Why You Should Be More Cynical

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Using a Polish gnome for my headline image because, why not, pictures equal more views on the internet. Still, they are delivering news just as I am delivering opinion.

I’ve seen a major problem with the way people read and write about things on the internet. The vast majority of people like to find things they disagree with then share it with a wee pointless comment about how much they disagree. The problem is best illustrated by a gif.

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People walk into these clickbait, anger merchant, think pieces get temporarily infuriated, then go in to walk into another one. They share them, bitch to their friends about how unjust the world is, and the cycle continues. The cycle spreads. The anger cycle.

The cycle starts with demand – people want something to read to keep them occupied for a few minutes. This demand is filled by a small pool of content mill writers, who are essentially some starving artist writers who need the small amount of money they’ll get paid to churn out shit. The easiest money, I’m told, comes from attacking feminists. From a demographic perspective, feminists are primarily women, who tend to be more social creatures than men, hence more connected on social networks, and as the ideology demands societal change feminists are always “on” and ready to fight things. Writers are often paid by click and could probably troll feminists into paying their rent and heating bill for the month. Literally feeding the trolls.

Stop a minute when you read a thing and consider what the author’s intention might be, and then scrap any thoughts that it could have anything to do with their principles and resolve that they probably want money. A friend one time advised me when I was going to write a story to first think “Where are they standing?”. You must also ask this question of every writer and every piece of art that angers you.

As an additional example, consider “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. The song is fairly catchy, but it seems mostly known for the lyrics. Lyrics which are fairly par for the genre. Instead, it became known, in some circles, as one of the most misogynistic and sexist things to have ever been recorded. The upshot fo all this? It was the topic of countless thinkpieces and comments and parodies. It was pushed frequently by different people. Even sharing a thing negatively is still a share. Why would you want to increase the number of times something you hate exists?

Be more cynical. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams sat down and devised lyrics that sounded a bit off colour and sexualising. They still weren’t half as explicit as some people. Didn’t you notice they filled their music video with hashtags? It’s blatant advertising, and it pisses me off as much as it makes me laugh that people fell for it. The negative reaction if anything just galvanised support for the song. The various student unions publicly making sure everyone knew they weren’t playing it and making statements instead of, you know, just not playing it, reeks of people trying to look like they’re doing something against the moral outrage. It all built momentum and publicity and assisted the song to becoming the party song of that Summer.

(I preferred “Get Lucky”, myself, so that’s another reason I’ve written about this.)

As it stands, I don’t have a solution for you. None seems to spring immediately to mind. Being prepared to ignore more things could help, but every horror movie and every genocide starts with people ignoring things. In retrospect, it is always easier to identify the causes to the effects, it’s easy to recognise when something should have been done. It’s much much harder to decide something isn’t worth it. All the same, I’d encourage all my activist friends and those who find themselves getting angry to follow this advice:

Be more cynical. Follow the money. Don’t Buy It. Sharing anything means you agree with it and endorse it. Sharing something is an encouragement to the writer and an encouragement to the opinion. A good rule of thumb is to instead look for something saying the opposite and share that instead. If you plant more angry seeds, you’ll get an evil tree. Evil trees bear vicious fruit and vicious fruit bears more angry seeds. That is the cycle, and I implore you to break it.

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