So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

by

Jon Ronson

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Themes

Themes and Colors
Good, Evil, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Shame and Social Media Theme Icon
Cycles of Shame, Trauma, and Violence Theme Icon
Shame, Freedom of Speech, and Public Discourse Theme Icon
Shame and Gender Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Good, Evil, and Inhumanity

Public shamings in the United States trace back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when people who transgressed against the laws or norms of their communities were publicly punished for their crimes. In writing So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, author Jon Ronson traces how contemporary public internet shamings echo the brutality and inhumanity of public shamings of yore. While conducting research on social media shamings that took place throughout the early 2010s, Ronson found…

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Shame and Social Media

Throughout So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, journalist Jon Ronson pays careful attention to how the internet has become the new public square—and how Twitter dogpiles and viral articles are the new public lashings. Public shaming was once a careful, nuanced “process” that was carried out by courts and churches in response to a moral or legal transgression. For instance, if someone committed adultery, they and their lover would be whipped in the public square…

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Cycles of Shame, Trauma, and Violence

At a pivotal point in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, author Jon Ronson describes a study conducted by psychologist James Gilligan, who worked with inmates at a Massachusetts prison in the 1970s. “Universal among the violent criminals was the fact that they were keeping a secret, […] and that secret was that they felt ashamed.” Here, Gilligan links the experience of intense, “chronic” shame—often the result of trauma—to the desire to enact violence…

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Shame, Freedom of Speech, and Public Discourse

Jon Ronson believes that human beings, as a rule, are living, breathing “gray areas.” In other words, Ronson feels that no one is perfect, and that everyone is constantly in the process of trying new things, exploring different kinds of views, making mistakes, and figuring out new things about themselves and others. Public discourse, Ronson believes, should reflect the messiness of the human experience. But social media’s instantaneous and frequently text-based nature tends to flatten…

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Shame and Gender

When it comes to public shamings, men and women aren’t treated the same. As one of the book’s interviewees says, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them.” In 17th and 18th century America, women were subjected to public punishments just as brutal as the ones men faced—but now, in the contemporary era, it seems to Jon Ronson that women are even more heavily scrutinized…

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