When someone says (or Tweets) something uninformed, insensitive, antiquated, or misguided, the Internet puts on its dancing shoes. It turns into an echo-chamber of faux-outrage, half-facts, and ridiculous punditry. None of which helps advance productive dialogue on any topic.
In fact, you could easily argue that the “dig in y’er heels” mentality sets most any cause because very few people end up looking good. The amount of reaction does not fit the action in question, which only serves to amplify the yelling. Three recent incidents:
Somehow, the act of posing for a picture has recently took on the term “selfie,” complete with loads of negative connotation. If the headline was “Obama takes picture with world leaders at Mandela memorial,” would the outrage have been so intense? Imagine if the image was sent via SnapChat?
From all that I’ve heard and read about Mandela, he would love the fact that world leaders were building and strengthening communications channels at his memorial service. But the coverage – and online discussion – of a cell phone picture distracted from that very real point.
This may be the greatest case study in people reacting to a headline without actually understanding the full context. Robertson stars on a show about backwater Louisiana men who make duck hunting tools. In an interview (click the link above for more), he made some fairly salacious remarks, including equating homosexuality to bestiality and saying that African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws. Robertson was suspended from his show by the network following the article’s release.
The “anti-gay” portion grabbed the biggest headlines, and that led to a firestorm of support on both sides. Liberal activist groups slammed Robertson and cheered A&E Networks, while conservative organizations and politicians did just the opposite.
People saying Robertson shouldn’t be punished because he was exercising his First Amendment rights just don’t understand what free speech means. Free speech means the government can’t kill or imprison you for what you say. You are still accountable to your private employers and public opinion. And, even his staunchest of supporters can see the harm in the Jim Crow statement.
Chris Rock has a joke about when Siegfried and Roy’s tiger attacked one of the magicians. “The tiger didn’t go crazy,” Rock say. “The tiger went tiger!” That’s how I feel here.
I’m going to keep this one real short and simple.
A top communications person for CollegeHumor.com’s parent company Tweeted an offensive joke. That was bad. Real bad.
But it’s hard for me to get as angry as the hype suggests I should be.
Quick questions: Did you know who she was before the Tweet in question? Did you even know the name of her company before the Tweet? If you answered “no” to either of those questions, it’s hard to be uber-outraged.
The GoGo in-flight wi-fi response was probably worse, in the grand scheme of things, since they tried to turn a mistake into a marketing opportunity:
Still, none of these situations deserved the massive amounts of attention they ended up receiving. Obama met with some world leaders. A old man showed his true colors. And a publicist ruined her career in 140 characters.