Monday, September 28, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

4 Stars

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Most of you are probably already familiar with the concept of public shaming. Heck, we see it on Goodreads all the time. The author who chooses to get spammy or games the ratings system with sockpuppets or trolls reviews when someone dares to bash their “special snowflake” is quickly drawn and quartered by users. If you’re an American you were probably even forced to read about public shamings back in high school . . .

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(^^^^This version was sooooo much better than the original)

What you may not know is how prevalent public shaming was as a form of punishment back in the olden days. While the practice of slapping a Scarlet A on someone’s clothing went by the wayside hundreds of years ago and public airing of grievances became a practice reserved strictly for Festivus, Al Gore’s invention of the interwebs brought back public shaming in a B.I.G. way.

With today’s handy-dandy technology and the anonymity that the internet provides, the world has become full of Keyboard Commandos . . .

“With social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people. What rush was overpowering us at times like this? What were we getting out of it?”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a book that covers a handful of “shamings” and the aftershocks the publicly shamed experienced while trying to get their lives back together. It covers everything from plagiarists to stories of those with good intentions gone wrong due to made up facts and studies, but the sections I found most intriguing were those of jokes gone bad. If you have been on the internet more than a nanosecond, you’ve probably seen someone get butthurt. It’s easy to read something the wrong way when tone is absent. Thus was the case with “The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World” . . .

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and Lindsay Stone . . .

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While it’s obvious that both of the above were cases of using poor taste, both of these women’s lives were ruined leaving the author to note:

“There must have been among [their] public shamers a lot of people who chose to willfully misunderstand it for some reason.”

I agree. I mean, as distasteful as they may have been I think most people “got” both of the jokes, and while I agree it’s up to these individual’s employers to determine whether or not they want to keep these women on their payroll, I have to ask why it’s not okay for someone with less than 200 social media contacts to post something insensitive without getting flamed by millions, while Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made millions doing the same????

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(FYI: In case you are Anne live in a cave and are unfamiliar with the program, the correct answer was “NAGGERS.”)

We then flip the script in order to tackle the issue of a shaming which backfired . . .

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While Justine Sacco and Lindsay Stone clearly put themselves out on display for judgment, the two gentlemen in the previous photo did not. Not only did Adria Richards take it upon herself to publicly shame the two tech convention attendees when she happened to overhear them making a private “dongle” joke which resulted in them losing their jobs, she also ended up losing hers when she unintentionally publicly shamed herself whenever she opened her mouth . . . .

“Have you ever heard that thing, ‘men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them’?” she asked.

I told Adria that people might consider that an overblown thing to say. She had, after all, been in the middle of a tech conference with EIGHT HUNDRED bystanders.

“Sure,” Adria responded. “And those people would probably be white and they would probably be male.”

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Which led to something Richards should have really been afraid of – actual threats on her person and a DDoS attack on her company’s servers which resulted in her termination.

And that is where So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed got terrifying. While I believe Richards seriously made a mountain out of a molehill and deserved to be fired for being a public asshat, the nearly immediate response of the internet shamer to threaten a woman shaming victim with some sort of physical harm, up to and including rape, as a form of public degradation while never mentioning the same with respect to a man was nauseating.

The same can be said for the reaction to various sexcapades. A woman who makes a stupid joke (or has a differing opinion on a book) causing her shaming can expect to be called fat or a c*^t or a bad parent or told they should be genitally mutilated, but a public figure who admits to having an affair will most likely be lauded a hero once he buys his wife a fancy vacation to “rebuild their marriage” or helps her get elected as President . . .

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If you’re looking for a “smart” book that is easy to read, I highly recommend this one. Many thanks to Sam for bringing it to my attention – and for picking something we can FINALLY agree on. Now if you’d just re-read The Martian and admit that you read it wrong the first time I won’t have to gather the masses and shame you ; )

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