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So You've Been Publicly Shamed Paperback – 31 Dec 2015
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He is such an exceptional writer . . . an incredibly funny writer . . . a perfect sense of comic timing throughout, but he manages to deal with profound subjects . . . so enjoyable . . . you can be having a laugh while understanding a social phenomenon in a completely unique way; it's such a great book . . . We're buying it! (The BBC Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman)
A magnificent book, subtly argued, often painfully funny and yet deeply serious. . . I'm not sure I can recommend it highly enough (Daily Mail)
A work of original, inspired journalism, it considers the complex dynamics between those who shame and those who are shamed, both of whom can become the focus of social media's grotesque, disproportionate judgments (Laurence Scott Financial Times)
superb and terrifying . . . So You've Been Publicly Shamed brings together all of Ronson's virtues as a writer, to a more serious purpose than hitherto . . . Ronson is a true virtuoso of the faux-naive style. He is so good at it that it's not irritating . . . Ronson has beautiful comic-prose skills . . . but Ronson's self-description as a "humorous journalist" is not the whole story. Comedy is his disguise and also his weapon. He is a moralist. Some of his best lines seem casual but contain fierce social diagnoses . . . towards the end of his new book, someone accuses him of "prurient curiosity". This prompts what may be taken as a statement of the moral approach behind all his work. "I didn't want to write a book that advocated for a less curious world. Prurient curiosity may not be great. But curiosity is. People's flaws need to be written about. The flaws of some people lead to horrors inflicted on to others. And then there are the more human flaws that, when you shine a light on to them, de-demonise people that might otherwise be seen as ogres." At its best, this is exactly what his writing can do . . . relentlessly entertaining and thought-provoking (Steven Poole Guardian)
Ronson is our current master of smarter-than-average pop nonfiction that combines social science, investigative journalism and no shortage of style . . . Ronson and his subjects are strikingly candid about their fears, which is compelling if not always comfortable to read. But the book slowly turns out to be about something bigger than it seems: a survival guide to living with shame both public and private, an inevitable consequence of being human. (Saturday Paper (Australia))
Ronson's finely attuned ear for dialogue and his skilfully deployed nebbishness ensure a pacy but discomfiting read (Gillian Terzis The Australian)
Jon Ronson's great strength as a writer is his empathy with his subject, which seems to bring about trust and openness from his interviewees. Like all journalists, he is a voyeur, but he is sensitive with his material and self-analytical enough to realise his own part in the phenomenon. So You've Been Publicly Shamed is an interesting commentary on human behaviour and its consequences. (The Register)
immensely readable (Will Dean Independent)
[A] brilliant, thought-provoking book - a fascinating examination of citizen justice, which has enjoyed a great renaissance since the advent of the internet (Tatler)
Amusing and thought-provoking (Daily Telegraph)
From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a brilliant and hilarious new book exploring the consequences of public shaming.See all Product description
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The books shows us how a thoughtless sentence, a careless statement or a moment of just not thinking before you hit the keyboard can lead to both famous and unknown people getting ripped apart online. It also offers us 'real world' cases of attempted shaming that didn't go as expected such as Max Mosley taking a national newspaper to court for claiming his sadomasochistic sex session with 3 sex workers in uniforms was a 'Nazi' reenactment - Mosley didn't care who knew about his sex life but refused (due to his infamous father Oswald Mosley) to have any association with the Nazis.
There's a lot to think about in here. Several times the author suggests that the only way to survive in the modern world is to be totally bland and unnoticeable. At a time when the so-called 'Leader of the Free World' takes to Twitter like a scorned teenager with no behavioural 'filters', this book shows us the importance now, more than ever, of thinking before we speak/tweet/write, and of our responsibility to manage our online and real world reputations.
In this very readable book, Jon Ronson interviews people who have been publicly shamed or, in the case of a teenaged girl who committed suicide, a close relative.
Not all public shaming takes place online. The girl just mentioned felt very humiliated during the trial of the boy who raped her. (I remember reading about this at the time.)
In fact, although the book is readable, it is also very uncomfortable to read. And what makes it even more uncomfortable is the realisation that when you 'call someone out' online as the current jargon has it, you could be the instigator, or one of the participants of, a process in which someone is tried and found guilty by 'the mob' -- sometimes without their even being aware of it at the time. You may object to being labelled as one of a mob, especially if you have only three followers on Twitter. But as Ronson says: "The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche".
Ronson is a very good writer, in that he brings some humour and humility to the subject matter. He also manages to end each chapter on a cliffhanger -- which is quite annoying if you need to get other things done!
There is just one area in which I think Ronson is not forceful enough. He says:
"unpleasant as it will surely be for you, when you see an unfair or an ambiguous shaming unfold, speak up on behalf of the shamed person. A babble of opposing voices – that’s democracy."
It's a natural human instinct, I think, to wish to 'stand up for' someone, but there are two other considerations as well. In my opinion, standing by while someone is accused, tried, found guilty and punished sullies the online community. I know of a couple of online forums in which people are pounced upon for no other reason than expressing a contrary view to the majority. It's impossible to have an intellectual or even a merely intelligent discussion in such a negatively febrile atmosphere.
But even if one were to be completely self-centred in such matters, if you don't support some hapless victim, who do you think will support you when it's your turn? And have no doubt: probably one day it WILL be your turn.
The insights into Justine Sacco in particular are fascinating - a woman who made a stupid joke to a tiny audience, and had her life systematically dismantled as a result. I find that particular section chilling, because almost every day online I will make jokes that make hers look like the kind of somber, respectful, deeply appropriate comment one might give to a grieving widow at a friend's funeral. My only defence against a similar mass shaming is that I choose my audiences carefully, making sure they're comprised of people who will understand the context of the joke, and construct different personas depending on how broad my audience will be. That's an unfortunate state to be in, when even the anonymous must constantly fret about reputation management just in case the wider, ravenous public decide that you're the next meal to be savoured.
Very much recommended.