jon ronson

jon ronson


tedglobal london june 2015 – What happens when online shaming spirals out of control

early days of twitter was a place of radical de shaming, ie: hierarchies level out… sharing secrets.. and others saying .. i’m the same

jonah lehrer

on dehumanizing the people we hurt because we want to destroy people but not feel bad about it..

power shifts fast

maybe justine’s crime was not being as good at it as randy newman..

unpaid shaming interns for google

twitter – a mutual approval machine… we surround ourselves w/people who think like us.. and if someone screws up… we throw them out.. that’s the opposite of democracy

there’s a lot of people like justine.. and we want to think they’re fine.. but they’re not fine

i favor humans over ideology.. but right now the ideologs are winning..

what’s true is we are clever and stupid…

the great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people but we’re now creating a surveillant society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless… let’s not do that.


publicly shame ronson


The movement against public shaming was already in full flow in March 1787 when Benjamin Rush, a United States founding father, wrote a paper calling for their outlawing—the stocks, the pillory, the whipping post, the lot. Ignominy is universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death . . . It would seem strange that ignominy should ever have been adopted as a milder punishment than death, did we not know that the human mind seldom arrives at truth up on any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error. —BENJAMIN RUSH, “AN ENQUIRY INTO THE EFFECTS OF PUBLIC PUNISHMENTS UPON CRIMINALS, AND UPON SOCIETY,” MARCH 9, 1787

loc 645 – this exposure to pulbic shame utterly extinguishes it (self-respect). iwthout th ehope that springs eternal in the uman breast, …. no criminal can ever return to honorable courses. robert graham caldwell

lehrer’ intention in submitting himself to a publi grilling was to show the world that he’s ready to return to journalism, that we can trust him because he know s now not to trust himself. all he provd is that he’s not wired ike the rests of us. if he can figure out why htat is, that would be a neuroscience story worth publishing.. jeff bercovici

loc 680 – a way to recover some self-esteem –  to do a bit of shaming of someone else…. jonah: if a conscience is living in a world defined by regrets, then, yea, ive got a conscience. my very first thought every morning is what i’ve one wrong. that sounds self-pitying and i’d like you not to use that quote, but there’s no other ay around it……. on self-plagiarism – it should have been a sign tha ti was stretched. if i needed to recycle my own material, why was i bothering to write this blog post in the first place….. i’ve always felt like a fad. i felt like i was going to be hot for a second and then i would disappear. so i had to act while i could….

You combine insecurity and ambition and you get an inability to say no to things.

2 needs ness.. deep enough

i really love a scoop – a scoop keeps at bay the scream of failure.

loc 725 – on his apology – it sounded too much like a jonah lehrer speech from the old days.. .. they didn’t want you to intellectualize it.. they wanted you to be emotional..

loc 820 – justine sacco felt like the first person i had ever interviewed who had been destroyed by us.. (rather than military or big business

loc 862 – there must have been among her shamers a lot of people who chose to willfully misunderstand it for some reason

loc 937 – i think he’s broken and that people mistake it for shamelessness..

loc 1022 – in begin of twitter.. no shamings… we chatted unself-consciously.. after a while.. it felt weird and empty when there wasn’t anyone to be furious about.

It felt like we were soldiers making war on other people’s flaws, and there had suddenly been an escalation in hostilities.

loc 1058 – the crowd has become contaminated – according to dr gary slutkin,… by a virus that infects the mind and causes a “collective communal group-think-motivated violence.” slutkin quoting cog psychologist aaron beck

loc 1084 – on lebon – could he prove scientifically that mass revolutionary movements were just madness.. and if so.. could he dream up way s the elite might benefit from managing the insanity?

loc 1124 – lebon listed the tricks: a crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. exaggerate, affirm, resort to repetition, and never attempt to prove anything by reasoning.

loc 1165 – couldn’t help thinking evil captured in zimbardo’s filmed footage looked a bit hammy… what had really gone on in that basement

stanford prison experiment

on guard saying not true… only guard who really seemed to lose his mind was eshelman.. and he says – i faked it.

1193 – so you faked it to give zimbarado a better study? – it was completely deliberate on my part, i planned it. i mapped it out. ..i thought i was doing something good at the time.

loc 1220 – after tennis match wave of crowd via (and this too said by reicher) how come people can come together, often spontaneously, often w/o leadership, and at together in ideologically intelligible ways? if you can answer that, you get a long way toward understanding human sociality. this is why, instead of being an aberration, crowds are so important and so fascinating.

not sure i get this.. – i do get the dance we could do if we were free.. but the example of contagion – desire to do something good – or not from the wave.. (the people not wanting to wave finally did).. doesn’t fit what i’m thinking..

loc 1235 – Peter Gray.. published essay: why zimbardo’s prison experiment isn’t in my textbook……… this is a study of prisoners and guards, so their job clearly is to act like prisoners and guards – or, more accurately, to act out their stereotyped views of what prisoners and guards do.

Much research has shown that participants in psychological experiments are highly motivated to do what they believe the researchers want them to do.

gray research law – peter grayscience of people in schools ness

loc 1392 – i asked mercedes what sorts of people gathered on 4chan – a lot of them are bored, understimulated, overpersecuted, powerless kids, .. they know they can’t be anything they want. so they went to the internet. on the internet we have power in situations where we soul otherwise be powerless.

need for gershenfeld something else law
prosecutios would end ddosing/trolling campaigns….? her response – the police are trying to claim the area.. she meant the internet.. just like in the cities. they gentrify the downtown, move all the poor peole into ghettos, and then start trolling the ghettos, stopping and frisking everyone…
as it happened.. shortly before i met mercedes, the nypd released figures… 684330 times.. 1800 a day.. of those… 9 of 10 were innocent

loc 1405 – gladwell – popularized stop and frisk..  he called it miraculous.. there was a correlation between coming down on petty criminals like graffiti artists and fare dodgers, his essay argued, and new york’s sudden decline in murders… his essay was a sensation – one of most influential in magazine’s history (new yorker)..  he became a marketing tool for the broken windows policing. his book the tipping point went on to sell two million copies, launching his career and the careers of the countless other pop science writers who followed in his footsteps – like jonah lehrer… from malcolm – i was too in love with the broken windows notion.. i was so enamored by the metaphorical simplicity of that idea that i overstated its importance. bbc the culture show 2013 – interview by jon

loc 1419 – stop and frisk continued through the 2000s and into the 2010s, and one by [product of it was that some repeatedly frisked young people sought revenge in online activism – by joining 4chan.

loc 1433 – people socialize on fb because where do you go to loiter in ny anymore….. part of the reason all these kids have become experts on the internet is because they don’ have power anywhere else.

If our shameworthiness lies in the space between who we are and how we present ourselves to the world

eudaimonia matters

loc 1767 – he thought he had the answer. it was simply that he had refused to feel ashamed. (max mosley) – as soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed.. the whole thing crumbles.

loc 2246 – what happened on that lake showed me there was a door… you can just die… once you accept that, it brings clarity. you want to do something in the world? be willing to throw your life away…

ch 12 – terror – on how immersed courtrooms are in shame

and schools

on former governor shamed.. who went on to make environment where you don’t shame.. via james gilligan’s work east coast psychiatrist…. in 70s he was treating prisoners…

“The men would all say that they had died,” Gilligan said. “These were the most incorrigibly violent characters. They would all say that they themselves had died before they started killing other people. What they meant was that their personalities had died. They felt dead inside. They had no capacity for feelings. No emotional feelings. Or even physical feelings. So some would cut themselves. Or they would mutilate themselves in the most horrible ways. Not because they felt guilty—this wasn’t a penance for their sins—but because they wanted to see if they had feelings. They found their inner numbness more tormenting than even the physical pain would be.”

loc 2766 – these men’s souls did not just die. they have dead souls because thei rsouls were murdered…how did it happen.. how were they murdered? … this was, gilligan felt, the mystery he’d been invited inside massachusett’s prisons /mental hospitals to solve.

“Universal among the violent criminals was the fact that they were keeping a secret,” Gilligan wrote. “A central secret. And that secret was that they felt ashamed—deeply ashamed, chronically ashamed, acutely ashamed.” It was shame, every time

lSo they grew up and—“all violence being a person’s attempt to replace shame with self-esteem”—they murdered people. One inmate told him, “You wouldn’t believe how much respect you get when you have a gun pointed at some dude’s face.” Gilligan said, “For men who have lived for a lifetime on a diet of contempt and disdain, the temptation to gain instant respect in this way can be worth far more than the cost of going to prison or even of dying.” And after they were jailed, things only got worse.

on prison guards having even more psych problems.. and too… thinking torture would make them behave.

it took some of them a while to confess it to me. it’s shameful to have to admit you feel ashamed….. james gilligan, violence: reflections on our deadliest epidemic

loc 2811 – on lehrer and ronson and all of us.. knowing what they meant about shutting down – that moment pain turns to numbness

this is the reason why (gilligan’s thinking didn’t change the way the u.s, treated transgressors): throughout the 1980s gilligan ran experimental therapeutic communities inside ma prisons. they weren’t especially radical. they were just about “treating the prisoners with respect… giving people a chance to express their grievances and hopes and wishes and fears.” the point was to create an ambience that eradicated shame entirely.

The word forever had been coming up a lot during my two years among the publicly shamed.

on the need for equity – everyone getting a go – a do over – everyday. ad infinitum

loc 2972 – sad thing.. linsey had incurred the internet’s wrath because she was impudent and playful and foolhardy and outspoken. and now here she was, working with farukh to reduce herself to safe banalities……we were creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.

loc 3001 – we’re creatin a culture where people feel constantly surveilled, where people are afraid to be themselves…more frightening than nsa … michael

loc 3068 – internet isn’t about you.. it’s about the companies that dominate the data flows… fertik

justines’ catastrophe instantaneously made google 456,000.. or at least 120000

loc 3120 – maybe in other ways feedback loops are leading to a world we only think we want. maybe they’re turning social media into “a giant echo chamber where what we believe is constantly reinforced by people who believe the same thing.” – adam curtis

“The tech-utopians like the people in Wired present this as a new kind of democracy,” Adam’s e-mail continued. “It isn’t. It’s the opposite. It locks people off in the world they started with and prevents them from finding out anything different. They got trapped in the system of feedback reinforcement. The idea that there is another world of other people who have other ideas is marginalized in our lives.”

i suddenly feel with social media like i’m tiptoeing around an unpredictable, angry, unbalanced parent who might strike out at any moment.. (friend)

We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.


interview with adam buxton 2014 and 2015:

p 1 – 2014

12 min – the tyranny of having to have an opinion all the time

13 min – twitter does brilliant things.. but this aspect of it.. (shaming ness).. this is turning into my most emotional book.. public shaming is wrong.. kind of almost in every way..

ok – cool – just borrowed psychopath test

18 min – the most painful disorders come from people wanting to be a good person

24 min – so much about writing is just juxtaposition.. (he’s writing ch 8 terror – when he’s giving this interview)

37 min – start of p 2 – 2015

42 min – we need to de humanize the people we hurt.. why we call them sociopaths..

43 min – on people tweeting to jon about defending shameds

44 min – then i realized responses were only more fuel for shamers.. and takes a lot of energy from me

46 min – on now anxious writing the book made me (publicly shamed)

47 min – this book – is a story about us.. we could be shamed and we are the shamers… in this book i want people to know what an anxiety attack feels like

52 min – the critique that has a bit of sensitivity mixed in hurts the most… (jon)  i had to go walk the dog and talk to myself – my own therapist (adam)


psycopath test


p 28

i have a great deal of experience w people who are smart but unbalanced, people who think they have found the key to the universe, etc. it’s a sad thing, but there are many of them out there, and often they are extremely obsessive. …… (hofstadter)

…. but the recipients had gotten it wrong. they assumed the endeavor was brilliant and rational because they were brilliant and rational, and we tend to automatically assume that everybody else is basically just like us. but in fact the missing piece was that the author was a crackpot.

p. 36 – plagiarism ness

p. 55 – physician samuel cartwright identifying in 1851 a mental disorder, drapetomania, evident only in slaves. the sole symptom was the desire to run away from slavery and the cure was to whip the devil out of them as a preventative measure.

p. 58 – mental illness comes and goes. it can get better with medication. tony is a psychopath. that doesn’t come and go. it is how the person is. (prof maden)

p. 60 – the hare checklist

p 61 – as a result of the being or nothingness adventure, i’d become fascinated to learn about the influence that madness – madness among our leaders – had on our everyday lives.

with prison psychopaths you can actually quantify the havoc they cause… they make up only 25% of the prison pop but account for 60-70% of violent crime that happens inside prisons. .. 1% of non-prison pop – essi

p 63 – your score is 30 or more out of 40 – that’s it.. your’e’ a psychopath. for life. you can’t change. can’t be treated. you’re a danger to society. and they you’re stuck somewhere like this.. tony

p 67 – 59-60 -The consensus from the beginning was that only 1 percent of humans had it, but the chaos they caused was so far-reaching it could actually remold society, remold it all wrong, like when someone breaks his foot and it gets set badly and the bones stick out in odd directions. And so the urgent question became: How could psychopaths be cured?

none of us ness. one.

p. 83 – “When you gaze into the eyes of another person, you can only see as far as his closed door,” he said. “So take it as an opportunity to knock on that door. If he doesn’t want to open the door, you bow to him and you say, ‘That’s fine. When you’re ready.’ ” “What would be behind their closed doors?” I asked. “Freedom,” said Gary

p. 86 – resonating with the sync of detox… talking about marathon weekends.. then back to work.. so two steps back.. and the need for enlightenment at the same time

p. 87 –  (elliott – took over oak ridge) – his father had been a violent alcoholic who had beaten his family and committed suicide when elliott was ten. i wondered whether that was why he’d dedicated his life to teaching psychopaths to be tender.

p. 88 – in reg circumstances, 60% of criminal psychopaths released go on to re-offend… 80% here (elliott/gary) – the capsule had mead them worse.

p. 119 – on martha – saying psychopaths love power.. but don’t register punishment.. so many are top leaders.. then to reader she says.. if you’re worried you might be a psychopath.. that means you’re not one.

p. 169 – bob – his study showed (in that 1%) – 4-5 more times likely that some corp bigwig is a very high scoring psychopath than someone just trying to earn an okay living …

p. 180 – from tony – listen. the psychopath thing is rubbish. you cannot be successful unless you have certain – controls. it won’t happen. how do you get through school how do you get through your first and second job when you’re formulating yourself.

it was a terribly persuasive point and i had felt disappointed when he said it.

whoa. science of people in schools ness..

p 181 – What jolted me was my own strange craving as a journalist and also as a now-qualified psychopath-spotter to see Al Dunlap in absolute terms.     I mulled over what Adam had said to me: “We all do it. We wait for the gems. And the gems invariably turn out to be the madness.”

thinking of robin williams quote in tonti talk – hold onto that little madness you have.. wondering if we could just chill and listen better to each other. perhaps – what we deem as madness is rather – idiosyncratic ish..

p. 184 – on the right amount of madness – for ie: late night shows.. reality shows.. response: prozac, said charlotte. prozac’s the perfect drug. … better if they were on something like prozac. if they were on no drug at all, that probabaly meant they weren’t made enough.

p. 222 – lady in basement went from smearing self in her own shit.. eventually she began smearing paints on canvas instead and became a celebrated artist.

Maybe it was the trying so hard to be normal that was making everyone so afraid they were going crazy.

p. 247 – experiment – where 8 went to hospitals (in 5 diff states) faking mental illness – only by saying: they were hearing voice in their head :empty, hollow, and thud. the only lie they would tell. otherwise completely normal. all eight were immediately diagnosed as insane and admitted… 7 told schizo and one manic depressive.. took forever to get out…. got in trouble for it.. one hospital challenged rosenhan to send more fakes… he idid. after a month.. they proudly announced they found 42 fakes. rosenhan revealed he’d sent no one to the hospital.

p. 248 – on spitzer wanting to remove human judgment from psychiatry… 1974-1980 held a series of dsm-3 editorial meetings….. human judgment hadn’t helped his mother. instead it would be like science. .. tallying symptoms via dsm manual.

p. 252 – In 1980, after six years inside Columbia, Spitzer felt ready to publish. But first he wanted to road test his new checklists. And there were a lot. DSM-I had been a sixty-five-page booklet. DSM-II was a little longer—134 pages. But DSM-III, Spitzer’s DSM, was coming in at 494 pages. He turned the checklists into interview questionnaires

more copies sold than psychiatrists.. people began using checklist to diagnose self.. finally suffering had a name..

253 – “The pharmaceuticals were delighted with DSM,” Spitzer told me, and this in turn delighted him: “I love to hear examples of parents who say, ‘It was impossible to live with him until we gave him medication and then it was night and day.’ That’s good news for a DSM person.

p. 255 – usa overdiagnoses many things and childhood bipolar is the latest but perhaps the most worrying given the implications… very unlikely you’ll find it in children under seven years of age.. ian goodyer – cambridge

p. 256 – when robert spitzer stepped down as editor of dsm 3 his position was taken by a psychiatrist name allen frances…. dsm 4 came in at 886 pages.. dr frances tole me… they’d made some terrible mistakes.. it’s very easy to set off a false epidemic in psychiatry.. he said… and we inadvertently contributed to three that are ongoing now…. autism, attention deficit,a dn childhood bipolar… the rates of diagnosis of autistic disorder in children went from less than one in 2000 to more than one in 100….. but this chaos (people off vaccines and some dying from measles) allen frances said, pales next to childhood bipolar.

allen frances

 p. 257  – “Psychiatric diagnoses are getting closer and closer to the boundary of normal,” said Allen Frances. “That boundary is very populous. The most crowded boundary is the boundary with normal.” “Why?” I asked. “There’s a societal push for conformity in all ways,” he said. “There’s less tolerance of difference. And so maybe for some people having a label is better. It can confer a sense of hope and direction. ‘Previously I was laughed at, I was picked on, no one liked me, but now I can talk to fellow bipolar sufferers on the Internet and no longer feel alone.’”

p. 263 – He fulfilled the bipolar checklist. See? And so they gave him some pretty heavy-duty medication. It slowed him way down, to a drooling fat kid. And they declared the meds a success.”

it eventually became clear that the boy wasn’t bipolar, byrna said. he was moody and had sexualized behavior because he had been sexually abused. but they were in thrall to the checklist.

p. 264 – robert spitzer -But I don’t like the idea of speculating how many of the DSM-III categories are describing normal behavior.” “Why don’t you like speculating on that?” I asked. “Because then I’d be speculating on how much of it is a mistake,” he said. There was another long silence. “Some of it may be,” he said.

p. 267 – Or was he Rebecca Riley or Colin Stagg, wrongly judged insane because they just weren’t what the people around them wanted them to be? They were just too difficult, just not normal enough (rebecca – 4 yr old overdose – when not bipolar)

p. 285 – I had dismissed him as just eccentric and obsessive. I had reduced him in that manner. But now I could see that it was his eccentricities and his obsessions that had led him to produce and distribute Being or Nothingness in the most intriguing ways. There is no evidence that we’ve been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. And in fact our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things.


find/follow Jon:

link twitter

wikipedia small

Jon Ronson (born 10 May 1967) is a Welsh journalist, author, documentary filmmaker and radio presenter whose works include the best-selling The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004). He has been described as a gonzo journalist, becoming something of a faux-naïf character himself in his stories.

He is known for his informal, but sceptical, investigations of controversial fringe politics and science. 



a nother way to leapfrog to betterness


Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) tweeted at 6:35 AM – 27 Feb 2019 :
It was a lovely interview and it was touching to see Jon’s vulnerability.

Hey so here I am on Russell Brand’s podcast, perhaps oversharing *slightly*, but being honest. I hope you like it.
Original Tweet:

jon starts around 6 min

10 min – if i feel curious about them.. i will feel bad about myself – when kill a deer can’t name it or can’t eat it

11 min – so then.. i was.. i want to be curious about what she can’t be.. about their lives

16 min – if you go into a situation in a judgmental way.. there’s no space in your brain to be curious..t

daily curiosity.. as cure.. via cure ios city

(curiosity & non-judgment) means a story can go wherever it goes.. because you’re not predicting it..t

predict able ness

17 min – r: i’ve always appreciated.. your willingness to be surprised..t

fromm spontaneous law

30 min – on wanting to tell stories about porn.. morality of the man making the porn and the hypocrisy of outsiders who consume it but don’t want to know about it.. and the abuse it causes..

32 min – problem is we fell in love w our new weapon – sm shaming..t..  the parameters in what we believed shame-worthy grew wider and wider.. grew to a state of artificial high drama

34 min – when we shame somebody we’re doing the thing that would be most terrifying to us.. and we know people area a complicated mix.. but we have to pretend that isn’t the case.. that’s the only way we can feel ok about destroying somebody on a tiny sliver of evidence..t