The Anatomy of Public Shaming
This chapter spotlights public shaming blogs as echoes of the Menippean satire tradition. Like, for example, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, public shaming sites provide their readers a curious service: dissecting, bemoaning and paradoxically substantiating abnormal behavior after that behavior is shown to be woven inextricably into normativity. While these “encomiums” of shame-worthy behavior seem to invite readers to dwell on the problems of hatred, ignorance and hypocrisy as constant threats to social welfare, their structural aesthetics obscure this invitation. Readers of blogs, like readers of Anatomy, find themselves tumbling toward Burton’s charitable horror, his stupid humanism that suggests it is almost as foolish to reject abnormality proven to be universal as it is foolish to endorse it, but since endorsement offers the consolation of company alongside the challenge of charity, we ought to choose the greater of two follies as the lesser of two evils.