So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Jon Ronson sets off on a quest around the world to talk to the victims of public shaming. People like Justine Sacco who got fired from her job after the media storm following her tweet:

Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!

Insensitive perhaps, but it does make a good point about the imbalance of medical funding for diseases that affect the rich predominantly-white West, compared with 3rd world medical issues. Rotavirus is the classic example.

Or Lindsay Stone pretending to shout next to a “silence and respect” sign at a military cemetery. Because how dare someone criticise the militaristic culture of the United States. Those sort of people should be invaded.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant about Twitter media storms. Ronson goes in search of people who have been shamed and discusses the long history of shaming. It used to be used regularly as a punishment, think of the stocks, but was was phased out in the nineteenth century. Now, it’s back, and in a big way.

Some of them are well deserved. Jan Moir for example, Ronson quotes as a great example of public shaming to good effect. Often in today’s society however it is a hapless individual making a comment to their few hundred Facebook friends that turns into an international nightmare.

He speaks to Ted Poe, a radical judge in America that hands out shaming as punishment. He claims it radically lowers re-offending rates. Ronson doesn’t say whether that is the case or not, but it would be interesting to know.

He also explores the world of kinky sex. He goes to Public Disgrace and meets Princess Donna from He interviews Max Mosley, Formula One big wig caught in a sex scandal, and tries to understand how we got away with his reputation intact. Perhaps because he refused to be shamed? Or perhaps because that is culturally accepted behaviour for a man.

Ultimately Ronson concludes that public shaming might not be the way forward. It gives power back to the people. They can do something. However, all too often the victim is a hapless individual rather than a legitimate target.




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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 9th, 2015 at 10:30 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.