So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Quotes I enjoyed:

Michael was traumatized by what he had done. When he’d said to me, “don’t ever do it “– never pressed send on a story that would destroy someone – that wasn’t a figure of speech. He meant it. (29)

Jonah was being punished on Twitter because he was perceived to have misused his privilege, but he was on the floor then, and people were still kicking, and congratulating themselves for punching up. (48)

A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama? I think our natural disposition as humans is to plot along until we get old and stop. But 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? (79)

Whatever that pleasurable rush that overwhelms us is – group madness or something else – nobody wants to ruin it by facing the fact that it comes with a cost. (80)

I suppose it’s no surprise that we feel the need to dehumanize the people we hurt – before, during, or after the hurting occurs. But it always comes as a surprise. In psychology it’s known as cognitive dissonance. It’s the idea that it feels stressful and painful for us to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time (like the idea that were kind people and the idea that we just destroyed someone). And so to ease the pain we create a illusory ways to justify are contradictory behavior. (81)

They said it was no coincidence that public shaming had enjoyed such a renaissance in Mao’s China and Hitler’s Germany and the Ku Klux Klan’s America – it destroys souls, brutalizing everyone, the onlookers included, dehumanizing them as much as the person being shamed. (84)

“I have put my share of folks in the penitentiary. 66% of them go back to prison. 85% of those people we publicly shamed we never saw again. It was too embarrassing for them the first time. It wasn’t theater of the absurd, it was theater of the effective. It worked.” (86)

A smart orator could, if he knew the tricks, hypnotize the crowd into acquiescence or whip it up to do his bidding. LeBon listed his tricks: “a crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. Exaggerate, firm, resort to repetition, and never attempt to prove anything by reasoning.” (97)

We were creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland. (266)

I, personally, no longer take part in the ecstatic public condemnation committed a transgression that has an actual victim, and even then not as much as I probably should. I missed the fun a little. But it feels like when I became a vegetarian. I miss the stake, although not as much as I’d anticipated, but I could no longer ignore the slaughterhouse. (275)

We see your self as a nonconformist, but I think all of this is creating a more conformist, conservative age. “Look!”. “We are normal! This is average!” We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart people outside of it. (281)

The cure for shame is empathy (283)

If soon as I wrote that we were the ones abusing our power- categorizing others on the scantest of evidence -people were saying that I must be racist too. (289)

Maybe there are two types of people in the world: those who favor humans over ideology, and those who favor ideology over humans. I prefer humans to ideology, but right now, ideologues are winning, and they’re creating a stage for constant artificial high dramas, where everyone is either a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. We can lead good, ethical lives, but some bad phraseology in Tweet can overwhelm it – even though we know that’s not how we should define our fellow humans. What’s true about our fellow humans is that we are clever and stupid. We are gray areas. And so, unpleasant as it will surely be for you, when you see an unfair or an ambiguous shaming unfold, speak up on behalf of the shamed person. A babble of opposing voices-that’s democracy. The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to the voiceless people. Let’s not turn it into a world where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless. (309-310) (less)

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so-youve-been-publicly-shamed-by-jon-ronsonA book that pulls you in, and begs for you to find empathy.