• So You've Been Publicly Shamed

  • By: Jon Ronson
  • Narrated by: Jon Ronson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (5,837 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame.

'It's about the terror, isn't it?' 'The terror of what?' I said. 'The terror of being found out.'

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us - people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people's faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws - and the very scary part we all play in it.

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of two bestsellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, and two collections, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness and What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness. He lives in London.

©2015 Jon Ronson (P)2015 Audible Ltd

Editor's Pick

A difficult listen for difficult people
"I love listens that take difficult, socially charged subjects head-on and investigate them without bias, and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed might be the best of them. I generally find myself occupying the gray space of social issues—more interested in the effect of a given belief than the belief itself—so Ronson’s study of so-called "cancel culture" speaks to me in a way that makes me feel a little less alone in a world that seems set on defending one side of an issue at any cost."
Sean T., Audible Editor

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We live in fear of one another

In the six years since Jon wrote and recorded this, this kind of public shaming has become so common that I couldn't pick out the Six Most Memorable Cancels if you asked me. So many people have been forgotten about as we have begun treating the rich and famous less like humans and more like our own entertainment slaves. On Twitter there is a massive role reversal between celebrities and the 1%: we are granted the all-power and they are made to walk a high wire and juggle and smile at the same time, without making a mistake or forgetting their place, lest they suffer our hatred.

I remember when people were angry and reviled by celebrities singing "Imagine" to us last year. Angry because they do not sing well, because they live in bigger houses than ours, because somehow their wealth and connections mean they are not scared and are not human like we are. Because only the poor people, the 99% of us, could really understand an invisible disease. Because only our lives and children matter.

I seemed to be the only one amongst my friends who was horrified by the callousness of the response. Why did so many of us seem to forget that they're dumb people just like we are, and make mistakes just like we do? This wasn't even done with malice, as had Weinstein's assault had been done. But the outrage managed to top the news for at least those initial few days, and you'd be forgiven if you saw the responses and wondered if someone had died or went deaf as a result of this terrible video, based on its reactions. Three years past the beginning of the #MeToo movement had left us attack dogs.

I wonder if Jon still feels this way about public shaming. I admit after his TED talk, which I heard this morning for the first time, I scrolled through his feed to check for any shaming he might have partaken in. Old habits die hard. I'm still curious about people's failings, or potential failings, that I'm willing to weaponize Twitter to check up on people, before I realize it.

He mentions the fact that actual public shaming were not discontinued because it was ineffective after the rise of cities and the anonymity they provide--but because they were TOO effective. In this sense, Twitter is the same. The internet was supposed to be a great equalizer in its anonymity, but only those of us without fame or fortune are afforded the protection of anonymity--the very people who need it least. The more important you become, the more scrutinized you become. This is how it has always been, but social media is allowing us to follow everyone's every move and bully them into "better behavior". They can't disappear in a city crowd and lose the attention, it is always on their person.

We don't have to forgive or even like these people, but we need to remember they ARE people.

EDIT I see plenty of people feel the need to give this two stars because they misinterpreted the title as a self help book, to which I ask, Why did you not read the summary of the book before buying it? Or, did you not listen to the entire book? Because there ARE a few chapters that look at what "normal people" can possibly do to become immune to shame.

As for you people who think you are better than these people who were shamed, and think they deserved it in this book whereas you and other "normal people" are actually "innocent", I refer you to his book about psychopaths. Because if you ACTUALLY listened to his whole book and somehow still came away feeling holier-than-thou about shaming, you are a cold and unfeeling person and you terrify me.

8 people found this helpful

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You'll never look at public shaming the same way

I expected this book to be a bit more light hearted, like a retrospective and sympathetic look at old memes like the Rebecca Blacks and Light Saber Ninja meme kids who the Internet turned into jokes. Instead Ronson takes the reader to the darkest levels of public shaming and forces us to see how we are all part of this modern epidemic of social media shaming. He focuses in on the way shame destroys people on such a fundamental level and how difficult it is to recover from being publicly shamed. My biggest complaint is probably the books length, I'm left wondering about so many people in the book and how their stores unfold, I also wish there were more explorations on shame as it effects physical wellbeing. Like all of Ronson's books it is a compilation of people's stories and experiences that are all centered around a single theme, but I feel in this instance there are so many more stories that could've been tied in. Regardless, I found it very intriguing, and entertaining (and I now feel ashamed for finding a book about shaming people entertaining...). Ronson's narration is fantastic as well.

76 people found this helpful

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So glad somebody took on this topic

As I write this, I note that this week’s public shaming is “permit Patty.” Poor woman lost her job as CEO of her own company over a confrontation regarding bottled water and noise. I’m so glad that an author has taken in this subject. He does a wonderful job of exploring how society is using the power of social media and how as a group, society may be going a bit overboard in its reactions to infractions of civil rules.

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Haters Gonna Hate - then tweet, post...


There is embarrassment: walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe; then there is Shame... "the quintessential human emotion," says psychologist Michael Lewis, Ph.D. Shame tells you there is something wrong with you; you are flawed before the view of a judgmental world; a failure. It erodes your self-esteem and confidence. Even Sarte wrote that shame is "the most dreaded emotional experience."

Ronson gives us a look at the growing phenomenon of humans wielding their autonomy via the internet and social media to take a giant step beyond bullying. Telling the stories of a few individuals involved in some public scandals, he shows the effects of public shaming on the individual victims, their families, even new professions that have sprung up to deal with these cyber bullies. The accounts of the victims are candid and discernible as they relate the sense of embarrassment, guilt, and isolation they felt with such manipulated public exposure. These were events that happened on a big scale. It's the little oopsie moments that we all mindlessly fall into that were most frightening. An iPhone shot just clowning around that goes viral and winds up on the boss's desk, a comment taken not quite but almost out of context...a celebrity choosing to go out in black face for Halloween. The impact of *harmless* actions poorly thought out, if at all. How close we've all come to being fodder for the cyber bully or Shamer, trolling around waiting for the kill.

Ronson is an author that connects to the reader by giving you good information that is also entertaining and relevant. He knows how to make those moments of shock hit, and how to engage personal inventory, "Am I a Psychopath, is my neighbor?" And he can be funny, writing about military psychics that stare down goats, or conspiracy theorists. There's not much humor here, but he sticks his point with the same liveliness. It's an eye-opening look that forces you to think. Is the world becoming more hostile, and what are the ramifications. I would have liked more conversation with the Shamers, but how likely are we to listen -- beyond such actions.

Remembering Ryan's Daughter standing before the townsfolk with her shorn hair, tarred and feathered, and Hester Prynn with her scarlet "A" embroidered on her wardrobe, or even the stockades in the town square -- shaming is not new. But Ronson paints it neon, helping us realize that we have never had such a capacity to destroy another person as we do now.


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horrible shallow and pedantic

highlights everything wrong with society but doesn't really do it in a cool way that pushes us to change our minds it's just stupid.

8 people found this helpful

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The Crowd Can Be Vicious

The only reason this isn't a full-on 5-star review is because Jon Ronson, damn him, believes in brevity, I guess! I could have listened to many hours more of this subject as reported with his insight and pathos, as delivered in his own neurotic style (He yells, he shrieks, he staggers!).
This all starts for Ronson when he feels personally violated by a spambot that has been given "his" identity and a Jon Ronson twitter account. Ronson then feels the savage thrill when the crowd supports him in having the spambot removed from the twitter sphere (tho' he does get a bit worried with some of the responses supporting him. He worries people might get hurt...)
And people do get hurt. Not in his case. But in the other public shamings (which have taken place since all the men in America were named Nathaniel). Some people bring it on themselves: self-playgiarism/bad or made up facts. Others have made jokes that they later really, really, REALLY regret.
Because the world is huge out there, and people are looking. Looking hard. The cruelty, the vindictiveness with which they go after others—they've smelled blood in the water and they won't stop the churning until lives are destroyed.
This is a wonderful, wonderful book and as usual Jon Ronson brings the right amount of humor and self-deprecating hubris with him as he walks with these people, even helps them as they try to rebuild their lives.
Definitely credit-worthy, and you will never, ever tweet or blog or Facebook... or plagiarize so blithely again...

30 people found this helpful

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The Mob Mentality

Jon Ronson books are typically a collection of amusing anecdotes about the lunatic fringe or bizarre situations. This book has a more sinister edge as it delves into the mire of the internet mob mentality. The narration is delivered with the usual seemingly naive earnestness that Jon is known for but in this book there is a sympathy for the victims of public shaming and disgust for the perpetrators that he seems honour bound to step back from straddling the line of journalistic objectivity.
The stories here stir you up as you hear of people's lives being ruined by the fury of an Internet of pathetic people hiding behind a keyboard. The subject of the first story probably deserved his shaming but stories of some of the poor people that follow make you sick as a private conversation or failed attempt at a joke goes viral and their lives and careers are permanently changed.
Does the Internet champion free speech or is it just a mouthpiece for cheap speech?

20 people found this helpful

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Pillories for the 21st Century

Shaming--a practice that was abandoned by the judicial system as being overly cruel, has been re-invented by modern social media and in a form that makes the stocks of our ancestors look like child's play. We may think we have come a long way from the days when we picnicked and partied at public hangings, but that is far from the case as we revel in another's destruction, often with far less justification for our outrage at the misdeeds of the perceived wrongdoer.

Inspired by a personal experience of his own, Ronson turns his unique talents to the modern phenomenon of shaming through social media. Once again, he challenges us to confront the question of who we are as individuals and as a society, in this case as demonstrated by the fact that we are evidently compelled to vilify and even destroy in the public eye those who have committed a wrong (not a crime)--either real or perceived. While Ronson offers few explanations as to why we are driven to publicly condemn these individuals often in the most stunningly virulent and misogynistic terms, he does look at the impact this has on the lives of those who are the objects of this outpouring of vitriol. If it is justice, it is a justice of the mob and an often unthinking and nasty justice at that.

Ronson is the best narrator of his own work. In his hands, one can't help but wonder, often with dismay, at who we really are.

15 people found this helpful

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Thought Provoking in the Day and Age of Social Media and the Internet

Another excellent book by Ronson. He has a talent for explaining psychological and sociological topics and concepts through the use of storytelling, as opposed to merely telling an audience about various concepts. His storytelling style makes for a much more engaging read, while still managing to teach the reader about the psych and/or soc topic he’s exploring and presenting.

He sprinkles a bit of humor throughout, but does so in a way that adds a bit of entertainment and levity, while avoiding downplaying or belittling the concepts he’s discussing.

His empathy towards certain people and situations in this book (not all of them deserve empathy) is yet another stylistic choice that connects the reader to the individuals being discussed. This empathy is genuine and authentic—it’s not so much a stylistic choice, as it is simply Ronson’s natural style. Making these people and situations real is one of Ronson’s greatest skills, and, again, it makes the people in this book *real* people, ones in which the audience can see pieces of themselves and/or others. It’s an element that makes Ronson’s work accessible, engaging, and thought-provoking.

This book will make you think about the both the beneficial ways and negative ways social media, other forms of 24/7 media and news, and the Internet as a whole have dramatically changed the speed at which we judge others, as well as how unforgiving our culture has become (group think plays a major role in this). Going viral can destroy a person’s life; taking someone’s actions or words out of context can be solidified as “fact,” and can cause irreversible harm to regular citizens who otherwise wouldn’t ever be in the spotlight.

Highly recommend “So You’ve Been Publicity Shamed.” Though perhaps not completely appropriate for high schoolers, it should be required reading in some way, shape, or form.

How have you contributed to cancel culture and public shaming of individuals about whom you know nothing?

2 people found this helpful

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Compelling and fair

Among the cries of cancel culture, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" shares the real tale of people who have been canceled and asks the question: why do we so desperately want to ruin the lives of strangers? I loved this. It's real without being too heavy, and it brings the theater of public shamings to sit on the couch or in the car with us.

2 people found this helpful