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11.30.2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

In this book Jon Ronson examines shaming and social media.

He looks in depth at examples of people whose lives, arguably, have been destroyed due to a barrage of hatred on Twitter and Facebook.  One example is Justine Sacco who sent an ironic non-pc tweet about AIDS which people interpreted literally.  It trended for several hours and resulted in her losing her job and becoming infamous worldwide.  Additionally, she suffered from depression and PTSD afterwards.

He speculates, but ultimately refutes the idea that this kind of mob hatred is the result of some fundamentally evil side of humanity.  In the process, he actually researches and undermines the Stanford Prison Experiment, interviewing one of the inmates who says that the 'evil' prison guard was just a show he put on out of boredom and an expectation to do something exciting.


Ronson spends a lot of time discussing the role of shaming and sex, recalling some very unfortunate incidents where people have actually killed themselves due to public exposure of their unconventional night time activities.

Ronson makes his most interesting point on the very last page of the entire book, and gives it about two sentences.  This point is that people have become self-censoring online.  People who are naturally acerbic, ironic or un-politically correct are compelled to be milquetoast.  Everyone online surveys each other, and will pounce on anyone who gets out of line.  We're doing the NSA's job for them.


I think this is an excellent point, and Justine Sacco is a perfect example of someone who bit the dust due to an off-color joke.  Although at the same time Twitter and blogging and YouTube and podcasts are unarguably places where people are able to voice so many perspectives that won't be found in any forms of traditional media.  Consider the movie LooseChange, or the the news site RealJewNews.  Nowhere on MSM do the points Dylan Avery raises about 9-11 ever appear in so much depth, and not one iota of anything Brother Nathanael says on RJN would passed the filters of any form of mainstream media.  


The fact that he made such an interesting point at the end makes the book seem very very weak!
In this respect, this book kind of feels like that writing exercise that I did in high school where you would write about a topic, develop all of your points, then write the final paragraph.....then the final paragraph becomes the thesis for your paper, and you start writing the final draft from this point.  The book honestly does feel a little bit like a first draft, he's making so many interesting points, but hard to pinpoint a thesis exactly.

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