The internet has become nothing more than a reflection of what you, personally, wish to process the world as. Whether you’ve been talked into believing that America is being ‘stolen by illegal immigrants who are taking all the jobs’ or that ‘Russian-brainwashed nazis and racists have seized control of power’, it’s essentially a load of garbage that has been successful in its purpose of riling you up.
CNN and Fox News are the same. Breitbart and Mic are the same. They create narratives in easily digestible and selectively factual news pieces, and then make money off of your anger and disdain. It’s nothing new. Frankly, people should’ve smartened up to realize this by now. However the rise of Trump has only strengthened every network and outlet that operates in this manner and has encouraged now formerly respectable publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post to conduct themselves in similar ways, in reporting with bias. Even after cashing in their reliability, it seems that the only lesson learned is that fear mongering gets you attention and a fat paycheck.
Between the social media algorithms that only show us friends that are just like us with their similar thoughts, the fear merchant writers looking to bank new Twitter followers, misinformation websites peddling absolute fiction, and yellow journalism publications choosing which news stories to highlight, it’s only produced an environment where two sides are so sure that they’re the one who is right and nobody is willing to bend and listen to the opposition for a moment. The left has taught itself that lending an ear to ‘the enemy’ (who are almost always believed to be, at their core, sexist or racist) will somehow result in basic human rights being stripped. The right has taught itself to believe that paying attention to the left will bring about a cultural destruction without room for them in it.
What’s perhaps more dangerous is that the laws of decency and respect towards the physicality of people and property, have gone out the window with this sureness. There has been a slow building degeneration of what’s considered acceptable behavior towards those that disagree with you. It started as debate, it escalated to doxxing, and now we have created an environment where violence is condoned, where people make excuses for petty anarchists breaking windows and burning things while smugly sitting behind their keyboards and passing around civil rights quotes to their Facebook friends. The message is clear: “I don’t like you, go away and/or die.”
These things happen and an idea enforced that in order to build social capital, you must become extreme. You must stand 100% liberal or 100% conservative and be unwavering to your ‘team’ if you want to be heard or even paid attention to. People want to see someone agreeable saying things that inspire their sensibilities. They want to feel as if they are doing the right thing and surrounded by good people. But those two notions of ‘good’ and ‘right’ are far too black and white to be defined. Which is why opponents are seen as two-dimensional caricatures. YouTube trolls, nazis, social justice warriors, whiny college students… They definitely exist, but the conversation stops when you paint with a broad brush. When there’s nothing more to be said, that’s when people start raising their fists and picking up rocks.
There is a wide sweeping, homegrown mental illness that has infected this country and is entirely built on arrogance, delusion, guilt, and the need to stand out. As long as there is money to be made off of websites that offer confirmation bias, television networks that fear monger, and even celebrities and entertainers using their power of influence to push their views, exclusively, onto you – we will continue to rot. Because they are so sure that they are right.
Jayme Karales is the author of DISORDERLY, the director of ROTTEN, and the host of JOHN PODESTA’S PIZZA PARTY. His work has been published by Thought Catalog, The Rebel, Underground Books, and many others.