So You've Been Publicly Shamed
by Jon Ronson
Riverhead, 2015 ($27.95)
Social media has brought about “a great renaissance of public shaming,” writes journalist Ronson, who tells of people whose mistakes have invited mass scorn. He interviews a woman, Justine Sacco, whose ill-considered joke about AIDS and Africa on Twitter temporarily made her the Internet's Public Enemy No. 1, as well as journalist Jonah Lehrer, who fabricated quotes and plagiarized himself—and was broadly lambasted when the truth was revealed.
Twitter, Facebook and their ilk allow a kind of “democratization of justice” with far-reaching consequences for its targets, Ronson writes. He probes why we seem to love heaping contempt on strangers and what happens to the shamed when the Internet's collective notice has moved on. In Sacco's case, for instance, she lost her job, traveled to Ethiopia for a time and is still trying to get back on her feet. The resulting book adds up to an intriguing look into the psychology of public shaming and the technology that enables it.