Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

By Jon Ronson

Nonfiction

Penguin Hardcover

Copyright 2015

$27.95

ISBN-13:  978-1-59448-713-2

It’s amazing how the current GOP Presidential Primary candidates don’t seem to notice when they’re publicly shamed.  Some people have an easy way to avert that trauma.  If they don’t feel shame in the first place, they’re all set.  They might accuse the media of unfair harassment, but they won’t feel like dirt themselves.  Most of us look at the GIFs of sad clown performances by Donald Trump, et al, and feel grateful we aren’t the types to get into jams like that.

Or are we?

Jon Ronson’s new sociological study, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, documents cases of people with all different levels of integrity who have one thing in common: at one time or another they did something to call negative attention to themselves, and the negative attention didn’t fizzle out on its own.

The key here is different levels of integrity.  Some of the people interviewed for this book are okay kids.  A moment of bad judgment caused them to do something blatantly stupid, or they mistakenly trusted that their ironic humor wouldn’t be lost on Twitter followers.

On Twitter, ironic humor is especially risky.  You have only 140 characters to work with, and you should also consider the possibility that the people who see your tweets aren’t operating on the same channels as you.  You might assume they’ll get it, but maybe they won’t.  If your ambiguously worded joke is on a delicate topic (even if your goal is to show compassion), bad reactions from cyberspace will haunt you longer than if you told that same joke in a nightclub (during the pre-internet era) and got booed off the stage.

Jon Ronson did plenty of hands-on research as well as book research.  He interviewed victims, observers and the professionals who try to clean up the messes after the fact.  The completed book should inform us and make us rethink the way we judge others.

Mr. Ronson is a sophisticated writer who encourages readers to think rather than trying to promote his own opinions.  He addresses multiple issues related to his topic, and offers different angles.  He followed that policy honorably in an earlier book, The Psychopath Test.

If you’ve ever heard radio commercials for Reputation.com and wondered how the company works, the author covers that, too.

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