Last week a man named Matt Taylor played a pivotal role in achieving a first for humankind: it was the first time a scientist who had helped land a probe on a comet was forced into apologizing for the shirt he wore, which had drawings of women on it. Incredibly, a cartoon shirt had overshadowed the fact that he just landed a probe on a fucking comet.

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Now, taken objectively, and completely out of context, this sounds ridiculous, and that’s because it is. However, just go look on Facebook or Twitter (or anywhere on the internet, pretty much), and you will be inundated with similar bullshit; it is so pervasive, that it has become the rule, rather than the exception. It is the context. It’s called outrage bait, and its purveyors aren’t even worth listing, because its spread has gone far beyond measure at this point. It comes from right, left and middle, feminists and MRA’s, the religious and the nonreligious; and, it’s always ridiculous.

The game is played thusly: these media outlets make money by page views, because that translates to ad views and, sometimes, ad clicks. So, rather than provide informative, important content, it’s easier to drum up fake controversy and let the lemming masses do all the work. So, in the case of Matt Taylor and his shirt, we get a whole lot more people interested in the manufactured controversy surrounding a stupid shirt than we would if we left the news that we landed on a (fucking!) comet stand on its own merits. In other words, controversy over nothing gets more clicks than substantive discussions, so that’s what we’re getting.

We are not the problem; we enable the problem. When a substantial portion of the internet decides, collectively, to allow a cartoon t-shirt to overshadow the incredible achievement of landing a probe on a comet, we are engaging in the classic ‘bread and circus’ distractions that governing bodies have always used to keep the masses from getting too involved or concerned with issues that are truly important, so while Jezebel or Gawker, or Salon or Slate were busy ‘shaming’ Matt Taylor into an apology, all of these media outlets are aiding and abetting distraction in the interest of their own bottom line, so the government doesn’t even have to really bother. Why worry about propaganda when the lemmings are just more concerned with Kim Kardashian’s ass anyway? Goebbels himself could not have come up with a more streamlined system for turning people into sheep.

If we’re being honest, this kind of outrage-baiting has its roots in right-wing cable news media, primarily Fox. After they had so much success getting their viewers lemmings to follow such egregiously stupid causes like the imaginary ‘war on Christmas’ is it any surprise that mindless left-leaning outlets would follow suit? Not at all. It was only a matter of time, and it did not take particularly long.

But two stupids do NOT make a smart.

We need to cut this shit out. We need to stop taking the bait. So, next time you read something and you’re about to feel outraged, maybe ask yourself if it’s really something you think needs a mini-campaign waged against it. The fact that most of these little ‘controversies’ have a shelf-life of about 2-3 days makes me think the majority of the time they’re not really as important to the people getting all worked up over them as those people seem to think.

People need to get a grip.

Rob Cotton

 

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