Jon Ronson n’est pas Michel Foucault, et So You’ve been Publicly Shamed n’est pas une édition de Surveiller et punir mise à l’heure des réseaux sociaux. Le journaliste débonnaire manie l’humour comme une arme : distraits par une plaisanterie, ses interlocuteurs ne voient pas venir l’estocade, et répondent plus naïvement qu’ils ne le feraient avec un autre.

Malgré quelques digressions pesantes, Ronson passe de portrait en portrait avec vivacité et concision, et renforce progressivement son argumentation sans céder à la facilité du martèlement pataud. « The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people », dit-il finalement, « let’s not turn it into a world where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless. »

Cette conclusion pleine de bons sentiments date So You’ve been Publicly Shamed. Quoi que l’on pense de la cancel culture, réelle ou fantasmée, la honte et l’opprobre sont aujourd’hui les seuls recours de victimes privées des voies légales. « Le châtiment est passé d’une économie des droits suspendus à l’art des sensations insupportables », dirais-je pour retourner Foucault. Ce qui ne veut pas dire que je m’en réjouis.


La renaissance du pilori :

And then one day it hit me. Something of real consequence was happening. We were at the start of a great renaissance of public shaming. After a lull of 180 years (public punishments were phased out in 1837 in the United Kingdom and 1839 in the United States) it was back in a big way. When we deployed shame, we were utilizing an immensely powerful tool. It was coercive, borderless, and increasing in speed and influence. Hierarchies were being levelled out. The silenced were getting a voice. It was like the democratization of justice.

Sauf que Twitter peut imposer de véritables jugements :

I left the Massachusetts Historical Society, took out my phone, and asked Twitter, ‘Has Twitter become a kangaroo court?’ ‘Not a kangaroo court,’ someone replied quite tersely. ‘Twitter still can’t impose real sentences. Just commentary. Only unlike you, Jon, we aren’t paid for it.’ Was he right? It felt like a question that really needed to be answered because it didn’t seem to be crossing any of our minds to wonder whether whichever person we had just shamed was OK or in ruins. I suppose that when shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be. The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche.

L’économie du scandale :

A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama? I think our natural disposition as humans is to plod along until we get old and stop. But with social media we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high dramas. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people. What rush was overpowering us at times like this? What were we getting out of it? […] Everyone’s attention span is so short. They’ll be mad about something new today.

La sentence anonyme :

‘Social media shamings are worse than your shamings,’ I suddenly said to Ted Poe. He looked taken aback. ‘They are worse,’ he replied. ‘They’re anonymous.’

La NSA « ne tire aucun plaisir psychosexuel » de sa traque :

Michael Fertik took me for dinner and talked to me about the criticism people often level at him, that ‘any change of search results is manipulating truth and chilling free speech’. He drank some wine. ‘But there is a chilling of behaviour that goes along with a virtual lynching. There is a life modification.’ […] We’re creating a culture where people feel constantly surveilled, where people are afraid to be themselves.’ ‘Like the NSA,’ I said. ‘This is more frightening than the NSA,’ said Michael. ‘The NSA is looking for terrorists. They’re not getting psychosexual pleasure out of their schadenfreude about you.’

L’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions :

The thing is, I wrote about Justine not because I identified with her, although I did, but because I identified with the people who tore her apart. I consider myself a social justice person. It was my people, abusing our power, and that felt more mysterious to me than when some racist or misogynist troll goes after someone. Also, I was interested in mass shamings – shamings that unite vast, disparate groups. Decent, smart people recognize who the villain is when a misogynist attacks a feminist writer. But it was decent, smart people who tore Justine apart. Justine was cast as the villain across social media – and then the mainstream media – and she had no support network. The flame was burning too hot.

Quand l’idéologie est plus forte que l’empathie :

Maybe there are two types of people in the world: those who favour humans over ideology, and those who favour ideology over humans. I favour humans over ideology, but right now the ideologues are winning, and they’re creating a stage for constant artificial high dramas, where everyone is either a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. We can lead good, ethical lives, but some bad phraseology in a Tweet can overwhelm it all – even though we know that’s not how we should define our fellow humans. What’s true about our fellow humans is that we are clever and stupid. We are grey areas.