“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson is one of the first books in its category that explores cancel culture. It was published about 7 years ago and obviously, a lot has changed since then but I still found the exploration interesting.
In the book, Ronson goes from reviewing popular cases of public shaming such as the one with Justine Sacco to how public shame got developed into the form that it exists today. He explores the topics of Twitter cancel culture and what effects it has on the lives of individuals, what mass shaming means and who is responsible for the effects of it. Personally, I think to cancel culture is an interesting phenomenon. It gives anyone the power on the internet to make things viral and shame someone, but it removes the responsibility of that person to see what effects their actions have on others. This is in a way similar to when a kid would hit another kid in school and see their reaction crying, they would then know that what they do is hurtful. But when that same kid would post a hurtful comment online, would they see the effects it has on another child? This is a dilemma that I think we will be living with in the next centuries.
There are also obviously good parts of cancel culture such as exposing the unethical behavior of some big corporations or exposing those who committed sexual abuse and such. However, I feel that we are walking a thin line and there is still much to do to figure out how to keep the balance between the two.
Was he right? It felt like a question that really needed to be answered because it did not seem to be crossing any of our minds to wonder whether whichever person he had just shamed was OK or in ruins. I suppose that 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.
‘The justice system in the West has a lot of problems,’ Poe said, ‘but at least there are rules. You have basic rights as the accused. You have your day in court. You don’t have any rights when you are accused on the Internet. And the consequences are worse. It’s worldwide forever’.
‘The tech-utopians like the people in Wired present this as a new kind of democracy,’ Adam’s email continued. ‘It isn’t. It’s the opposite. It locks people off in the world they started with and prevents them from finding out anything different. They got trapped in the system of feedback reinforcement. The idea that there is another world of other people who have other ideas is marginalized in our lives.’
Overall, this was an interesting exploration and I feel like I got a good glimpse into a subject, although I found the book not very well organized structurally. I generally recommend it to widen your views but don’t read it if you find yourself distracted but messy structure!