I open today’s blog post with an apology to my readers for my previous blog post on climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
That post was an attempt to deconstruct a conservative meme criticizing CNN for choosing to include the 17 year old Thunberg on a televised coronavirus town hall panel, the premise of the meme being that Thunberg was selected to sit on such a panel over infinitely more qualified people like Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
As it turns out, the premise of the meme and the Internet outrage that generated it, is based upon a falsehood, as CNN never intended to feature Thunberg on any coronavirus panel. Her photo was used on CNN’s online promotional material and commercials promoting the town hall, but Thunberg was never scheduled to appear on the program.
The apology to my readers is for allowing myself to get caught up in the same ridiculous, mindless outrage that generated the meme in question in the first place by writing a piece critical of the attitudes that propagated it. Though in fairness to myself, the point I made in that post still stands, at least with regard to the attitude that networks are free to broadcast whatever content they see fit to legally broadcast and invite whomever they wish on their programs. Conversely, we always have the option to choose not to tune in.
In this post, I address Internet outrage culture.
Internet outrage culture is fed primarily through the media. Arguably, media-driven outrage culture predates the Internet. Remember this classic scene from the movie Network?
That the media exploits base emotions in order to drive ratings (which in turn drives profits) and advertising (which also drives profits for the companies buying the advertising space) is hardly a new phenomenon.
It’s not that television news programs are actively promoting depressing, provocative, and outrageous headlines simply to service an agenda, so much as they are doing so to drive ratings. Outrage sells, so fomenting outrage is good for business. The Internet and social media are simply expanding what television and radio created decades ago, and for the same reasons.
Don’t believe you are conditioned to respond to outrage culture?
Have you ever found yourself arguing with random people on Facebook or in the comments section of a particularly provocative or controversial article on a news site, blog, or Internet forum?
Have you ever found yourself in a heated Facebook or Twitter battle over liberal or conservative hot-button issues like gun control, abortion, healthcare reform, or income inequality?
Have you ever found yourself arguing with friends, friends of friends, or even total strangers on Facebook or other social media over anti-Trump, pro-Trump, anti-Obama, pro-Obama rhetoric or even over whatever the issues of the day are?
If so, then welcome to Internet outrage culture!
On a daily basis, we are hit with news stories and other media content meant to elicit emotional responses such as shock, surprise, and most especially, outrage.
If you are wondering why we are so easily offended as a society these days or why our electorate is so polarized, look no further for the source of that angst than your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or smart television.
Our technology is the conduit through which Internet outrage is dispensed. Our collective penchant for tribalism is more efficiently and effectively serviced by our modern media machine.
Even my well-intentioned attempt to put a rational perspective on an Internet outrage meme was itself contaminated by that same outrage culture because I took the impetus for the meme at face value. For that, I truly apologize to my readers.
Next time, I’ll do a little more due diligence before deconstructing another political meme.
-The Rational Ram