If something upsets and offends you, perhaps it isn’t the smartest idea in the world to keep on promoting it through angry tweets.
This week saw the launch of GB News, a name that suggests they couldn’t give two shits about Northern Ireland thus joining everyone else unless it’s politically convenient to pretend to care. Apparently, GB News is the antichrist of media agencies. It’s going to corrupt your minds, spawn a generation of goose-stepping fascists, and install the decrepit lovechild of Satan and Stalin as the new national overlord.
I don’t know how true that is. I’ve not watched it. Truth be told, I don’t plan to watch it. I’m sitting here wondering do I even need a twenty-four-hour news channel? If I really need updates on the goings-on of the UK’s most tedious soap opera, I only need to log into Twitter to find out what Boris has done this time.
Of course, I don’t completely rely on Twitter for news. There’s Reddit’s News of the Stupid, News of the Weird and the Darwin Awards subreddits that provide insightful commentary on the number of dipshits that populate our planet. There’s the Angry People in Local Newspapers page on Farcebook (not a typo) that keeps me up-to-date on seagull attacks, potholes and the ever-present threat of BINS! And yeah, I check Sky News now and again, just to see what’s what.
Truth be told, I don’t really care about most news because I don’t consider most news to be that important. There are a handful of news apps installed on my phone, but I had to disable the ‘Breaking News’ notifications because I couldn’t give a fuck who has just been voted off Bake Off.
I have my hot-button topics like everyone else. Anyone who has ever gandered at my eccentric mess of a Twitter feed has probably gathered I’m anti-surveillance, pro-privacy, and extremely antagonistic towards dickheads taking photos of cryptoids on their potato-phones. Seriously, why do all the loonies still own Kyocera VP-210s?
Others, of course, are much more engaged, and unlike me, they see GB News as a clear threat to liberal democracy and progressive values that must be crushed before it infects the population. Now, maybe that’s the case. Maybe Andrew Neil, Dan Wooton, Kirsty Gallacher and the rest of them have all clubbed together in some Bond-villain bunker to fashion their devious scheme to topple the last fifty years of social progress. Perhaps they truly have a secret manifesto to take us all back to a time when gays could be imprisoned, blacks couldn’t use buses, and the Church actually had a weird amount of authority over people’s sex lives.
I’m not denying that’s possible. I am going to ask why Twitter’s Vanguard of Righteousness have decided to help them, though?
It’s always the same with the terminally outraged. I remember when if a celebrity trended on Twitter, it was because they’d just died. Nowadays, it’s because they’ve said something others deem offensive. Like clockwork, people react, and then other people see the reaction and react, and it snowballs into a flurry of venom spitting that could flood the Sahara in green slime.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand. Somebody says something obnoxious or offensive, and there’s an instinct that takes over to verbally smack them down. The problem is, there is a clear lack of self-awareness, so let me try and help – if you haven’t realised this yet, you’re being fucking played.
If it wasn’t for Twitter, to me Jim Davidson would still be that bloke from Big Break who did the Zippy voice for no apparent reason. Laurence Fox would still be Kevin Whately’s partner in that beyond boring crime drama, Lewis. James Woods would still be that bloke who starred in one of my favourite movies, Videodrome. I don’t even think I’d know who the fuck Katie Hopkins was, and I definitely wouldn’t have a single clue who Paul Joseph Watson is.
It doesn’t just apply to those on the right either. There are some proper melts on the left too, like Owen Jones—a man who has so consistently mistaken the values of Metropolitan London’s Labour-voting base as representative of the entire Labour-voting base. Yeah, mate, how’s your Red Wall doing?
And solely thanks to Twitter, I know that GB News is a thing.
While claiming to despise these individuals and so consistently and vocally opposing them, all you’re doing is increasing their reach. Quote-tweeting some bellend isn’t actually going to shut them up. Instead, it’s going to help them reach another hundred people they wouldn’t have reached before. Including people like me. If I’m hearing about it, you’ve fucked up, because as I’ve covered I don’t care and yet you’ve all managed to reach me. Yeah, well done.
Additionally, amplifying their views plays into an innate part of human nature – curiosity. This week is the anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s most prominent moral puritans, Mary Whitehouse – a woman so thoroughly repressed that every time she coughed, her fanny farted dust.
Mary thought that she could rid the world, or at least Britain, of all sorts of filth – boobs on TV, violent movies, and un-Christian values. Pallying up to Margaret Thatcher and a group of similarly repressed prats, she encouraged the creation of the Video Recordings Act and the Director of Public Prosecution’s list of Video Nasties.
Yeah, that went well…
There are some good movies on that list, but most are the cinematic equivalent of surgically removing your own nipple and popping it in a frying pan. Had it not been for Mary’s moral crusade, chances are most of those movies would have long slipped from the public consciousness into the festering pit of cinematic sewage where they belong. That didn’t happen. They became highly sought after, maintained their notoriety, and even managed to get the Collector’s Edition treatment after the relaxing of various rules.
When told things are ‘bad’, the response of most isn’t to say “Oh, thanks for the warning, buddy” and move on. No, it’s to investigate. Few people like being told what to think. Even when they’re clearly fucking wrong, people don’t like being told what to think. So if you’re quote-tweeting some prick out of context, people will click through to the thread to see the context. If you’re one of the screensnappers, they’ll just look it up in the search bar.
All of this plays right into the hands of those who seek to profit from outrage. You are building their profile for them. You are getting them those precious clicks and searches and all the rest of it. You’re helping them get their next spot on Newsnight or Have I Got News For You.
In the case of GB News, okay, a few companies won’t advertise on the platform anymore. Great, well done, but a lot of advertisers will see the social media heat they’re getting and think ‘let’s do it’ because be honest with yourselves, for all your talk of boycotts, most of you won’t. Some might, sure, but the majority are like those Redditors who made Gamestop a big deal last summer – principled to begin with, but it didn’t last, did it?
If you want things to go away, then you need to stop letting them live rent-free in your head. Every click, every retweet, quote-tweet, even screenshot is helping them spread their message, and as much as you might like to think otherwise, some people agree with that message, or at least, are open to hearing it.
Outrage is understandable, but it’s not smart. It’s an emotional reaction rather than a reasoned one, and it’s a reaction that can and is exploited every single day. I don’t even know if GB News is this malevolent machine of malicious intent that my Twitter feed seems to believe it is. For all I know, it’s just a Conservative circle-jerk in the same way The Guardian is a Labour lovefest.
The TL;DR of all this is if you truly want to see an individual or a company crash and burn, you really need to shut the fuck up about them.
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