2015: A Year of Divisive Outrage

2015: A Year of Divisive Outrage
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

We’re here, readers. The good year 2016 is upon us, and we’ve crossed the middle hump of this decade of Internet culture and historic events into its second half.

Like most years living on Earth, the year was struck with tragedy and heinous acts of human rights violations — or in some cases, the gruesome reveal of such acts that had been going on for a while. Still, there were also some amazing advancements; the Supreme Court declared same sex marriage constitutional, crime rates hit a record-low nationally, 195 countries agreed to improve climate conditions and SpaceX successfully launched and landed a rocket ship and paved the way toward reusable rockets.

2015 was also the year social awareness hit its stride. Society listened and took a critical look at privilege, inequality, racism and xenophobia. Although, the movement was a rather bumpy ride that hadn’t figured out its grace yet. Sometimes it became a witch hunt where “wrong doers” were yanked from their corners of the world and thrown up into the Internet spotlight, where all would criticize, discuss and obliterate. Take for instance Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis for their holier-than-thou views toward LGBT people, the controversy surrounding Ahmed Mohamed and his homemade clock, a mostly male Congress voting to defund Planned Parenthood or Martin Shkreli raising the price of the HIV-fighting drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750. Lest I forget the Confederate flag situation either, but some forward change actually happened in the aftermath when the South begrudgingly swallowed the pill and moved on.

One thing that especially leaves a sour, unpleasant taste in my mouth though was how often the Internet community lost its damn mind about mostly frivolous things. In the age of the social justice warrior, is it now in vogue to demand an apology/resignation for every little faux pas or gaffe that occurs? It usually starts on Twitter about something a certain person doesn’t like about a TV show or something, and then it snowballs into a public discussion, whether or not it needed to be.

In recent history, let’s examine the whole “War on Christmas” stuff that came about with Starbucks’s red holiday cups. This was a hot, hot thing for a little more than a week. All it took was Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor, to post a video saying “Let’s boycott Starbucks for their un-Christian ways” and an army of people who re-posted the video in order to denounce it or make fun of it. Their plan backfired. While hundreds of people used the video to reinforce their tolerant — or apathetic — ways, the guy’s video was shared across the web and it entered the news cycle. Most everyone didn’t care about it, yetseemingly everyone cared about it, even silly ol’ Donald Trump. I can’t imagine how many people had to waste time considering if they should be mad about it or not.

We also all regrettably found out about the anti-feminist and pro-white protests against Star Wars and Mad Max: Fury Road for their lead female and minority roles. While #BoycottStarWarsVII and #BoycottMadMax were rightfully denounced and condemned, ironically, the outcry and retweets only brought further exposure to the ridiculous hashtags and thus legitimized the two attempted movements. That’s how that stuff starts now.

Those are just two recent examples of what’s been deemed “reverse outrage.” All it takes are a few dozen people to angrily tweet about something, and soon the 24-hour news cycle social media hawks swoop in, write up a click-bait headline about the supposed “public outrage” and it becomes a trending topic, amplifying the whole thing to thousands. Then, a petition forms calling for so and so to apologize or be fired. So and so does — occasionally in a rebellious devil-may-care way — and then it fades into obscurity all before most people finish dinner. Alas, there is a profit to be made in fueling “reverse outrage,” so it will continue.

I say this knowing full well The Free Weekly isn’t immune to it, either. You’ll often find hot takes of current events in our paper bringing light and criticism to goings on. When I can, I try to work around the outrage and encourage articles that poke at the bigger picture.

There’s a part of me that has to take a step back and look at myself whenever I buy into the hate trains. There are plenty of things to be mad about in the world, but getting worked up about them and complaining — or worse, only using them to justify your own morals to others — can only do so little.

It baffles me how these things develop and how there’s such a divisive and ugly debate waged in countless comment sections of status updates. The more and more divisive we become about “the issues” — whether or not they are legitimate — we buy into the “us versus them” rhetoric instead of putting in the effort to seek common ground. Usually, most comments I read deal in absolutes, whether it’s the chest pounding, “Yeah? Well you can go f*** yourself!” response or even “There’s no chance in hell I’d listen to a word some conservative nutbag/liberal pussy has to say.” I suppose that’s the way it has always been, though. Humans are reactionary creatures.

Admid all of this, we’ve had methodical killers shooting up communities every week in combination with a one-two sucker punch that the police — the very people entrusted to protect and serve us all — are shooting us down, and it’s mostly black people. Seriously, racial minorities made up about 37 percent of the general population in the US and 46 percent of armed and unarmed victims of police brutality. They also made up 62 percent of unarmed people killed by police in 2015, according to reporting by TheGuardian.

Of course, there’s no shortage of protest against gun violence and minority injustice, e.g. the #blacklivesmatter movement. It just gives me chills that there are people out there who seek to justify that stuff. Overseas in the Middle East there’s an entire region of the Earth’s families who are desperately escaping their homeland in life-threatening situations from violent zealots and genocidal regimes, and still people claim it’s the refugees’ fault.

Just once I’d like it if we could all take some time to really look at what’s going on, and take a little time to understand dissenting views. I realize how preachy that sounds, and it kinda bothers me to sound like that, but seriously. We shouldn’t accept headlines and trending topics as our only source of news.

Surely, the Internet has empowered the quiet and underprivileged, but it has also empowered the loud and uninformed.

Thanks for reading The Free Weekly in 2015. I’ll see ya in 2016. Keep on fighting the good fight, good people.

Categories: Commentary