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So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Critical Analysis

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Some say this day in age, jokes can be misconstrued and have a deeper meaning behind the person actually saying them. The Author Jon Ronson goes into depth with people about how they’ve handled being publicly shamed and how they’ve given public shame. Justine Sacco became victim to what it was like being publicly shamed and humiliated. Many people got involved in this case of Justine Sacco, like Sam Biddle who essentially started the trend because he shared it to 15,000 followers on his twitter. Ronson later went and visited Ted Poe a former judge of twenty plus years. Poe was famous for publicly shaming his defendants in the “showiest ways he could dream up”. This chapter introduces how fast word can travel and the mental state one goes through in a situation like this. Ronson explicitly goes to ending this chapter as how people tend to be the soldiers waiting to judge other peoples flaws.

Throughout the chapter Justine was seen as a horrible person who made a terrible joke to her hundred odd sum of followers that later blew up due to one person retweeting it. Ronson portrayed this situation really well as to what Justine was going through and the process she’s gone through after her tweets began to go viral. She was on her way to South Africa and sent a few tweets out before doing so the joke that was put on her twitter was “Weird German Dude: You’re in first class. Its 2014. Get some deodorant.-Inner monolog as I inhale BO. Thank god for pharmaceuticals. Then the layover at Heathrow: Chili -cucumber sandwiches-bad teeth. Back in London! Then the final leg: Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”(page 68) This set the tone for this part of the chapter that Ronson goes on to hear how Justine was handling the devastating lose she was going to have to endure after the shaming. Justine had landed at the airport and turned her phone back on and got a text from someone she hadn’t spoken to since high school, the text read “I’m so sorry to see what’s happening”. (page 68) As Justine was exiting the plane her phone was blowing up with hundreds of notifications of others bashing her and calling her names even as far as wishing what she tweeted about AIDS upon herself. A trending hashtag had started labeled “#HasJustineLandedYet”(page 70) and that is where thousands of twitter users were waiting for the moment she had landed to see her reaction of how they received her tweets. Three weeks had passed after the whole AIDS incident and Justine finally went and sat down with Ronson to discuss how she was doing after the fact.

Justine’s mental state was taking a toll on her as Sam Biddle a journalist from the Gawker and the one who had over 15,000 followers on twitter emailed Ronson on how he felt about the whole thing at this point Ronson is sort of confused as to why someone like Sam Biddle would find ruining someone’s life a good thing. He states in his email that “The fact she was a PR chief made it delicious”(page 78), Biddle also said that taking down a member of the “media elite” was “continuing of that in the civil rights tradition that started with Rosa Parks”.(page 78) Ronson went on to say and question why certain things happen on social media and they either become the “hero or the sickening villain”. This section Ronson goes as far as asking questions as to why this has become a part of our culture and why the need of seeing people’s downfall has become some sort of entertainment. “A life has been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama?” Sam Biddle continued in his email that he was “surprised” to see how quickly Justine was destroyed: “I never wake up and hope I get to fire someone that day- and certainly never hope to ruin anyone’s life.” (page 79) Towards the end of the email Biddle said that he had a feeling that she’d be fine eventually, if not already. Ronson later on that day had told Justine of what Biddle had said about her being fine now, she was not fine when she answered Ronson. Justine said that “I’m really suffering. I had a great career and I loved my job and it was take away from me and there was a lot of glory in that. Everybody else was very happy about that. It was incredibly traumatic. You don’t sleep. You wake up in the middle of the night forgetting where you are, You’ve got no- purpose”. (page 80) Ronson would meet Justine in a few months because she didn’t want what had happened to her to define her as a person. Overall Justine never wanted this joke she made to affect her work and her life, after all of this she felt remorseful but was still so confused as to why the backlash was so imminent when she knew herself that they were jokes. Ronson ended this part of the chapter by saying he didn’t want what he put on paper about Justine to be her story for the rest of her life.

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Connecting the dots to the next topic in the chapter of how public shaming really does and could take a toll on a person mentally. After Ronson left Justine he then goes to introduce another person Former judge Ted Poe for his odd ways of pleading his defendants with certain tasks to show others what not to do when it comes to the law. One of the defendants he had convicted was Mike Hubacek. “In 1996, Hubacek had been driving drunk at one hundred miles per hour with no headlights. He crashed into a van carrying a married couple and their nanny. The husband and the nanny were killed. Poe sentenced Hubacek to 110 days of boot camp, and to carry a sign once a month for ten years in front of high schools and bars that read I Killed Two People While Driving Drunk.(page 83) Going through something so traumatic as killing innocent people because being selfish was more important then others on that same road as this individual. Ronson went on and stated that another individual had killed a teenage girl due to the same thing that Mr. Hubacek had did and it was proved that “too psychologically torturous for other people”.(page 83) The parents of Susan Herzog sued Kevin Tunell and were “awarded $1.5 million in damages, but offered the boy a deal. They would reduce the fine to just $936 if he’d mail them a check for $1, made out in Susan’s name, every Friday for eighteen years. He gratefully accepted their offer. Years later, the boy began missing payments, and when Susan’s parents took him to court, he broke down. Every time he filled in her name, he said, the guilt would tear him apart: “It hurts too much,” he said. (page 83) Poe gave Ronson information that many people like Hubacek were “forever grateful” (page 87) for Poe and this is where Ronson shifts his judgement about him rather then expecting how he was portrayed by everyone else, and this is essentially a turning point in the chapter as to why people need to experience public shaming so others learn from many mistakes sought out by other people.

Public shaming has been around since the beginning of time and will continue until this world is long gone, but public shaming has been imbedded in todays culture as something everyone wants to jump in on. From Judge Poe and his tactics to Justine and her jokes that were harshly misconstrued in a way that it ultimately changed her life for the worse. The shaming can be seen as taking away the power from the ones whose comments or actions should be handled with accordingly. Ronson made it very clear what these interviews were like and the perspectives of how each individual feels about these things on a personal level.

Chapter 4 has made it clear on how humans view others and their thoughts and sayings. I truly agree with Ronson solely because we tend to become infatuated with bringing down others and keeping up with their every move until they become aware of what’s really going on. Shaming has brought upon a whole realm of nit picking certain things and making a bigger deal then what they really are and Ronson seems to do that very well in explaining it. Sensitivity has become more common and more accepting because someone some how can flip the script on anybody and potentially dig deeper into someone’s personal private life.

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Critical Analysis. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Critical Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Sept 30]. Available from:
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