cover image So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Jon Ronson. Riverhead, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59448-713-2

Bestselling author Ronson (The Psychopath Test) ruminates on high-profile shaming in the social-media age in this witty work. He interviews disgraced pop-science author Jonah Lehrer, fresh off a hellish apology tour, and the remorseful journalist who outed Lehrer as a plagiarist. PR executive Justine Sacco reflects on her own life, left in ruins after a single ill-conceived tweet, and elsewhere Ronson recounts how an inappropriate comment at a tech convention devolved into bedlam, with online threats of rape and death. For historical perspective, Ronson goes into 19th-century stockades, public whippings, and the theory of “group madness” popularized by Gustave LeBon, inspiration for the controversial Stanford Prison Experiments, in which ordinary students were transformed into sadistic guards. Ronson’s explorations also take him to an S&M sex club, a ridiculous “shame-eradication workshop,” and a therapy program for incarcerated women run by former New Jersey governor James McGreevey. Ronson is self-reflective and honest about his own complicity in the cultural piling-on he observes, recalling a spite-fueled campaign he orchestrated via Twitter against a journalist. Clever and thought-provoking, this book has the potential to open an important dialogue about faux moral posturing online and its potentially disastrous consequences. Agent: Natasha Fairweather, United Agents. (Mar.)