“So, you’ve been publicly shamed?”
Disney cruise scandals, assisted suicide practitioners, and robots with programmed personalities are just a few of the extraordinary stories Jon Ronson unfolds in his compilation of non-fiction essays, Lost at Sea (2012). Non-fiction stories that take me through an experience I’ve never had nor could have are my favorite, especially when written from a bluntly honest perspective. Sense of humor is a great addition too, when appropriate.
Somehow Jon Ronson has been able to gain access to areas many journalists wouldn’t be welcome. It may be due to the way he portrays people in an honest light and speaks of them without judgment. He explores realms many people may be unaware exists, places we may feel scared or uncomfortable to go. But that’s why I love his writing.
He gets me thinking about the world differently and asking questions I’ve never considered. After reading The Psychopath Test (2012) I was almost convinced a large portion of people in powerful positions were sociopaths or on the psychopath spectrum. I’ll never forget the chapter “The right kind of madness,” where TV producers of some well-known “trash” talk shows admit they bring on mentally ill people. Apparently unstable people make the best T.V. There’s an actual hotline that potential guests call and the winning characteristic was the type of medication they were on. Bipolar meds is where the line got drawn. Some line.
For many writers it is a shared dream to change or inspire someone’s thoughts with their own creative words. It is for the above reasons that my most anticipated book of 2015 is Jon Ronson’s next work of non-fiction, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, out March 31. Apparently Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of the shamed for the last three years gaining perspectives from victims, culprits, and innocent bystanders.
Public shaming has almost weaved its way unnoticeably into American society with the way it has become natural to tear down people’s flaws through channels like Twitter. If you actually thought about it, how many of the statuses on your social media feeds are talking down or judging someone else and/or their actions? Ronson explores this part of our world as a form of social control. Our society has become so particular about what is acceptable, that anyone who chooses to step outside those boundaries gets ripped a new one. One of the worst parts is that millions of complete strangers join in on the “fun.”
I mentioned what draws me to Ronson as a writer is his ability to write without judgment about people we may feel deserve to be judged. His books are well-rounded because he gives everyone a chance to speak their truth, people who are psychopaths and have committed murder, people who have potentially covered up a death of a young woman, people who prey on the mentally disturbed. It appears his tactics stay in this new book as he gets to know those who have shamed, been shamed, and done nothing to help.
A lot of us are probably guilty of posting something negative on social media or gossiping about something negative regarding someone else. There might be a new person to poke fun at the next day, but how many of us wonder if the spectacle from yesterday moved on? How are they handling it? Our society has a way of dehumanizing those in the public despite them making very human mistakes. I don’t know how many of the subjects in this new book will be famous, but whether they’re public figures or not, social media as a form of public shaming has skyrocketed.
I can’t wait to see the subjects he’s chosen and what insights he’s gained from all those involved in these situations. While it is something constantly happening around us, a conversation about it is not. I look forward to hearing the voices of those who may have never been given that option. Who else would actually give the Insane Clown Posse a chance to explain their music actually preaches Christianity. No, seriously, they told Ronson in that this lyric contains hidden messages of God,
“Hey, what’s up motherfucker,
This is Shaggs 2 Dope,
Congratulating you on opening the box,
It looks like you received your first prize
The cost, what it cost, was your ASS,
Honestly, Lost at Sea is worth reading just for that story. It will either blow your mind, leave you scratching your head or both. But that’s why Jon Ronson is great. It is becoming more rare that I find books I can’t wait to pick up again. My list of authors whose work I anticipate is very small. You are sure to have your world rocked by indulging in some of his work.