• Tanvir Shahjahan

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

Being publicly shamed isn't something that has happened to myself, it has happened to people I know and different people have taken it differently. Ronson's book gave me a new insight I wish I had before I created my video on Public Outrage. The book focuses on the following two questions:

  1. What happens to a person after they experience online shaming?

  2. Why does the internet rush to partake in the process of tearing a person down?

The book follows Ronson as he speaks to people that have been shamed online. Two of the people he spoke to are Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone. Sacco received hate online due to a tweet that was seen as racist regarding a trip to Africa, and Stone received her portion after mocking a “Silence and Respect” sign at a cemetary.

Ronson was of the thought that the offences these "targets" committed were not of enough severity to receive the outrage they did. Targets tend to lose their jobs, develop problems in their personal lives and in some cases isolate themselves in their homes. Ronson has a unique ability that allows him to represent these targets as three-dimensional characters who have had any hope of a normal private life for a small wrongdoing.

Ronson discovered the work of Bryce Tom of Metal Rabbit Media. The company specialises in reputation management, they create fake websites to help promote positive image of clients that had created for themselves a bad image. Stone hired another similar reputation management; Michael Fertik. Fertik was hired to help create a better online presence for Stone as she wished to keep her employers in the dark about her misdemeanour. There is a specific moment I recall is when Fertik lowers the search-ability of the the infamous image that brought her under the spotlight.

The book was a very interesting read and I would recommend it however it does have its shortcomings. Ronson isn't able to come to a conclusion of why the online shaming and outrage takes place, in my opinion it's due to the anonymity that comes with online comments as well as the new age of PC where a lot of people are highly concerned about what other people think of them and therefore they find themselves trying to uphold a their "great values" as a positive member of society without taking into concideration other variables. There is a feeling of incompletion in the book and I feel like if the author increased more of the individuals journeys of rising back up after their misdemeanours.

Another thing that struck me as off was the number of slightly self serving insertions as well as the authors promotions of his other book “The Psychopath Test” (which I will probably read also).

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