This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" by Jon Ronson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson discusses the psychology of humiliation and the use of shame as punishment. The following So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed quotes highlight some of his key ideas about the psychology of public shaming.
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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: Quotes by Jon Ronson
“Shame internalized can lead to agony.”
The first of the quotes from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is about shame as an emotion. Shame is a very painful, even agonizing emotion. Additionally, even just the threat of shaming negatively affects people—some people are so scared of being shamed that they worry about being surveilled and tone down their personalities to avoid attracting attention.
“A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama?”
Some people argue that online shaming is just commentary because it can’t hand down “real” punishment. However, making people feel ashamed is one of the worst psychological punishments out there. Online shaming often destroys people’s lives: victims lose their reputation, jobs, friends, and family, sometimes forever.
“As soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed,” he said, “the whole thing crumbles.”
Refusing to be affected by shame is one of the most effective strategies of dealing with shameful feelings. To learn more about this approach, Ronson spoke to porn stars, who have to learn to manage shame because their industry is associated with it. Ronson interviewed Princess Donna Dolore, who said that if she publicly shared the things that embarrassed her, they were no longer embarrassing. One of her models, Jody Taylor, feels the same—she thinks that fiction, by nature, can’t be frightening or humiliating, so instead, the porn scenarios she performs are “awesome.”
Dolore’s goal is to make people feel less ashamed of what they want, and her work to demystify strange sex is probably part of the reason that fewer men are shamed for sex scandals these days.
“When shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes, nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be. The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche.”
In this quote, Ronson is disucssing the insidiousness of online shaming. Online shaming differs from old forms of public shaming because it’s democratic, lawless, and anonymous. Anyone can choose a target, and unlike a formal justice system where the accused has rights, online, no one has any rights. People can be punished without evidence and there’s no time limit on the punishment.
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Here's what you'll find in our full So You've Been Publicly Shamed summary:
- How public shaming can ruin people's lives
- Why public shaming isn't just a way to get corporations to do the "right thing"
- 6 strategies you can use if you're a victim of public shaming