In the good old days, titillation was a tool commonly used to sell an idea, brand or product (sex sells!). Mark Wahlberg helped catapult Calvin Klein into a megabrand, selling millions of men's unmentionables by flaunting his famous eight-pack. Carl's Junior has leveraged this tactic by casting beautiful, scantily clad women in their TV spots to seductively devour their sandwiches. Consumers have bought into this strategy for decades. So it's no surprise that we've succumb to something equally seductive -- hate.
Traditional media has evolved over the past decade, this we know, with citizen journalism, a 24-hour news cycle, and civilian smartphones capturing major events before news crews can pinpoint the scene. Sadly, one thing that hasn't changed is that horrible old cliché, "if it bleeds it leads." We're still obsessed with shock. Drawn into the drama of a depressing Facebook post.
Social media has become a hotbed for divisive political discussion, especially over the past year. I used to love scanning my Twitter feed, quickly consuming my daily headlines, until it became engulfed with trolls and bad grammar. I went from being bombarded with humble brags and cat videos on Facebook to heated debate and nasty, user-generated memes. While many of us thought it would be helpful to share these posts as a way to educate our networks or demonstrate solidarity with the many marginalized groups being targeted with hateful rhetoric in light of the current U.S. administration, it turns out we may have inadvertently participated in it's rise.
Unbelievably, there are people who accept assaulting women as normal, agree with oppressing the LGBTQ community, and support exiling people for their religious beliefs. The moment a U.S. presidential candidate openly supported these hateful ideas, and reiterated them time and time again, the language became comfortable for some, commonplace even. Gaslighting legions of people into embracing hate. But what continues to cause these feelings to bubble up is the public's propensity to push the message forward. By tweeting it, posting it, sharing it and even verbally repeating it.
If hate inspires and motivates people, why can't acts of love? What if we focused on elevating the stuff that will evoke positive change, instead of highlighting more destructive dialogue? Instead of engaging with the hate mongers online, consider putting your head down and doing the work. Donate to a cause that moves marginalized groups forward, volunteer your time, express your support to someone you think needs it -- regardless if you know them or not -- and listen to what they have to say.
Like a fire, if you deny it oxygen, eventually its blaze becomes a flicker and slowly fades away.
It would be helpful if the media, right leaning or left, banned together and made a commitment to reporting on something more solid than the president's latest social media rants. Screen captures of a Twitter tantrum does not constitute news from the president of the United States. If that's how he chooses to interact with the media, perhaps the media needs to shut him out until he can inform the public appropriately, despite how clickable and ad worthy those headlines might be.
Instead of spreading more negative sentiment about the political climate in the U.S., choose not to continue to feed the beast. Digital media is, in part, what created this presidency. Like a fire, if you deny it oxygen, eventually its blaze becomes a flicker and slowly fades away. Like a bully, if you ignore him, eventually he goes away. Like a president, if he attacks the very fabric, flavour and culture of the nation in which he serves, eventually he will fall.
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