So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

by

Jon Ronson

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jon Ronson's So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson was born in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, and lived there for most of his youth before moving to London to study media. A journalist who frequently weaves his own voice and experiences into his narratives, Ronson has written books on a wide-ranging series of topics, from religious extremism and conspiracy theories to the psychology of psychopathy to how social media impacts contemporary life. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and to the NPR program This American Life. Ronson’s work has frequently been adapted for the screen—the 2014 movie Frank and the 2009 film The Men Who Stare at Goats are based on his books. Ronson is also the co-writer of the screenplay for the 2017 movie Okja. Ronson lives in Upstate New York with his family—he is a dual citizen of the U.S. and the U.K.
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Historical Context of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed was written between 2013 and 2015, and it mentions (or covers in-depth) many real-world and social media scandals, as well as political and human rights issues that are still relevant today. The social media shamings of Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone are two of the social media snafus Ronson covers—but he also ties these women’s stories in with larger narratives about power and who gets to be the arbiter of shame in the modern world. The book discusses Mike Hubacek’s 1996 drunk driving case in Houston, Texas; the 2013 discovery of a brothel being run out of a Zumba studio in Maine; and the 2012 scandal that rocked the New York media world: the discovery of journalist Jonah Lehrer’s long history of plagiarizing or fabricating his work.

Other Books Related to So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Many of Jon Ronson’s other books (such as Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry) see Ronson essentially become a character in his own story. Other famous works of journalism that are written in this way include Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and the work of journalists Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is also a unique piece of journalism in that it reckons with how social media is changing the ways that people talk to and interact with each other. Other recent titles that examine social media include Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine and Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal. Jon Ronson also invokes Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic story of shame in a small Puritan town, The Scarlet Letter, throughout the book.
Key Facts about So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
  • Full Title: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
  • When Written: Roughly between 2013 and 2015
  • When Published: March 31, 2015
  • Literary Period: Contemporary journalism
  • Genre: Nonfiction, reportage, cultural criticism
  • Setting: London, England; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Kennebunk, ME; New Jersey
  • Climax: A media firm specializing in reputation management helps Lindsey Stone beat Google’s algorithm and suppress the negative search results associated with her name
  • Antagonist: Shame
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Policies in Place. Since 2015, when Ronson’s book was published, Twitter and many other social media sites have taken measures against hateful language and threats of violence. The internet’s role in contemporary free speech is always a fraught one, but many activists and experts have begun to examine more closely the relationship between online hate speech and real-world violence.