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So You've Been Publicly Shamed Hardcover – March 31, 2015
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2015: Author Jon Ronson knows a thing or two about public shaming. When a trio of "academics" hijacked his persona for an infomorph—basically an automated Twitter feed that spewed inane comments about food in his name—he took the fight to the internet, where the virtual, virulent hordes soon compelled the spambot authors to cease and desist. The experience hatched a thought: Once upon a time, if you wanted to participate in a good, old-fashioned public humiliation, you actually had to show up. But as with most everything else, the internet has made condemnation an exercise in crowdsourcing, with today’s angry mobs trading stockades and scarlet As for social media and its inherent anonymity.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is Ronson's tour through a not-necessarily-brave new world where faceless commenters wield the power to destroy lives and careers, where the punishments often outweigh the crimes, and where there is no self-control and (ironically) no consequences. On one hand, part of what makes this book (again, ironically) so fun to read is a certain schadenfreude; it’s fun to read about others' misfortunes, especially if we think they "had it coming." Jonah Lehrer, whose admitted plagiarism and falsifications probably earned him his fall, stalks these pages. But so does Justine Sacco, whose ill-conceived tweet probably didn’t merit hers; as it turns out, the internet doesn’t always differentiate the misdemeanors from the felonies. But the best reason to read this is Ronson's style, which is funny and brisk, yet informative and never condescending. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is not a scholarly book, nor is it a workbook about navigating ignominy. It's an entertaining investigation into a growing--and often disturbing--demimonde of uncharitable impulses run amok. --Jon Foro
“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
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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.
~ Is modern shaming similar, better or worse than shaming in the 18th and 19th centuries?
~ How do we explain the shaming frenzy in our time?
~ Who is doing the shaming these days?
~ Who are those shamed and why?
~ Is shaming justified any time?
~ Does the online mob need of constant drama?
~ What rush overpower us at times to turn us into a lynching mob?
~ What do we get out of vitriolic shaming?
~ Why do we dehumanise the people we hurt and shame?
~ Why is modern shaming so hardly and clearly misogynistic?
~ Did any of the shamees escaped unscathed?
~ If yes, how do they did it? Was it something they did? The way they behaved? The way they felt? Good luck?
~ Does shaming only work if the shamee feels ashamed?
~ Is shamelessness something that some people just have or can be taught?
~ How long does it take for a shamee to be forgotten online?
~ Does shaming works outside the online world?
Shamed tells us the stories of shamed people (those who were destroyed by the shaming and those who weren't) and of some shamers:
> (Publicly shamed and destroyed) Johah Lehrer, Hank, Stone.
> (Professional shamer) Judge Ted Poe.
> (Public shamer and publicly shamed and destroyed) Adria Richards.
> (Publicly shamed and unscathed) Oswald Mosley, Pastor Andrew Ferreira and six other people caught in a brothel, & Mike Daisey.
This is my favourite book by Ronson because, for a good part, Ronson is able to transcend his doppelganger self, the character he has become in his books, to focus on a subject fully, to focus on one that seems to be very close to his heart. Unlike other works of his, Ronson is not interviewing weirdos, extremists or people who live on the edge, but normal people; moreover, what matters the most is not even them, it shaming and shamers. I admire Ronson's compassion and empathy and his ability to dig beyond the surface to show us people as human beings and individuals, not as objects. We see him the most compassionate in SYBPS and also the most openly honest about some issues and shamees. Yet, Ronson's daredevil is still here, the one that entertains. His quest takes him to dangerous territories: the set of an "adult" movie (I found that part hilarious) and he joins a course go get to know how shaming works in the judicial system.
SYBPS is really an enjoyable, intriguing and fascinating read overall. There are a few parts that I found really interesting:
1/ The historical antecedents on shaming used to contextualise the research on modern shaming.
2/ The discussion on the validity and limitations of the Philip Zimbardo's social experiment in Standford in 1971 which is endlessly mentioned in pop-psychology books to explain group psychology without further questioning.
2/ I loved Ronson's reflections on the long-life effects of shaming for the shamees, even when everybody has forgotten them. Google will get them on the front page if one searches certain names or topics. The Right to Be Forgotten law issued by the European Court, the work of online reputation management companies and, how important is to trick Google's algorithm to get the job done show how much collateral damage is done to shamees after the initial outburst of shamer appear.
3/ The hints about how shaming is an integral part of the judicial system. That stupefies me even more than online shaming, to be honest.
4/ The references to psychiatrist James Gilligan work with dangerous killers and how shame is an intrinsic part of the mutation of their personality and their transformation into monsters.
Personally I hate the shaming that comes from the Media and online sites. After reading this book I have witnessed two popular cases of mob shaming, one for a "joke" and another for an abusive counter-attack to a troll insults. However, I think that shaming can be good if done in private. People can be nasty on purpose, they *are* nasty on purpose, they would bully you, make denigrating comments to you and "joke" about you to undermine your psyche, your soul and your self-esteem. I feel is *my* right to let them know close doors that this is abuse, that is disrespectful behaviour and that I will take professional or personal action next time they think it is OK to do so. No yelling or lynching is necessary. This is very different, to me, from public shaming, mob shaming, mob lynching and Twitter mobbing. I believe that legal punishments, like those by Ted Poe might work wonders, as did for some people, but might destroy others.
Just a personal note. I am sick of people being nasty, offensive, racist, sexist and "ist" in general and then excusing their behaviour because it was a "joke". There is not need to lynch those people, but they need to learn that those jokes are not really jokes but camouflaged verbal abuse, and, because many of them already know that is the case, that you won't tolerate them or stand it. Some domestic violence examples show how jokes, demeaning jokes, are normally used to denigrate partners and are at the beginning of the relationship.I don't want to lynch anybody, but I will shame anybody who does shameful things to me or people I love.
One of the main takes from the book to me are Ronson's queries about why some people don't feel ashamed or shamed. The cure for shaming is empathy, Ronson says.That is very true. I agree that if everybody had a bit of empathy, put themselves in other people's shoes, people would not do certain things, would not offend, use or abuse other people, and mobs would not form as easily. Yet,manipulators, psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, and even borderlines do use other people's empathy as a tool against the empaths to use and abuse those very people. The cure for shaming is, Ronson adds, speaking up when you think a mob is lynching somebody for a bad joke. I agree but you will be lynched as well. Be ready and prepared. One my favourite recipes is given by Daisey, who refused to be shamed by his shamers despite doing something shameful:
"...The way we construct consciousness is to tell the story of ourselves to ourselves, the story of who we believe we are. I feel that a really public shaming or humiliation is a conflict between the person trying to write his own narrative and society trying to write a different narrative for the person. One story tries to overwrite the other. And so to survive you have to own your story. Or . . .’ Mike looked at me, ‘. . . you write a third story. You react to the narrative that’s been forced upon you.’ He paused. ‘You have to find a way to disrespect the other narrative,’ he said. ‘If you believe it, it will crush you.’ (Kindle Locations 2226-2231).
Ronson is a journalist, not a novelist, so don't expect the book to be literary. Obvious, no?
Barely any. I noticed just two, which are the result of the conversion from printing format to digital format
> loc. 550 pointed outto me
> loc. 942 dehumaniz-ing them.
Food for thought.