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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

How Our Mistakes Are Costlier And More Public Than Ever

By Jon Ronson
13-minute read
Audio available
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (2015) looks into the terrifying nature of online public shaming. Tracing it back to its historical roots, the book details the motivations behind modern public shaming and offers tips on what to do if you find yourself at the center of a public shaming scandal.

  • People astonished by the brutality of online public shamings
  • Psychology enthusiasts
  • Those wanting to learn about how technology affects our behavior

Jon Ronson is an award-winning author, journalist and documentary maker who has contributed to The Guardian, Time Out Magazine, BBC Television and Channel 4. He has written nine books, including the best-selling novel The Men Who Stare at Goats.

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

By Jon Ronson
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Synopsis

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (2015) looks into the terrifying nature of online public shaming. Tracing it back to its historical roots, the book details the motivations behind modern public shaming and offers tips on what to do if you find yourself at the center of a public shaming scandal.

Key idea 1 of 8

Public shaming has been a common punishment for centuries – and it’s seeing a renaissance in the online community.

If you’ve ever seen one of Europe’s many medieval torture chambers, you were surely surprised to discover that, while many torture devices were indeed designed to inflict severe physical pain, others were designed with the express purpose of embarrassing and publicly humiliating their victims.

Though they left much of their old lives behind, Europeans settling in the New World didn’t abandon the practice of public shaming.

Indeed, public shaming was a common but dreaded punishment in North America during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Puritan settlers, for example, had a penchant for punishing transgressors with public whippings. Newspapers of the time featured accounts of the whippings, relishing in the gruesome details, such as how violently the victim squirmed.

For instance, in 1742, a married woman and her gallant were accused of adultery, and subsequently sentenced to lashes at the public whipping post. The woman, instead of asking not to be whipped at all, pleaded for a private whipping in order to spare her children the mortification.  

Public shaming faced opposition in the North American colonies, and was eventually abolished.  

Benjamin Rush, one of the United States’ Founding Fathers, called for the abolition of public shaming in 1787, on the tail of an already growing opposition to the practice. By 1839, public punishments were abolished in all states with the exception of Delaware.

According to the author, opposition to public punishment wasn’t due to an observed ineffectiveness, but because it was perceived as especially brutal.

Today, public shaming is experiencing a renaissance in global online communities. Seemingly small infractions, such as a silly yet tasteless Facebook photo posted by charity worker Lindsey Stone in 2012, elicit extreme public reactions.

Her photo showed her pretending to shout and swear next to the “Silence and Respect” sign at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This trivial act brought forth an army of 30,000 people requesting her termination. Another 3,000 signed a petition demanding the same.

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