Hear Jon Ronson on the phenomenon of public shaming via social media. Have we come that far from the stocks in the public square? Is Twitter our new scarlet letter?
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Megan Hayes: Jon Ronson is an award winning author, documentary maker and screenwriter. He is the author of nine books including the best selling “The Psychopath Test,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” and “Them: Adventures with Extremists.” He is a regular contributor to the public radio show This American Life. His TED talk “When online shaming spirals out of control,” and his latest book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed," explores the phenomenon of public shaming, including people who have been shamed, those who have done the shaming, including Ronson himself, and ultimately the journey he took from viewing shaming as a freeing, democratizing process to viewing it as a process that reduces our society to one that is intolerant, and unaccepting of the complexities of what it means to be human.
You spent three years delving into the repercussions of people who dared to be bold. Whether they were making a joke or saying something uninformed and not very well thought out on social media before you published the book in 2015. I was thinking while I was reading it…this could just be me ...but I feel like this is even more commonplace now than it was. Do you think that’s true?
Jon Ronson: Yes. I think it’s true. I think it’s gotten worse since my book came out. There is an obligation to stand up to abusive power but abuse of power happens on social media too, even when it’s being done by nice people like us. You know, the desire to be empathetic is what leads people to do these incredibly unempathetic things. We fell in love with our awesomeness. We had awesomely created this compassionate, de-shaming, non-racist, non-misogynistic and non-homophobic world. We were so in love with it that when somebody got in the way our response was furious. So compassion and empathy quite often is propelling people to do these uncompassionate acts.