I love lots about this piece, especially the use of the word “arseholes” to describe scumbags who get their jollies out of trolling and making trouble on the internet. It’s a fine English word.
Meanwhile, arseholes hijack the news. Is this the fault of the trolls or the people who click?
Shortly after Watson spoke, a site supposedly created by users of the now-notorious 4chan message board appeared, threatening to publish naked photos of the actress. The threats prompted a huge response of support for Watson and the #HeForShe campaign, alongside an absolute flurry of coverage in virtually every online outlet in the world.
The problem is that it’s not at all clear that the threats, which didn’t make a great deal of sense, were ever real. By Wednesday, a supposed PR firm had stepped up to claim responsibility for the threats against Watson, as part of an effort to take down 4chan. All the signs suggest that PR firm itself was a hoax promulgated by an outfit known to engage in poor-taste stunts to get surges of traffic and advertising revenue.
While the doubtful news here is the hoaxed hoax, this piece brings up numerous important points:
- “the global news agenda is now regularly held hostage by small bands of loud but tech-savvy idiots”
- “Outrage and backlash has become the regular fodder of coverage and cultural debate.”
- “Our global conversation needs to learn how to drown out the tiny pockets of shouters, and talk about other things instead.”
- We may be at the whim of elite trolls rather than elite editors of the news.
I admit it is very disheartening to see better news sites or critical sites get less attention than sensational, mystery mongering sites or drama bloggers. Yet, they do. Is it their fault that people click on garbage links or revel in other’s misfortune? They want hits so they give the people what they want – junk food. Thinking about tough things (especially tremendously complicated things like religious extremism, global politics and feminism) is hard and no fun. So people take the easy street and read fluff to laugh and make their lives seem less worse. That’s OK on occasion, but when it dominates your attention and understanding of world events, that’s not good.