‘Shame is a soul eating emotion’
In his latest book Jon Ronson delivers a superb cautionary tale that is at once hilarious and terrifying. I can also guarantee that you will not get more than a few chapters in before reaching for the keyboard to see what incriminating skeletons you may have lurking in the depths of your online closet.
In Shamed Ronson attempts to answer the question that I believe we have all asked ourselves at one point or another when we have posted a slightly questionable tweet or a mildly inappropriate Facebook status; ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’
Through a series of conversations and interviews Ronson not only sheds light on some of the most high profile shaming cases in recent years, but also analyses what he describes as a ‘great renaissance of public shaming’, bought about by the accessibility and mass reach of social media.
If I could give you one piece of advice before reading this book it would be that you leave any preconceptions you may have at the door. Sure, we have all heard about Justine Sacco since she became public enemy number one after posting a very controversial tweet. We may be under the impression that she got what she deserved, hell we may have even been part of the mob that gave her what for. But when Ronson sits down and discusses the impacts these shamings have had on some of these people, you may start asking yourself some uncomfortable, introspective questions. As Ronson himself puts it ‘Justine Sacco felt like the first person I had ever interviewed who had been destroyed by us‘.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a light-hearted element to Shamed. Ronson, who is most well known for documenting the U.S. Army’s exploration of paranormal military applications and investigating the conspiracy theories surrounding who really governs our world, manages to delve into the quite serious issues of harassment and public shaming whilst all the while writing with the same humorous, award winning flair that has made him a household name.
It’s this sharp style that makes Shamed read like a cross between a techno thriller and a Louis Theroux documentary. We are allowed to feel sympathy and sadness when the likes of Adria Richards discuss the death threats and isolation she has suffered. But we can also allow ourselves a wry smile every now and again whenever Ronson recounts his time spent on a Kink pornography shoot, or his dealings with the eccentric Jim McGreevy.
In short, Shamed is a wonderful read. If you’re already a Ronson fan then there is no need for me to tell you to get this book. You already have. But for those of you who have never read a Ronson, then I implore you; this is a great place to start. Especially those among you who have never questioned just how far in hot water a simple Tweet could land you. You never know, this book could just save your life.
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