Andrew Cattanach dives into the deep end of Jon Ronson’s latest book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
I’ve always been a fan of Jon Ronson’s work, his penchant for exposing the strange, often unsettling, pockets of society. With So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson plays to his strengths, reporting dutifully with thick shards of humour, injecting himself into the narrative where needed. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed begins as many of Ronson’s books do, with a eureka moment, the inspiration that would lead him down the yellow brick road.
Ronson, an avid tweeter, began to notice a parody twitter handle – @jon_ronson – popping up in his feed. The account posted some tweets about food and his love of a good time, particularly of a…homoerotic nature.
Ronson contacted the creators of the account asking for its removal. They refused, calling it a social experiment, although eventually agreeing to meet Ronson in person to discuss why they were so compelled to tweet about goat’s cheese and male genitalia under his name.
Ronson recorded the interaction and posted it on YouTube with their permission, the video went viral and was met which extreme condemnation from Ronson’s fans. The creators of the twitter account, in the wake of the public shame elicited by Ronson’s video, agreed to delete the twitter account.
This jolts Ronson into the world of Public Shaming, now an everyday occurrence in the world of social media. Reflecting on his own experiences, he tracks down others who have felt the wrath of the mob.
We have Jonah Lehrer, the infamous bestselling pop psychology author, who was caught out inventing a Bob Dylan quote. PR executive Justine Sacco, who wrote a tweet while boarding a plane to South Africa about not catching AIDS because she’s white and was denounced by millions before she hit the ground. Max Mosley, the Formula One supremo outed by the News of the World for a ‘Nazi orgy’, ultimately exposing his parent’s fascist past.
These are moments in time that you will remember, even if your memory, like mine, needs a quick jolt on Google. Ronson’s investigations into these tales, those who shamed and were shamed alike, are utterly absorbing. He examines just how viable the world of extreme honesty is, itself a constant barrage of public shaming if perhaps not on quite as grand a scale.
This is Ronson at his finest. Funny, intriguing and, in some places, downright shocking. A book not to be missed.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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