Haven’t Yet Read These Books On Shame? Shame On You!

Two visiting authors weigh the merits of public humiliation: Jon Ronson (bad!) and Jennifer Jacquet (good!)

By Ramona DeNies April 7, 2015

Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, out March 2015 from Picador.

Shame—so strong an emotion, a writing professor of mine once advised against even penning the word.

Well, lately that particular pearl has been thoroughly rejected by global media (booo!!!), with headlines reviving the past humiliations of Justine Sacco (whose airport AIDS tweet went viral while she was still flying to Cape Town), Lindsay Stone (who gave the bird whilst standing next to a soldier’s grave), and Monica Lewinsky—who still requires no explanatory qualifier, so profound was her 1998 coal-raking. (Below, Lewinsky draws on the experience to interview witty Brit Jon Ronson).

Why all the skeleton de-closeting? In a curiously fortuitous event of literary timing, recent months have seen new books on the topic from both Ronson (author of The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats) and New York University professor Jennifer Jacquet.

Both books are getting good reviews. Both offer dramatically different arguments on shame culture in the internet age. And this month, both authors are in town for readings at Powell’s City of Books.

Jennifer Jacquet's Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool, out February 2015 from Pantheon.

So which shame expert should you choose? We make it easy—see below. (Because, remember that time you thought Augusten Burroughs was William Burroughs and you showed up at a reading with an apple and a toy shotgun and five million people watched that viral video of you getting arrested? We don’t want that to happen again, now do we?)

IF YOU THINK THAT: Social media unleashes the dumb, craven beast within each of us, and our collective hatefulness is creating a compassionless world ruled by trolls and bigots.

THEN SEE: Jon Ronson, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, on Apr 8 at 7:30 pm 

IF YOU THINK THAT: Social media empowers the powerless, fosters a more civil society by calling out unacceptable behaviors, and raises the level of civil discourse through citizen journalism.

THEN SEE: Jennifer Jacquet, Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool on Apr 22 at 7:30 pm


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