Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Book review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (2015)

I bought this at a St Vincent de Paul’s opportunity shop having just left a meeting and it cost $5.

This study of reputation as it is constituted in the public sphere in the developed world was well worth the price paid to buy. It’s a fabulous account of online culture and came well before its time (see publication date). 

In his fun and well-written book, Ronson tries to come to grips with the democritisation of speech in the internet age, where pile-ons are the dark flip-side of its ubiquity. The dark lining of a silver ear. I totally got his appeal to the reader’s better nature. He tries very hard to pin down the issues raised by the cases of reputational damage he chronicles.

I’ve written on this blog at length about the public sphere, so readers will be familiar with the issues Ronson grapples with if they sample my jouettes. Ronson does the same thing but with a few more concrete cases. I would have liked more exposure of the perpetrators of the kind of malicious commentary that passes for political speech in countries where the ability to say out loud about politics what you really think is not questioned by authorities. 

People often, as Ronson points out, abuse the privileges they possess. 

The fact that this fabulous book was given to a charity is illustrative of our collective priorities. I certainly won’t be giving it away – unless it’s to a friend to borrow and read.

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