Trial by YouTube: Outrage at social media outrage


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The Independent Online

Next month, the writer and documentary maker Jon Ronson publishes a book called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The blurb tells us that Ronson has spent three years interviewing the “recipients of high-profile public shamings. Once their transgression is revealed, outrage circles and the next thing they know they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, sometimes even fired from their job.”

Timely. One case that happened too recently to be included in Ronson’s book is the cautionary tale of Bradley Knudson, from Prior Lake, Minnesota.

On 19 January Knudson posted a video to YouTube (7 million views and counting) which named and shamed a man called Deron Puro. Puro’s children had been bullying and racially abusing Knudson’s adopted black daughter and, instead of apologising, Puro threw in a few racist slurs of his own. Knudson wanted justice and now he has it, as Puro has lost his job and is in rehab, while his children have had to be moved out of the state due because of “terroristic threats”.

“I was sick to my stomach. That’s not what I wanted to have happen whatsoever,” Knudson said last week in a fit of outrage at the outrage to his initial outrage. The final proof, surely, that whatever the crime, trials should take place in courts and not on social media.

Good buy?

Harry Giles, 28, spent last year logging every item that he bought and then charting, in stream of consciousness sentences, how each purchase made him feel. The resulting blog is called, appropriately enough, Everything I Bought and How it Made Me Feel, and now Giles is putting his findings together in a show of the same title as part of the Sprint festival for “new and unusual theatre” at the  Camden People’s Theatre on 18 March (see

“I got the idea when I looked at a pile of fancy books I’d just bought and thought, ‘Buying these made me feel miserable. Why did I do it?’ I started to wonder what it would be like to start tracking how I felt about all my purchases and it ended up consuming my life. But people said that it helped them think through their own struggles with consumerism,” he says.

So how would he feel about having to pay £12 to see his own show? “I’d feel a sort of grudging excitement,” he says. “I’d think it was a pretty reasonable ticket price, for London, but I’d also be worried about how much I was spending on theatre and the Tube overall. Then I’d tell myself that it was OK to spend money on things I really care about. But I’d still feel a little guilty.”

The pun is mightier…

Can a funny wordplay be turned into a winning business idea? I only ask because last week Twitter users were applauding a garden gnome shaped like the political commentator Noam Chomsky and called, naturally, Gnome Chomsky.

But who is the genius behind this “essential ornament for the thinking person’s garden”? The JustSayGnome website gives precious little information, but a couple of emails later a reply arrives from someone called Steve Herrington.

Herrington tells me this is not the first time his gnomes have generated internet interest; both times this has happened he has been ill in bed and on the verge of financial ruin.

“I’ve tended to keep a low profile,” he says, “but I’m a 42-year-old artistic type living in Portland, Oregon. I’ve mainly been doing house-painting type work while occasionally attempting business projects. The Gnome Chomsky idea came up in a kitchen discussion. I looked it up on the internet and realised that while [the joke] was by no means original, no one seemed to have ever made a  gnome resembling him. I never imagined they would catch on like they have recently.”

Sadly, Herrington is now struggling to keep up with demand, though as soon as the gnomes do become available again he says he is happy to ship to the UK.

Find me in the crib

And talking of punning business ideas, how’s this one from an events company called The Doctor’s Orders: a hip-hop party for kids and their parents called Fun DMC?

The second event takes place in east London during the approaching half-term holidays (22 February), and promises a break-dance workshop, a grafitti area and an array of “super-fly fancy dress”. Perfect, the promotional material suggests, for the proud parents of a “Lil Wayne, a Missy Elliott or a whole crew of Beastie Boys or Wee Papa Girl Rappers”.  Toddle this way!

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

The museum admits, “It’s a shame,

But Dippy himself is to blame,

Cos although it seems drastic,

This dino is plastic,

And ‘natural’ is part of our name.”