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A Short History of Events That Occurred After Jon Ronson’s "So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed"

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Jon Ronson’s 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed interviews a number of prominent victims of online shaming like Christine Sacco. The tragedy is how many other cases have popped up since his book was published, some of them more prominent than the individuals he featured in his book, others punished more systematically than his named victims. Let's look at some of the events that have transpired since Mr. Ronson's book came out.

The Cover of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" by Jon Ronson

The Cover of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" by Jon Ronson

High Profile Targets and Their Fates

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, Stefan Molyneux and others have described the act of ganging up on someone to tear them down as an addictive dopamine rush that all in power tend to have and crave more of. For the average person, joining in with a mob makes them more powerful and vicious than they would be alone, while the encouragement of their peers to go farther and do worse; this is a uniquely human flaw that leads to evil (not just taking pleasure in their pain but competing to make it worse).

When Scott Adams spoke publicly in favor of Trump’s persuasion techniques, not only did he get shadowbanned from Twitter and see his speaking engagements disappear, Twitter attacked his then-girlfriend by de-verifying her so that people didn’t know which account was really hers and which was one of many pretenders. This happens through even mainstream news outlets, like when the wife of Vice President Pence’s phone number was published by the Associated Press; this information was irrelevant to public discourse and was known to cause a wave of liberal bullying directed at her, but they did it anyway.

When Twitter can penalize the girlfriend of a celebrity for his politically incorrect statement, when the AP can punish the wife of a politician, of course liberal bullies see it as fair to go after the friends, family and other relationships of anyone else they deem worthy of destruction.

And the Fates of Smaller Targets

I commend Mr. Ronson for going back to talk to the victims of excessively disproportionate online shaming to the point of losing their jobs; he doesn’t spend much time on the deliberate undermining of their relationships by hate mobs that didn’t see the victims or their friends and family as real people, like when Youtuber Sargon of Akkad did a video on Social Justice as a cult and had people try to drive away his girlfriend in addition to being flagged as hate speech in an effort to cost him his stream of income. I read William Shetterley condemning this as the “weaponization of poverty”, not just seeking to shame them but punish them with material suffering, too.

The weaponization of poverty and attempts to silence dissent by putting their very livelihoods at risk is a standard tactic. Shutting down websites through DDoS, flagging all Youtube videos by someone as hate speech to get them demonetized (aside from Youtube’s own liberally biased demonetization policies), organized campaigns to get people fired from their jobs and simultaneously render them unemployable are depressingly common. It isn’t enough to hurt someone emotionally by sending lots of hateful tweets (ironically often in the name of love), let’s hurt them physically and emotionally by costing them their homes, their ability to buy food, make their children and spouses afraid for their safety and upset from the bullying, too.

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Let’s take an example of this “digital shaming” taken to the next level. Ashley Rae Goldenberg published a politically incorrect poem, and SJWs responded by threatening to kill her family, trying to get her kicked out of school, and published the family’s phone numbers and credit card numbers. And Ms. Goldenberg is far from the only person to have family members threatened or harassed in this way.

Once the target of the two-minute hate is selected, liberal bullies see nothing as off-limits and do anything and everything possible to ruin the lives of the target until a new target is offered up for abuse. If the prison chapters are true on a wider scale, liberal bullies risk creating a few dark and hardened souls from among their many innocent victims, people capable of the atrocities they say incorrect word choice are associated with. That their ever-changing moral codes and victimhood hierarchies leave everyone afraid and vulnerable to such assaults shuts down true dialogue and emboldens the violent authoritarians.

The Solution

The solution isn’t more shaming, greater consequences, escalating to violence against the assigned guilty party of the moment. It is compassion for the pain the actions likely cause, humility by those who are getting high off the digital lynching, and empathy. Because when the official accepted viewpoints are ever-changing per social justice, it really could be any of us at any time.

And if the solution is as Mr. Ronson fears saying nothing, doing nothing, becoming as bland as possible to avoid any reason for assault by the mob, freedom of speech, the honest exchange of ideas that prevent excesses and lead to innovation, all die. And silent terror of the hate mobs does nothing to stop them, either.

Yet Mr. Ronson’s solution per his book remains true – have empathy for the victim of the hate mob of the moment; this is the person being attacked, not the supposedly aggrieved groups that may, might or say they are offended. The solution is a recognition that the victims of these digital lynch mobs are people, not some target in a video game to be taken down as aggressively and creatively as possible. The solution is empathy, understanding, and recognition that great evil can be committed under any moral banner, even “love” and “tolerance”.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Tamara Wilhite

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