The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation

Crown. Mar. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9781984825452. $27. PSYCH
To most individuals, the mere mention of the word shame elicits feelings of being undeserving of health, fame, and/or professional success, and creates a seemingly endless internal need to work harder in order to achieve them. When used as a motivator by well-meaning individuals, some shame is healthy, but in this volume, O’Neil—an author (Weapons of Math Destruction), math educator, and technology and business professional—argues that shame is now fueled mostly by rich, powerful corporate entities or individuals who have turned it into a powerful “machine” that helps them profit and hold on to power. Social media has become a powerful tool, often using humiliation of individuals and the distortion and spreading of a unique, often accidental or embarrassing individual act or comment in order to cause it to “go viral,” quickly permeate society and become a rallying point for masses. Using her powerful story telling techniques including her own experience from weight-loss surgery, O’Neil argues that the long-term solution to this societal problem includes its recognition, and plentiful use of the good human characteristics of kindness and compassion.
VERDICT Thoroughly researched, well written, timely, and easy to understand, O’Neil’s book can and should find a wide audience. Recommended for all libraries.
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