Bestselling journalist and author Jon Ronson recently published the book So You've Been Publicly Shamed, a screed on the public's tendency to revert to mob mentality with no regard to how it might affect (often fairly innocuous) offenders.
Through shamees who became accidental case-studies like Justine Sacco and Jonah Lehrer, Ronson digs into what the cycle of experiencing massive shame looks like, and, moreover, how it can transform normal people into shells of themselves.
On Monday, Ronson himself began to be shamed for a poorly phrased line in a galley of his book that was cut from the final copy.
The line made a small splash online after being tweeted by freelancer Meredith Haggerty and led to Ronson fervently defending himself, eventually telling someone the attention has made him feel like he's "been struck by lightning."
Here's what makes the whole thing complicated: Galleys, also called "uncorrected proofs," are slightly less edited versions of books released early to reviewers to prepare a piece on the scope and takeaway of the book, but cannot be quoted from.
That's the trade-off; writers get to read before the public and prepare a piece to publish, and in turn the author will hopefully get a quote to use for the book jacket before it's released.
So there can often be final, crucial edits — such as cutting a questionable line comparing the fear of rape to the fear of getting fired — made before the book hits shelves.
In Ronson's case, the line has already been out in the open for a couple weeks, thanks to an interview he did with The Frisky on his thought process behind it and why it was cut.
"Somebody wrote me a very long e-mail that said, 'Does he not realize that there's a line in this book that would get him publicly shamed?'" he said. "And people I really respect said I was wrong to have that line in there, so I have to assume that they're right."
The Frisky published the line with Ronson's permission, provided they put his intent into context:
Any one person is going to fear, and be insecure about, the worst plausible thing they can imagine happening to them. And maybe fears of being raped or fears of getting fired are the domain of the very most anxious of us human beings: Those of us women who have been hurt by men repeatedly; those of us men who have been economically unstable.