What I’m about to do is hugely contradictory and ultimately self-defeating. However, to prove something of a point, I’ll do it anyway.
This particular column may come across as something of a rant, (just repeated ‘something’, I’m already being vague to avoid offence) but it’s a way of writing that comes quite naturally to me. Take from that what you will. Who starts an article with an apology? Exactly.
The internet is a place that has given us a great treasure of wonder: the hilarious antics of cats, ‘Hurricane’ Dave Thompson and Let’s Play after Let’s Play. I’ll happily admit I’ve watched and enjoyed several Let’s Plays, summer is a long season okay? These are things that spread happiness and evidence the enjoyment that the internet can provide to so many.
There are other things on the internet though. While avoiding the seedier and downright abhorrent areas of the internet, the target of my ire is the unrepentant moral outrage which is always followed by group back-patting.
An obvious example of this comes in the form of the unbelievable amount of anger levelled at Matt Taylor for a shirt he wore on live television. You can have your opinion on the shirt, but the utterly contrived nature of the internet’s outrage as a result is perfectly summed up by Barry Shitpeas. In Charlie Brooker’s 2014 ‘Wipe’ Shitpeas described how “normally when someone the internet doesn’t like issues an apology they’re still not forgiven because the internet’s sort of like a killing machine, it can’t forgive. But this bloke cried, and when he cried everyone felt sorry for him again, so things calmed down and everything went back to normal – and then there was someone else to hate, so we did that.”
Classic quote that’s too long there. Stretching it a bit? Maybe? Would I stick that in a marked piece of work? Yeah, why not, fuck it. While made in an obviously humorous manner, the point made is incredibly valid – the internet hates because hating is what it does. Before the internet people still hated things, but that hate had to be bottled up to some extent, or contained to an angrily worded letter to the print publication of your choice. Or, if you were really angry, you could go out and start breaking stuff.
It’s different now. Now, all you need is a smartphone and 140 characters. Or better yet, a WordPress blog on which to project all your righteous fury and hatred for everything. The internet provides a megaphone for people to project their most knee-jerk reactions into the wider public. What the instance of Matt Taylor’s shirt also proves is that the internet will find any reason to get upset over something, even itself.
Recently my Facebook timeline has been flooded with articles written by people explaining, in a very oh-look-at-me-I-understood-something manner, why Sia’s recent video starring Shia TheBeef is not paedophilic. I would say I have seen more articles advertised on the internet discussing how it isn’t paedophilic than those arguing that it is. Moreover, I’ve seen far more articles advertised as to why someone isn’t Charlie than those arguing the possible positives as to being ‘Je suis Charlie’. Je suis Tom. Je suis toast. Je suis Kevin Pietersen. This proves a number of things about how the internet consumes and reacts to events.
The internet, that celestial and omnipotent being – see also ‘Scientists’ and ‘The Economy’ – provides a wonderful opportunity for people to write counter-articles as if that’s the most intelligent thing one can do. The internet has shown that people want to be reaction hipsters. As if individuals using the internet perceive a possible instant reaction and realise that they must feel differently, just because.
Obviously, debate is extremely healthy, but too often there have been instances of people imagining debate just to provide themselves with an opportunity to try to be clever. I’m sure there were articles suggesting that the music video was paedophilic because what else are you gonna write about? In fact, I know there was one, I read it. But that article was so obviously wrong that it didn’t need response.
It’s as if one person suggests to the rest of the internet that THIS is what we are going to be outraged by now, and sometimes they bite, and sometimes they don’t. If there’s nothing for the internet to be outraged by, it will be outraged by itself. I’m part of it, I’ve commented on videos, I’ve sent Stan Collymore Walt Whitman quotes, this is just another example of the internet getting angry about something. This world of endless anger.