A dangerous discussion culture
There are A Lot of things that swept over from America in the last couple of decades, often resulting in strange flavored cultural milkshakes that leaves you with a blunt expression and a perplex “What was that?!” – Yeah, I’m talking about you K-Pop!
Anyway, from all the good and not-so-good-at-all-stuff that migrated in cultures across the world, the most worrying right now, for me at least, is a changed discussion culture.
A new trend that popularize social networks like Twitter or Reddit to become some kind of moral diss battle between different parties, the absolute indifference to discussing towards a middle ground and the self-victimizing across every class in society. There are three reasons why I think this terrible development is happening right now.
Firstly: Thanks Trump
For many the election of Donald Trump was like cold water in boiling oil. A president whose concept is to bad mouth minorities and politicizing fascist agendas, is not really softening any heavily opposed fronts and borders between groups with different values and opinions. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t think of any president being attacked so bluntly and openly from Hollywood and mainstream influencers as Trump had been and still is.
So, with politics and media in a literal war of puns and provocations fighting for attention – it influences the mindset in society. And that goes heavily for trump-supporters! Since trumps ideology is pretty blunt and openly aggressive, there is a general tendency to dislike everything coming from a left-wing perspective – since those ideologies are criticising Trump ever since.
That beeing said, lets move on and take a look at the people doing politics not in the congress but on social media.
Secondly: Influenced political influencers
American politics changed from actual political content to personalities and showmanship – it’s the same development in Europe as well as in the Internet too. Influencing through internet-personas is happening on many different levels – from clothing to political viewpoints – on many different platforms.
In my interview with the popular streamer Destiny aka Steven Bonnel, who’s one of the most active streamers in America when it comes to political discussions, I learned that he feels like he never really could change the opinion of his counterparts even though he had countless discussions with different political youtubers and streamers – there is a simple reason for it.
As well as influencers in fashion are depending on sponsoring, so are political influencers depending on their audience, either through donations or subscribers. While fashion-Influencer can ensure their income with advertising one certain brand, political influencers must stick to the certain political agenda their community is supporting – if they don’t want to endanger their income that is.
As mentioned before, Influencers are depending on views/visits and there’s a easy concept to get those.
“[…] outrage and indignation are and always will be pageview magnets. “Outrage porn,” as we’ve come to call it, checks all the boxes of compelling content—it’s high valence, it drives comments, it assuages the ego, projects guilt onto a scapegoat and looks good in your Facebook Feed.” (Ryan Holiday, How the Need For ‚Perpetual Indignation‘ Manufactures Phony Offense)
Fighting against injustice feels good and being a victim of injustice can feel even better, if you’re looking for someone to blame. Which is exactly what outrage-porn is for.
It is an easy way to make people feel better about themselves and it’s very popular with everyone who’s in need to create cheap traffic and page-visits. The main source and reason for the success of outrage-porn is a general to „victimhood chic“.
“”Victimhood chic” is in style on both the right and the left today, among both the rich and the poor. In fact, this may be the first time in human history that every single demographic group has felt unfairly victimized simultaneously. And they’re all riding the highs of the moral indignation that comes along with it”. (Mark Manson, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck, Page: 110)
With topics like gun-bans, gender equality, immigration, uprising fascism, demographic changes, global warming and so on and on, there are so many topics to generate an outrage.
The best thing about outrage-porn – if it gets more radical in one political camp, it will offend the other radical spectrum and create a never-ending circle of outrage for those willing to deliver.
The big question here is how unhealthy that constant bombarding outrage-porn really is and if its not distracting from actual important issues who needs to be addressed. If you are not sure what outrage-porn is exactly and how it works let me show you a recent example.
Moral battleground: Twitter and Reddit
You probably haven’t heard about the Polish games studio CD-Red. It’s a relatively small developer, very popular amongst the gamer community for their focus on delivering high quality storytelling, graphics and entertainment for completely reasonable prices – unlike big developers like EA or Ubisoft leeching on their fanbase wallets with five-euro-micro-transactions for a few new dresses for your sims!
The reason why I bring them up is that they have been heavily criticized for a post on Twitter that offended a certain group of people in the late august. The reactions on the tweet got way out of hand and of course deleting the post did not help at all. Here’s the original post and some of the reactions to it:
As you can figure out by the retweets this thing went viral! In every possible direction by the way. Tweets criticising CD-Red got roasted and laugh at too – to the point that Youtubers made videos about the people who’re offended. Those videos are mostly transphobic and a lot more hurtful than the original tweet that started all that ever was.
I won’t go into detail here on those reaction on both spectrums but what I want to point out is the entire process:
Because that’s the major problem!
Of course the Tweets getting the most attention are not the one’s that give construct feedback or at least explain what the context is. No, the most retweets are the ones with the biggest amount of roasting, triggering and offending as much as possible and that’s not just something that goes for people arguing against CD-Red but especially for those who are „hateing the haters“. And just to be clear, there has been actual constructive statements in this discussion:
Comments like that explained the whole incident behind the outrage perfectly! However, now that everyone is offended and triggered it doesn’t even matter which side you’re looking at – there is absolutely no way this issue is ever going to be solved or find closure.
And to be honest, for the most part I don’t think there was much intention to ever find a middle ground for many of the attending in the first place. It was more about sprouting out an opinion and criticizing an opposing:
There was a laid battleground, which was the “joke”-tweet and a couple of very angry and offended people on both sides, just waiting to fire their arguments and insults at one another – completely dominating the whole discussion.
Oh yeah and scaring the shit out of other developers to ever dare triggering one those moral wars and damaging their sales – meaning: This topic is not going to be found in a mainstream discussion and wont be solved anytime soon.
In the end, a pointless/exaggerated/hurtful and radicalizing discussion that got deliberately out of hand, boosting some egos on social media – making it harder to start a conversation on the topic again and scaring away those who’ve actual input to give! That’s a discussion-culture you should be afraid of.
A dangerous discussion culture
What if many of the most aggressive Tweets on both sides where more motivated to gain followers and attention instead of addressing a wrongdoing. What if political Influencers are more and more changing from actually doing politics to just making money. What if politics on the internet slowly changes into a competition for subscribers and attention. And how problematic would that be for a generation which has their political views heavily formed on social media. Only working in one way – dividing society into more radical factions.
Who will grow if everyone thinks they’re right and the others are completly wrong? There is a old saying: „A smart person who knows is doing something wrong, wont do as much damage as a dumb one who thinks is doing the right thing.“ And if this goes on the way it does, there will be a lot of people who’re thinking they are doing the right thing.
As always I’m curious about for thoughts on the subject and your feedback. Feel free to discuss and correct me if you think I made any mistakes or fill in blanc spots I might have forgotten. Thanks for reading and have a lovely day.