We’re trying out lots of different topics for our Grammatical Art blog, so I’m bringing you a book reivew. That’s right, the resident librarian is talking about books. How could I not?
Though Jon Ronson is most known for The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, I was originally introduced to him through his collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries. The title essay is about people going missing from cruise ships and it haunts me to this day.
In Ronson’s latest, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he explores recent, public, often ruthless shamings, many of which you probably saw on Twitter or heard people weighing in.
Ronson sets out to interview the subjects of the shaming, uncovering the stories from their point of view. Sometimes, it seems they may have been rightfully judged by society at large (as was the case of Jonah Lehrer who was outed as a plagiarist), but that’s not really Ronson’s point. He shows us how they’ve handled their ridicule, their intentions, and how they got caught up in their situation.
He also talks with Justine Sacco who tweeted before boarding a flight to South Africa, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” When she landed, she was branded a racist and her life has been forever altered. It’s interesting to consider what happened to her post-tweet and the price she paid. Most of us read or heard about the tweet, rolled our eyes, muttered “Racist,” and moved on.
Then there’s the story of Adria Richards who tweeted a photo and called out two males at a tech conference she was attending who were making jokes about dongles (use your imagination there). They all lost their jobs (yes, including Richards), but how it ultimately shook out might surprise you. I found the story complicated and fascinating, and can remember getting into a heated discussion about it with a group of friends. Was she right to post a picture of total strangers without their permission? Did the men have a right to talk and joke about whatever they wanted when they thought they were having a private conversation? Did she have the right to not be subjected to dongle jokes while at a work conference?
Overall, Ronson digs into these so-called public shamings in a way that makes his book a fast, surprisingly compelling read. When you stop to think about the fact that literal public shamings were banned back in the days of old because they were considered a more severe punishment than even jail, it makes public shaming the age of Twitter, Facebook, and gorilla mom feel a lot different. A great, quick read for a trip on a plane or poolside this summer.
Don’t forget you can borrow books, audiobooks, and ebooks for free from your local library. Click here to find the book at a library close to you!