" for the voice of the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi. In that Southern Gothic story, the town goes to great lengths to avoid shaming Emily, and "So she vanquished them . . ." Ronson's about as subtle as a mobile phone store sign spinner and I'm probably drawing parallels that were never intended, but I liked the juxtaposition in attitudes on shame between small town American South in the early 20th Century and 21st century global urban life on line.
Ronson is Welsh, and his accent makes "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" a fun listen. I really liked that he described photos that were in the text version of the book.
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