Internet outrage is something people love to partake in; even when a story isn’t true, is incomplete, or is obviously being sensationalized. It’s become an institution that borders on the dogmatic. Websites will whip their userbases into a self-righteous frenzy and direct them at some perceived ill in the world. The ferocity of this rage is matched only by its brevity
The lifespan of your average online rage-storm is usually the lifespan of your average fart (or how many seconds Anthony Bruch goes without someone railing his wife). We are beset by outrage, and mobs of headless chickens just looking for the next cause to fap themselves raw over and ejaculate their white-hot opinions all over social media are just a clickbait article away from their 2 minutes hate.And the media has taken to amplifying this rage. They will feature people’s tweets as if 140 characters of someone’s unmitigated online retardation is somehow more relevant than what a team of trained broadcasters can muster. I guess crowd-sourced rage fills dead air.
The lowest form of rage is usually the slacktivist hashtag.Pretty much all of them lack the autistic staying power of something like Gamergate (which I will admit has had its fair share of cringe mixed in with the successes) and their immediacy is humorous once the fervour dies down. People switch from hyperbolic urgency on an issue that is apparently life and death only to go back to talking about Kim Kardashian’s ass or how they “fucking love science!” even though they would have an aneurysm trying to do a differential equation.
Outrage, and the urge to be seen to “do something” — when doing something usually entails 10 minutes of posting on Facebook — has been turned into an industry. There is no more exhaustible resource in the universe than stupidity, but impotent rage comes in as a close second. And combining the two is a great way to bypass people’s frontal lobe and tap into those nice juicy emotional responses.
I think the first big example of this kind of retard activism online was “Kony 2012”, a confusing tale of African warlords and snake oil salesmen culminating in an arrest for public masturbation. No really, the guy jerked it in public and vandalized cars whilst drunk. It was a whole thing.
Gross public misconduct aside, the feelings of those taking part were very real and urgent to them in the moment. They were really, really outraged by this whole Kony situation… until they weren’t. This wasn’t the first high-profile online activist cause, but it was the one I think had all the hallmarks of modern hash-tag slacktivism: it was initiated top-down by a slick marketing and a PR push, it was put out as a “good vs. evil” story, it had some injustice that people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive could fix, and crucially it was almost certainly a complete lie meant to raise media profile; to push a righteous seeming agenda and make cold hard cash in the process.
People making up causes or attaching themselves to whatever is ‘trending’ is a symptom of what I’ve dubbed “convenience activism.” Social media is like an activism drive-through; people can’t be bothered to go out and find a worthy cause, that’s too much like hard work. Some people don’t want to set up their own cause because that’s even more work, so they find ways to get that feel good hit of “justice” without any of the legwork.
Most of all they want to be mad at something and have a good self-righteous shout at the world. That’ll fix it! Just shout at it. Don’t even get up from your desk — hell you can even do it from your couch on your phone. Go on, put some emoji in there too so people know how these urgent issues make you FEEL, then go back to watching Two and a Half Men re-runs and mainlining microwaveable pizza.
This is part of what has created the culture of “social justice warriors.” In some ways, they suffer from a form of activism obesity. They consumed too much convenience activism, and now they can’t stop. Their hunger is absolute, and with every step their outrage grows more and more unhealthy. They need a cause, any cause, to consume and regurgitate into a aggregated hashtagged mush.
I see it constantly. Activism invading hobbies so assholes can go “I’m touching your stuff! I’m touching your stuff! I’m smearing my ideology all over your stuff and you can’t stop me!“ They are the toddler who can’t stand another child having a toy, with the same uncontrollable bawling tantrums when someone tells them no. All of this is then projected back onto any person they dislike in a hail of tweets and Facebook posts intended to shame.
Being angry at the “right” kind of things is a form of social signalling. It’s a way to show to the right people that you are socially conscious and backing the right causes. People used to conspicuously give to charity, and rich hippies used to chain themselves to trees, but now they just write 140 characters about how much they hate manspreading, or white people, or whatever Salon or Gawker has whipped them up into an indignant rage about this time around. The “angry right-winger” is a long standing stereotype, but the spitting bile I see now comes from aging hipsters who refuse to get their heads out of college long after they’ve flunked out of their liberal arts degrees.
And this all doesn’t do anything. You aren’t doing anything productive. The money to grand causes are most likely going into someone’s pocket. The loftier the rhetoric often the bigger the con. Why not make things better in your immediate environment? Help a friend out, help a family member out, or find some volunteer work.
Just. Fucking. DO. Something.
You have the power to make your little enclave of this world just that little bit less shitty. You don’t need to make every act a public display; the real improvements in this world get done by those who quietly roll up their sleeves. If you just support good causes to glorify yourself then you are merely a narcissist.
I don’t write these pieces because I think I’m changing the world. Look at what I called this series: “Shouting into the Void” I know what I’m doing is most likely a blast of hot air into empty space. I just don’t care. I just have to get it all out so I can sleep a little better at night that’s all. My writing is a purely selfish act, and I do it because i enjoy it. If someone can find comfort or become inspired by it, then it is the best kind of bonus.
But I have no illusions to my anger being a transformative force for good like a legion of cloned Stepford students are being taught to believe. You can’t fix this world, it is too big and the issues too complex. But you can fix yourself.
As the Kendrick Lamar lyric goes: “Shit don’t change ’till you get up and wash yo’ ass Nigger.”
If you’d rather I quote the Bible: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
They mean the same thing. Don’t be a self righteous hypocrite, and start changing the world where you have the most agency — yourself. You can support all the right issues, have all the right politics, and attack all the right targets and still be an incredibly shitty person. If you think your worldview is so superior to everyone else’s, and that you have the right to take to social media and vomit bile all over it then don’t pretend you are better than the “trolls.”
We live in an age of professional trolls; hate mongers who pretend to be the voices of compassion and moral authority. These are the corrupt preachers and demagogues of our age. Snake-oil venders and which hunters who lead fickle bands of people with nothing better to do with their time, and nothing else to attach their ego to.
You could say these rants are the editorial equivalent of answering the door in a dressing-gown holding a bottle of whiskey. But when it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, at least I still have the creative energy to put it on the page. Am I adding to the problem? Maybe.
But at least I know I’m an asshole.
Latest posts by John Sweeney (see all)
- Shouting Into The Void: It’s The People You Take With You — March 10, 2018
- 10,000 Hours in MS-Paint No.5 – Grab Them by the Vagana — January 17, 2018
- 10,000 Hours in MS-Paint No.4 – Virtue: The Signalling — December 4, 2017