Friday, May 15, 2015


It seems like every week there is another dummy in the news—someone tweeting some stupid joke that isn't funny, or someone caught on camera yelling profanities at a kid's soccer match, or harassing a reporter just trying to do her job.  Author, humourist filmmaker Jon Ronson has written another solid book.   So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a funny and surprisingly scary look inside the world of social media and how, if you make the nameless, faceless mob angry, it can turn on you and crush your life within a day.

I really like Jon Ronson—I have seen him on The Daily Show and he has a strong Internet presence with blogs, YouTube videos and his own website.
The book starts out innocently enough—Ronson confronts some academics who thought it was okay to set up a fake "Jon Ronson" twitter page.  No harm, right?  He also interviews a lady who sent out a weird joke about AIDS (wasn't well received) and another lady who stuck out a middle finger and pretended to yell while visiting Arlington National Cemetery.  The Internet said "no" and her life was pretty much destroyed—with an overwhelming landslide of hate, threats and public shame, she lost her job and lives in fear of her current employer finding out.  

I love Ronson's writing style—he is part of the story.  He attends workshops and describes things that are happening to him.  It really feels like you are just having a coffee and listening to him tell you weird stuff that happened to him.  

The book also explores the history of public shaming (and why the government does not use shaming in most courts today) and also the idea of the punishment fitting the crime.  On the one hand, each of these people in the book screwed up and did some weird stuff that most people would find a little strange and possibly offensive (or even very offensive).  Does that mean that their lives, jobs and future opportunity should be completely destroyed?  It is a fascinating question and Ronson does a great job of asking the question and then just following the leads, wherever they take him.
Highly recommended!