In his book on public shaming, Jon Ronson tells the tale of Justine, who was tweeting acerbic jokes to her 170 followers. She joked about the bad breath of the German man on the plane from NY. She joked about Heathrow, and finally, she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m white!”
She got on the 11 hour flight to South Africa. When the plane landed, she turned on her phone. There was a text from someone she hadn’t spoken to since high school “I’m so sorry to see what’s happening.”
She looked at it, baffled.
“And then my phone started to explode.”
As she sat on the runway at Cape Town Airport, a second text popped up: “You need to call me immediately.” It was from her best friend, Hannah. “You’re the number one worldwide trend on Twitter right now.”
Twitter members were saying she was a disgusting racist. The company she worked for tweeted “This is an outrageous, offensive comment. Employee in question currently unreachable on an intl flight.”..
Justine says that she obviously did not mean that whites don’t get AIDS. She said it was a reflexive comment on ‘white privilege’ – “on our tendency to naively imagine ourselves immune from life’s horrors”.
But in hotels she was booked at in South Africa, employees were threatening to go on strike.
She was fired from the job she loved. “Everybody else was very happy about that”
This story is interesting from several points of view. There are other people in the book who also made an ill-advised joke, including a woman whose idea of a joke was posing next to signs and making satirical poses. Unfortunately, she made a very disrespectful pose next to a sign that said to show respect at the Arlington National Cemetery where soldiers are buried.
An understandable tsunami of invective came through the internet in response to that poor woman. The belief behind the invective was that she was making fun of men who fought and often died for the U.S.A. In my view this woman was just making a dumb joke, and veterans did not cross her mind – she had just found another sign to add to her collection.
Interestingly, another woman was mercilessly punished on the social media for getting two men in trouble who had made a tasteless computer joke that had sexual innuendo in it. In that case, people thought the joke was – a joke.
Another interesting aspect is showed by Jon in his chapter on the town of Kennebunk in Maine. There was an exercise studio in town, on a quaint downtown street, that provided more than fitness training. The owner, Alexis Wright, was running a one-woman brothel with up to 150 clients. She was also secretly videotaping them.
The York paper started publishing the names of clients – sixty-eight men and one woman. One man was a pastor at the Church of the Nazarene.
The pastor consented to be interviewed. He had expected hell to break loose after the scandal broke, but “it went away.” Jon asks “There was no shaming at all?” “None” replied the pastor. In fact, he added, my “relationship with my three daughters has never been stronger. My youngest one noted, “It’s like getting to know you all over again.”
So contrast these situations. Bad jokes can get you into a horrendous situation of public shaming, but in contrast, if you have sex with a whore – nobody cares.
Jon also tells the tale of Jonah Lehrer, a writer who embellished his stories with untruths, and who paid a big price when a sharp Irish-American journalist ferreted that out.
In Puritan times, says Jon, the clients at Kennebunk would have been considered more guilty than Jonah. Jonah, “guilty of lying or publishing false news,” would have been “fined, placed the stocks for a period not exceeding four hours, or publicly whipped with not more than forty stripes,” according to Delaware laws. Whereas Max and Andrew (two clients of Alexis), having “defiled the marriage bed,” would have been publicly whipped, imprisoned with hard labor for at least a year, and on second offense, imprisoned for life.
This bring to mind Bill Clinton, our former president. After his many sex-scandals he went on to receive huge sums for speaking engagements. I find this odd.
Some other countries look at us as decadent and leverage this in propaganda. “They [the Russians] are writing things about us and our defense forces that are not from this world,” says the senior [Finland] official, such as the yarn that the Finnish government removes children from ethnic-Russian Finnish families for adoption by gay couples in the U.S.” And there are Americans too who see our country as decadent – given that we have a country where 40 percent of children are born out-of-wedlock, and colleges where the hook-up culture is too common, and so forth.
I was the target of a huge public shaming. A compromising movie of me spread across campuses, and to my home town.
My behavior was downright weird, and people had trouble classifying it. Was it “gay” behavior? Was it “Jewish” behavior? Was it just “swinish” behavior?
I regretted the behavior, and having it exposed would have been good for me, if the person who secretly filmed it had shown me the film afterwards, and said “This is you. See yourself in the mirror? Imagine if this film were seen by your friends – or enemies – or just anybody. Now learn something!”
That would have worked just fine. It would have been a dose of cold water on an overheated brain.
But of course public shamings are not calibrated, and the movie spread – and spread – and spread.
Since I was on the receiving end, I witnessed the most incredible sadistic behavior from the shamers, behavior that they would hide from most people.
I said to myself – “Look – suppose you were marooned on a desert island with a supply of food and of books, far away from human contact. Would you agonize forever about dancing in a perverted way in front of a mirror? There is nothing you can do about it. Learn from it, don’t do it again, and now read a book or go for a swim.”
I also thought that what happened was odd if looked at from a purely rational viewpoint. If we feel like despising someone, we might notice that people get murdered every hour in the U.S. Furthermore, more Americans visit porn sites than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined. The number one searched-for term is “teen,” leading to a huge demand of young women for films. I have an article in the sources that talks about this truly disgusting situation.
I have had way more attention lavished on me than on some anonymous murderer in some city.
There are over 50,000 slaves in the U.S. and a huge number in the globe. I’d bet that the people who called me “faggot”, “Hebe”, and so forth have not spent nearly as much hostility on the slave-holders of these people.
Many of the people who dislike me vote for leftist candidates who when they get into office, spend public money as if it is infinite, which is why almost all the countries of the West are in debt, in the case of the U.S., over 17 trillion dollars, and going up. Isn’t there something despicable about that?
The world situation is not good either. A Jihadist country that has rallies with chants of “Death To America” is about to go nuclear. Another Jihadist movement called ISIL is conquering territory, crucifying people alive, burning people alive, sawing off the heads of live people, and giving Christian women as sex-slaves to their members (not just Christian women, also Yezidis etc). ISIL also plans to come for us. Worse yet, we have other enemies – who already have nukes, and are more powerful than the Jihadists.
From what I see, we have our own home-grown totalitarians in the U.S. Some of them have decided, in one of their words, that I “must be kept down.”. I have been told that I “will be annihilated”, and that I “will end up in a hospital.”
The movie by itself cannot explain all this, but the movie combined with some other factors – a very humiliated woman who I did not intend to humiliate, racist remarks on my part, people who regarded me as very handsome and treated me as such, in front of others who had seen the movie and felt this was “sick”, seems to have made a cocktail that exploded. (The last sentence is speculation).
I’ve been shamed, and I eventually became the target of real criminals. We live in a sea that does contain sharks, and its best not to bleed when you are swimming among the sharks. Sharks are not very introspective, and neither are criminals.
This country, and the West in general, had better get its act together – and part of that is seeing the real world, not living in a bubble where we pick convenient villains and ignore the real ones.
So you’ve been publicly shamed – by Jon Ronson – Riverhead Books – 2015
http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-cold-wars-arctic-front-1433872323 (on Finland)
The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today
by Kevin Bales, Ron Soodalter