Internet bullying is helping fuel America's hate fetish....
If a pop singer and a teenage girl are the worst people you will encounter this year, consider yourself part of the most privileged one percent of human beings on planet earth.
Social media has proven itself to be one of the biggest technological advances of the 21st century. In a cold digital existence in which your entire life can be boiled down to a phone app, it gives a semblance of humanity in an otherwise static environment.
It allows us to stay connected, to voice our opinion, and to converse with people across the world, about a wide range of topics, instantly. It allows us to aggregate said conversations and see what the most discussed topics are. It lets you know, instantly, what the populace finds important, interesting, or funny. But what it also allows us to do is to take the notion of mob mentality and quantify it within the context of the internet. The power of social media is most apparent when the populace is unhappy with a person, place or thing. When a controversial event happens, or a controversial opinion is spouted from a prominent figure in popular culture, the jets of all of our penned up hatred and frustration go full blast.
Whoever is on the receiving end of the internet's froth is subject to insults and accusations that most people would never fathom saying to another human being's face. It's a scientific fact that anonymity brings out the worst in people. If there's no consequence for what you say, you will say anything because you know there will be no social repercussions to your words. Death threats are common, even if the transgression wouldn't even warrant a criminal inquiry in real life. People REALLY hate it when you disagree or offend them (I'm counting myself as well; this is a dissection of myself just as much as it is the population at large).
Nobody can tell you what the wrath of the internet is like this week better than Robin Thicke and Kendall Jones. I covered some of Thicke's crimes against humanity in a piece from last week that came to a culmination when someone in Thicke's camp thought of the completely ill advised idea to start a “#AskThicke” hashtag on twitter in which “fans” would be able to ask the singer questions. Quickly it turned into a Robin Thicke roast session, ranging from harmless jabs to sincere suggestions that he was a rapist and should stand in front of a train.
Kendall Jones is no singer. Just a teenage girl from Texas who's into African big game hunting. There's numerous pictures of her on Facebook with lions, rhinos, and cheetahs that she's shot. While on the surface it seems obvious that hunting endangered animals is horrible, she claims that in actuality she hunts within the sanction of animal sanctuaries. There is a need in these sanctuaries to control the male population of certain animals. If not, they will fight for territory, kill each other, and end up not reproducing as much on the back end. Kendall and people like her pay tens and thousands of dollars to hunt these animals while the money then goes back into the sanctuary or surrounding villages. What she's doing is perfectly legal and necessary for the maintenance of said species, but that didn't stop the internet from calling her a horrible puppy stomper anyway.
Now let me make this perfectly clear: I am not defending the actions of either Robin Thicke or Kendall Jones. This article is not about whether Blurred Lines is about rape, or whether big game hunting is okay. These are issues that are much more nuanced than a yes or no response. These are issues that require an actual critical analysis of the problem at hand, how it affects you, and how it affects society. If you can answer either question with a definitive “yes” or a definitive “no” then you probably haven't given enough thought to the issues. Taking a hard line stance on something that isn't an objective fact is never a good idea.
When you send death threats to a man that you don't even know, for making a song that might be about a subject that offends you, you lose all moral high authority to judge. Even if you're morally right in your argument, your response negates that. When you send death threats to a teenage girl that you don't even know, for engaging in a completely legal act that is actually necessary for the maintenance of animal sanctuaries, you lose all moral authority to judge. Your hatred and vitriol helps no rape victims and saves no animals. It serves nobody but yourself. It does nothing but pad your own smug sense of superiority.
Think about the worst thing you've ever done. The worst mistake you've ever made. We all have that one thing that we regret doing. That pops up in our psyche at the wrong time and makes us hate ourselves. Got it in your mind? Good. Now imagine a world in which everyone on earth knew that one fact about you, and that fact only. They knew nothing about all the good you've done in the world, just that one bad thing you did that one time, and they've now formed their entire perception of you based off of that one mistake. Sound like a shitty existence? That's the position we put celebrities and prominent figures in all the time. You're defined by your lowest point.
Robin Thicke could save a train of puppies but he will always be hated by a certain segment of the population because of a pop song he more than likely had ghostwritten for him. Kendall Jones could cure cancer but she will always be hated by a certain segment of the population because she shot some animals you think are pretty.
You don't really hate Robin Thicke. You don't really hate Kendall Jones. You don't know them. You hate what they represent. You hate the institutions that prop people like this up. They are simply the scapegoats for your frustration. Your real enemy is not Blurred Lines. Your real enemy is institutionalized misogyny and rape culture. Your enemy is not Kendall Jones. Your enemy is America's obsession with gun culture coupled with a disregard for the environment. But those are ideas. You can't attack an idea. (Even though we tried. Remember the “War on Terror?” That worked out great, didn't it?)
You can't kill an idea. So you attack the product of said ideas, because your life is being negatively affected by something that doesn't have a face. There's no clear, succinct end to this idea, so you feel obligated to attack anything it produces. While I completely understand this frustration and share said frustration in a different realm, its not productive.
Ending Robin Thicke's career will not end misogyny. Ending Kendall Jones' career will not end big game hunting. All you'll be doing is hurting someone who probably had no ill intent when they decided to do the thing that they did. A mistake. A completely human situation. Don't kill a fly with a shotgun. It's very easy to hate Robin Thicke and Kendall Jones. The rich, white, gun toting cheerleader from Texas. The rich, white good looking sleazeball. We all know these archetypes, or a derivative of them, and probably have some backed up frustration towards their existence. It's very easy to hate a stereotype. It's hard to hate an individual.
In order to hate the Robin Thickes and Kendall Joneses of the world we must stereotype them. We must label them as something else other than nuanced and complicated human beings with a myriad of motivations, likes, dislikes, fears and loves. We must boil them down to one definition. “Rapist.” “Killer.” Because if we truly knew these people, and analyzed why the way the way they are, it'd be a whole lot harder to blindly hate them. But that doesn't fit in with your agenda, so most people will not ever entertain these notions.
It takes a strong man to humanize an enemy. That's why soldiers are taught to dehumanize enemy combatants in war. They are not people. They are insurgents. Targets. That's it. They aren't fathers, sons, husbands. Just sacks of meat between you and your objective. Their war with guns is our war with words. And both can be extremely hurtful.
It's okay to disagree. It's okay to disapprove. It's okay to protest, pull support, take measures to stop something that you don't agree with. But when you make it personal, when you write someone off as a non-entity, when you dehumanize someone with no chance for retribution, you are just as bad as they are. You love to hate. You look for things to hate. You purposefully put yourself in situations where you know you'll encounter something you hate, so you can hate it. We need this, because the things that we really hate have no face. We have no target. So the Thickes and the Joneses of the world will do for now.
But before you shoot, ask yourself is this really who you want to spend your bullets on. If a pop singer and a teenage girl are the worst people you will encounter this year, consider yourself part of the most privileged one percent of human beings on planet earth.