In October 2017 I went to the Episodic conference, where Jon Ronson was one of the featured speakers. He was scheduled to go on just after the lunch break, and I was slightly late getting back in, which turned out not to be a problem, because instead of actually being at the conference, he was Skyping in to be interviewed by the moderator, Anna Higgs and the connection wasn’t working.
This was quite weird, as Ronson actually owns a home not far from the London venue where the conference was being held, but it turns out he was at his home in New York City that day. Since it hadn’t been made explicitly clear that he wouldn’t actually be in the room, I was disappointed, but not mad. Like, I didn’t even sub-tweet my dissatisfaction to the conference hashtag, or anything.
Once the Skype connection was finally established, Higgs asked him about his work: The Psychopath Test, The Butterfly Effect, and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, but “Okja” had just been released on Netflix, so a lot of the conversation was focused on that. He had some really interesting observations about his way of writing, saying he doesn’t work with an editor, and likes to “be my own fresh eyes.” He also observed that his stories often move from funny to tragic, but wonders if he could craft a story that goes the other way—from tragic to funny.
I think there might have been an attempt to do that in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The stories in this book are funny and tragic at the same time. Publicly Shamed explores the stories and experiences of, among others, Jonah Lehrer, a science writer, exposed as a plagiarist, whose public apology featured a stream of nasty tweets scrolling behind his head, Justine Sacco, who tweeted about not getting AIDS in Africa because she’s white, and Lindsay Stone, who took a selfie (fake) screaming in front of a sign asking for silence and respect at Arlington National Cemetery.
continue reading: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (bonus video of Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk on public shaming!)