Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This story begins in early January 2012 when I noticed that another Jon Ronson had started posting on Twitter.”
In my pursuit to read all of Jon Ronson’s books (having sometime ago read The Psychopath Test) I began by reading his first ever book Them: Adventures with Extremists, my review of which you can read here. From there, I proceeded chronologically and read The Men Who Stare at Goats. My next read then, would naturally have been Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness (review here) but I just couldn’t resist pandering to my curiosity and picking up Jon’s most recent book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I wanted to read this for two reasons:
- It is recent, and I want to read and review more recently published books
- I couldn’t help my desire to read about people who have been publicly shamed
This latter reason, if you are the sort of person who takes pleasure in reading about other people’s misfortune in the public eye, will be entirely satisfied by reading this book. However (and this is no bad thing) it will make you think differently about shaming, and what it puts people through.
As an aspiring journalist, I can fully understand why it is every journalist’s nightmare to be publicly shamed, whether it be for writing something controversial, or plagiarism. The writer Jonah Lehrer suffered this fate, and Jon connects with him in this book to bring to light what happened after a public shaming.
The book explores a wide variety of different shamings, and delves into the history of public shaming, but despite this, I can’t help but feel like the crux of the book’s narrative rests on the idea that Twitter is the social media platform most responsible for public shamings. Twitter shamings place us as the bad guys, as opposed to someone else.
The twitter incidents Jon writes about include the shaming of Justine Sacco. I’m not a massive fan of being active on social media, so the first I heard about what happened to Justine was in this book. When I read the controversial tweet, I didn’t stop, staring at the page in disbelief and disgust, I simply kept reading. I wasn’t mortally offended by what she said, and I didn’t jump to conclusions. I can’t say for sure how I’d have reacted if I’d seen it when it first emerged, but I can guess that I’d have seen what other people were saying and let my judgement be swayed by it.
However, reading this book means I am listening to Jon, and letting his writing guide me. He seeks to show readers what it is like for the person on the other end, the person being shamed, and he does it well. He proves that people are quick to judge, quick to assert their authority and point out other people’s mistakes.
If I was the sort of person who jumps on shaming band-wagons, I’d feel pretty guilty reading this book. But instead, I am someone who is on the outside of social media, and doesn’t like to get involved.
There are some really interesting and unusual stories in this book, and I just wanted to read more and more. I think Jon has touched on something here that needed to be discussed, and for all the criticism he has received for it, I agree with him that he is right!
If you want a taster of what this book is about, then I suggest watching Jon’s TED Talks lecture about Public Shaming on Twitter:
After finishing this book, I decided to check twitter and see what was trending. I saw that #johnnydepp was trending, and since he is one of my favourite actors, I clicked on it. Everyone seemed to be saying bad stuff about him. The Graham Norton Show was on, and apparantly Johnny was ruining the atmosphere, taking too long to tell a story. They pointed out his boring, monotonus voice, and commented that he always seems to be high.
I usually watch the Graham Norton Show, but had forgotten it was on. It was a good example of what Jon talks about in this book. People take to twitter to express their annoyance and opinions about seemingly trivial things. Who cares if Johnny seemed a bit off…he’s Johnny Depp!
On that note, I’ll leave you wish my final word: This book is definitely for anyone who is curious about public shaming, and other shame-related subjects, such as our greatest secrets, the porn industry, and shame-centric punishments for criminals.
Link to the book on Goodreads: