I _like_ Ronson _because_ he is overwrought. But that doesn't stop me from occasionally experiencing a sense of unwilling detachment from his tale and going, okay, that's just way overwrought.
Michael Moynihan's takedown of Jonah Lehrer for making shit up in a book about Dylan is summarized. "Michael asked me if I'd ever ... stumbled on a piece of information that, if published, would destroy someone? ... "Don't ever do it," he said. ... "What we do, when we fuck up, we don't lose our job. We lose our vocation.""
Okay, so that's not Ronson, technically. That's him quoting a source. Anyway. First of all, no vocation is lost! Jonah Lehrer is still posting longform journalism over on his blog, right here:http://www.jonahlehrer.com/
Ronson mentions Stephen Glass (inevitable comparison). You can make a slightly better case for end of a vocation in Glass' case, altho I would argue that even that case is weak (and weakened by the fact that, assuming you _believe_ in the idea of a vocation, it is questionable whether Glass had a journalistic calling in the first place).
ETA: And Ronson notes the parallel and comes to a comparable conclusion.
The choices at 12% of the way into the book for characterizing Lehrer are: "Michael had called his [Lehrer's] cover-up a "great deception that was very, very well plotted." But I think it was just chaos, and on that last day before the story broke, Jonah wasn't "icy" but wrecked."
I think Lehrer is a really smart guy who is slightly sloppy, talks fast and recovers well. The other two characterizations fail to capture any of that, imo. "Chaos" doesn't account for the continuing success. And the "plotted" characterization gives Lehrer credit for a degree of forethought entirely absent in the story so far.
I will say this: I'm catching up on a lot of scandals that I missed at the time (how do I miss this stuff? I must be doing something wrong. Or right? Unclear). Altho I will add that I prefer rehabilitation attempts that do not minimize the original error. If you made a racist, sexist or whatever remark (even if it was a misunderstood bit of sarcasm or whatever), your rehabilitation should not ask the audience to think that racist, sexist or whatever remarks are now okay. Rehabilitation attempts should direct attention to what the shamed person has substantively _done_ that can be generally understood as A Good Thing. You know, _deeds_. Deeds are what will redeem you. (Obvs, if you got shamed for something which we now _do_ recognize as a good thing, that's different. No rehabilitation needed, per se.)
So, I don't know, but I'm starting to wonder about Ronson. He has just finished pointing out that Lehrer got paid $20K for the Knight speech (Ronson did not give honest feedback to Lehrer on that speech! Altho I doubt I would have even agreed to read it, but if I had, judging by my behavior with my friends, I would have nitpicked that sucker to death.) and then that Moynihan only got $2200 for the original expose that started the avalanche. Then there's a discussion between Moynihan and Ronson in which they emote ambivalence about their role in the avalanche and revulsion at the villagers behind them. "They had all gone for the part of the people in the lithographs being ribald at whippings."
I dunno. On the one hand, he's pretty up front about how ambivalent he is feeling, so picking on Ronson for being rhetorically ambivalent (how unfair that Moynihan got $2200 and Lehrer got $20K -- but then picking on the villagers who are stampeding along because of other observations on the subject of injustice as it relates to Lehrer) would be weird. On the other hand, I kinda just want him to own it. ""I'm watching people stabbing and stabbing and stabbing Jonah," Michael said, "and I'm, 'HE'S DEAD.'"" Nobody died here. $20K. A book deal due out in May. A blog. Etc. Save the drama for something worth while. You know, climate change.
"As Jonah Lehrer stood in front of that giant screen Twitter feed on February 12, 2013, he experienced something that had been widely considered appalling in the eighteenth century." I dunno. Being whipped in public, and giving a speech in front of a live feed (for which he was apparently compensated monetarily) do not seem to be _precisely_ the same.
Looks like Ronson-the-ultimate-empath knew he gave bad feedback on the speech. Here's his explanation: "I thought that telling him it was fantastic was my best chance of winning the interview." On the one hand, tempting the reader to say BUT THAT IS DISHONEST AND SLOPPY. On the other hand, his point is clear: see, this is what we nailed Lehrer for, but we all do it anyway. Well, maybe this all comes down to where we fall in some two dimensional space defined by an axis of rule enforcing and a crossing axis of rule abiding. Moynihan is both rule enforcing and rule abiding -- and maybe as a result, suffers from difficulties making money. Lehrer is not particularly either, and for a while did pretty good. I don't think it is actually that simple. I think we actually care a lot more about some rules (don't make shit up and don't steal other people's stuff) than others (don't re-use your own work and sell it a second time). And the fact that Lehrer keeps pointing to the latter as a problem and sort of evading around the former makes a lot of people nervous. Sort of like my erstwhile friend: first I learned she cheated at poker, then she told me about her hit-and-run (where she did the hitting and running part), and eventually, when I RSVP'ed on a (3rd) wedding invite saying my boyfriend was out of town but I'd be bringing my girlfriend, and she found a bunch of ways to try to disinvite the girlfriend (she won't know anyone, my fave, since the girlfriend knew more people in the social circle than I did) before finally stammering out something that amounted to No Don't Bring A Girlfriend. I chose to interpret that as homophobia, and that was the end of that friendship (couldn't have been racial bigotry because both the girlfriend and the boyfriend were the same in appearance). I think when people break certain rules in certain ways, and non-apologize for them in particular ways, we all get a little, wha-? And wonder what is going to happen next.
About a third of the way through, Ronson gives a thumbnail history of his experience of Twitter. At the beginning, no one picking on anyone. Later, righteous takedowns. Then constant criticism, disproportionate and poorly targeted. "In fact, it felt weird and empty when there wasn't anyone to be furious about." I recognize this feeling. It's usually a sign that I need to quit reading news and go for a walk or read a book or work on a project or something. That's a real process, almost like a criticism avalanche. His description of it is really excellent.
Next: "I was recently at a spa -- my wife booked it for me as a special surprise, which shows she really doesn't know me because I don't like being touched" Ha! Well, my husband knows better than to do this. ;-) Altho I have had at least one significant other in the past who made that error.