When Rhetoric Equates Violence: The Downfall of Recent Discourse

by / 8 Comments / 155 View / June 10, 2015

I typically begin my articles with a few disclosures, and I feel it is appropriate to do so for this read. First, this article is long.  But the length is primarily due to the fact that I believe this is a complex issue that cannot be summed up in a short post; therefore, it is equally imperative if you want to hear out what I am saying, you read this in entirety.  Second, this article is written in two parts – both which are related in many ways but operate independently.  I will begin with establishing something I have wanted to voice for a while: how rhetoric in recent “activism” has been bastardized to a point where it is distorted our global view of issues.  The second (to be published in the near future) is how this trend of rhetoric is counter-productive to the liberal movement overall.  I broke up the articles, amid the fact they would be connected, to ease the readability and allow a discussion, if one is prompted, on each independent issue.  Therefore, note that the second premise, while related to the former, is not dependent on it: even if you believe such trends are justified, if they do on an utilitarian scale create setbacks to what they are trying to solve, they are pragmatically hypocritical.

I also will use the terms pragmatic and principle hypocrisy, as I stated above, numerous times. Pragmatic hypocrisy indicates when a certain action historically has led to setbacks for the intended outcome of that action.  Principle hypocrisy is used to expose hypocrisy in logic, opposed to application.  The separation of the two is necessary because the utilitarian and righteousness of actions is a complex and often non-overlapping matter.  Yes, so far this article sounds like an academic pompous diatribe where I may attempt to crusade the liberal movement with a bunch of technicalities: that is the opposite goal, however, I wanted to state the above at the expense of humor or lightheartedness in order to be clear of my intentions.  Because, as this article will go on to discuss, intentions can often be subject to pragmatic hypocrisy.

My first issue is with the media.  While the second part of this read will deal more with trends regarding individual liberal proponents, perhaps a better title for this segment would be “The Career of Liberal Publications.”  The liberal media, I sincerely believe, doesn’t care too much about liberal issues.  And if it does, it seriously fails at it.  All of the major liberal proponents, be HuffPost, Buzzfeed, etc. all seem to be in the game for one thing and one thing only: hype.  More specifically speaking: social media clicks and shares.  Oh wait, this is just another “the media sucks” trope meshed up in one long and boring read?  I cannot brag about my writing being the most engaging thing in the world, but that isn’t the exact vibe I am trying to establish.  The issue is that media outlets will ride any issue, often concerning a valid liberal contention, to the point that it distorts and bastardizes the proportions of that issue.

Take, for instance, the recent Vanity Fair article regarding Caitlyn Jenner.  I first expressed my realization on Facebook publicly, but it has now crystallized more to how stunning the revealed the lack of care of the media really is.  Countless, nonstop articles on this issue.  People went crazy and celebrated it; I have no issue with that, especially those of the transgender community who see this as an important milestone to their social standpoint.  But the media’s implicit silences then drove me nuts.  At first, the Vanity Fair article led to countless media joints screaming justifiable joy of this cover.  And then came the contention: some Fox News somebody and Drake Bell – an actor nobody really cared about till this happened – both tweeted or mentioned something along the lines of “oh it is still he” / “still calling you Bruce.”  Do I think that is dumb: for sure.  Both instances are two somewhat morons drawing media attention of their opinion when no such opinion was solicited.  And it was an opinion they both probably knew would be offensive.

But then the media ran insane over it.  Countless articles showing not just Drake Bell’s tweet, but countless other tweets that responded to him.  Then articles that talked about how “using the wrong pronoun is violence” indicting several typically conservative members of the media to a charge of direct systematic oppression (more on this later in the next read).  Every publication fronted this as the cover issue (mainly ones discussing social issues), and then came the response that this wasn’t the biggest victory because Caitlyn Jenner had privilege in society.  My tone indicates derision, and it is derision, but not for the reason you may think.

Because it occurred to me that this whole issue, as covered by the media, became 20% substance and 80% hype very, very fast. The amount of attention given to a tweet, a single 140 character tweet, from some inevitable moron who would spew hate, a rather constant factor of the internet, was going to ride up the clicks.  People loved making fun of Drake Bell.  I’d even presume that Drake Bell received even more attention than the actual sociopolitical issues facing transgender individuals such as high suicide rates (actually, a fact given that “Drake Bell Jenner” returns 61 million hits while the entire history of articles regarding “transgender suicide” returns a mere one-sixth of that: 10 million).  HYPE.  Big, bold lettered hype.

So what’s wrong with a bit of hype?  Surely it gets people motivated to beat down issues.  The problem is that hype displaces other important matters, it shrouds other tragedies, and it completely distorts the reality of modern news.  Want proof?  Easy.  During this Caitlyn Jenner hype storm, 5 days later a massive gas explosion happened in Accra. Didn’t hear about it?  Not surprised.  If you did, it was likely well after it happened unless you are personally from the region (I actually happened to learn about it over a condolences status from a friend who was from the city itself).  Over one hundred people died. And this was five days after the Caitlyn Jenner story broke news.  Barely a single mention, barely a single trended article regarding any condolences, sympathies etc. over these casualties.  The generic search term “Accra” actually has less hits on Google than “Drake Bell Jenner.”  Let me stress once again: a tweet from a moron named Drake Bell received far more liberal attention (manifested as criticism) than this horrifying event.  And the principle hypocrisy here is stunning if we backlog a full month.


HuffPost.  Vox.  DailyKos.  Buzzfeed.  All of them talked about this nonstop last month (and a month prior that).  They paraded the hashtag, and talked about how this was an issue in light of recent police violence.  And they sat back and watched their shares grow insanely over the course of time.  Views piled in, Twitter rolled forth, and everyone was talking about valuing black life equally.  But the event in Accra proved that this was pure nonsense: no publication really cared and was filled with principle hypocrisy.  Because a gas explosion in Africa (most people don’t know where Accra is, let’s be real) is a lot more boring than making fun of Drake Bell.  And had this happened in France, in England, in New York, in Chicago, in Madrid, in Berlin – you know you would have heard it.  If that isn’t racism, I don’t know what is.  Black lives matter to 99% of these publications only when it’s trending.  That’s the truth.  Find a way to fix it, but so far, it beats me how to.

The wreckage following the devastating explosion in Accra.

Yet this isn’t an one-instance-issue.  Perhaps you think, oh, well Caitlyn Jenner was a celebrity athlete back in the day, no wonder she gets more hype.  Total nonsense. I am almost 100% certain the name Bruce Jenner (the former name) was less familiar with you than the name Akon (unless you follow the Kardashians).  Akon is pretty famous.  He sang some pretty well known songs and singers tend to be the royalty of celebrities.  And he happened to, one day before the Accra tragedy, announce one of the most radical energy projects ever produced by a former celebrity: he pushed for an ambitious, almost insane, lighting project fueled by solar energy, to bring light and energy to 600 million Africans.  Energy crisis in Africa is a life and death issue.  It leads to a high mortality rate, poor conditions for health care, particularly bad competitive environments for emerging businesses, and therefore, a continuation of the colonialism issues that liberal pundits usually criticize.  So this was massive.  This is huge. It was a constructive well built solution towards a future.

Almost. No. One. Cared. NO ONE. It took forever for the media to start talking about it amid the fact it was announced around the same time as the Vanity Fair release (they eventually did, after they started to run out of Drake Bell material).  Still think the liberal media cares about Black Lives?  Hype is a greedy thing, performed in the art of social media shares, that has robbed any authenticity and fair balance of the media.   And to be honest, I am particularly disturbed that other major issues like this may have happened during this timeframe but never got spotlight because the media double downed and triple promoted the Drake Bell tweet crisis to milk the most clicks they possibly could get.

Now take the recent Tim Hunt issue: a nobel laureate saying some sexist drivel that stated that women are bad in labs because they distract men.  I’ll take a moment and say that is stupid and dumb and pretty offensive.  But here is the issue, the same media hype issue happened.  First, take a moment and realize that this is a 72 year old man who was born and grew up in an era where the social norms that were taught to him were quite wrong and rather backwards.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that his parents and family fostered a sense of inherent sexism.  This isn’t an unpopular belief: the narrative of blind privilege is one fostered most proudly by liberal pundits.  But all of a sudden there is this massive act of surprise that a 72 year old held these beliefs.  And sure, I concede this is somewhat odd coming from a well educated nobel laureate, but seriously, even most liberals have rather conservative 70+ year old grandparents with outdated views and turn a blind eye since they’re old.  But again, whether you think Tim Hunt is a horrible person or not isn’t the issue that matters to me – I just wanted to indicate that this isn’t necessarily a game changer in the constant issue of sexism in the workplace, namely in STEM.  It is a rather saddening detail, yes, but not a make-or-break (if you think it is, I’d be happy to hear it, feel free to mention it in the comments).  Though, even if it is a make-or-break, the criticism below follows.

The issue is that on the same day there was an execution in Pakistan of a man convicted at 15 years old in a case that likely involved a lot of torture and thus, probable false confessions.  Wrongful executions are horrible.  There also was a major advance in Syria over the war with Assad.  The UN released a report that the Darfur wars have displaced tens of thousands.   Pope also created a tribunal to crackdown on sexual violence committed in the past by members of the clergy.  All of these things involved notions of human rights that are so tactile; many resemble the original Hollywood, bullet-to-body form of violence.  But here we have the whole world throwing shade over some old scientist saying dumb things while turning a blind eye relatively to all of these other stories.  HYPE.  You can say “oh, well, hey c’mon now, all of this things are from foreign countries, it isn’t as imminent.”  Sure, but last time I checked Tim Hunt was British, which means he is from Great Britain, which happens to also be foreign country.  Think about it: we spent way more time talking about the opinions from the epitome of liberal-fronted privilege: white, male than the life and death situations of many people across the world, many of whom happen to not surprisingly be from darker skin tones.

You may object and say that the media cannot cover everything.  Perhaps (though they do find ample time to cover 12 tips to fix your makeup or whatever).  But the issue here is a nonstop barrage of articles over one of issue to push as much hype as possible to drive up the clicks.  I almost imagine editor-in-chiefs in a room full of reports of major issues, playing internal oppression Olympics when they decide which issue will be flaunted best by the left winged reporters.

It is the narrative that has drawn the traction.  Socio-political issues like racism and sexism draw deep and complex conversations regarding these manifestations in society. They have intersections with politics, discourse, mindsets, job applications, wars, foreign policies, etc.  But the narrative, a single story of some single person, be it positive or negative, has become the almighty ruler of liberal conversation: it has displaced the diversity of the world’s issues in an effort to convert bullet-to-body violence into a twisted tongue of words that would generate revenue for publications and eye candy for social media.  In the second article that extends this conversation, I will speak more to the issues of rhetoric being equated to violence, often displacing pain-inducing violence, but I will rest this issue now on this premise: you cannot advocate human rights for the sole means of generating conversation if you wish to use that conversation to remove other ones.  That is pragmatic hypocrisy.

This issue matters a lot to me, being involved with the mini-media outlet, The Undergraduate Times.  I would highly appreciate discussion in the comment section below, even if you are critical of my viewpoint.  This conversation regarding how we have conversations is one necessary to have.  

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  • William Ackerman

    1) This article is written terribly. It’s full of grammatical and syntactic errors, word usage errors, and phrases that make no sense.

    2) I’m not sure why you thought this viewpoint would be revolutionary in some way. You act like it’s inexplicable that most Americans care more about Caitlyn Jenner than about a gas explosion in Africa or a prominent British scientist being sexist. But really, it’s rather obvious. First, people care more about things closer to home: issues abroad, especially where the U.S. has no involvement such as with the explosion or the execution in Pakistan, are more likely to impact American lives and, therefore, they command more attention. Second, and this may sound awful but it’s true, certain events are less surprising in some regions: it’s not as surprising that Pakistan tortured a teenager as it would be if Great Britain had tortured a teenager. You say that people are hypocritical when they say that #blacklivesmatter and then don’t care as much about black lives in Africa — I’m sure you’re proud of this argument, but it’s very naive, since I think that most people realize that the #blacklivesmatter movement sprung up from uniquely American issues: tensions between the police force and black citizens, outdated traditions, and historical oppression. The movement was meant to rally support for reform at home, not in Africa.

    3) You can criticize the “media” all you want, but realistically your argument only really applies to pop-culture type news sites and online magazines, like The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. The New York Times and The Washington Post are much more balanced, which is how I’m assuming you found out about most of the things you complain about in your article (if you don’t believe me, here’s the Times coverage of the Accra explosion, which you claim there was “barely a single mention” of: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/world/africa/ghana-accra-gas-station-explosion-flooding.html?_r=0). And, seriously, can you blame a site like BuzzFeed for covering hype-focused pieces? Their entire paradigm is centered around this factor; they fulfill a necessary niche of media, one that is less serious and less focused on the things that people like you demand to be covered. And, to play devil’s advocate, for all of the dumb stories these sites have published, you should consider how many important issues have been publicized because people who don’t enjoy reading the Times instead turned to The Huffington Post and found articles covering these issues.

    4) Do you know what “diatribe” means, because you said that this article wouldn’t be one and yet it was (e.g. you called Drake Bell a moron multiple times). There’s really no call to action here, just a barrage of attacks and insults that doesn’t achieve anything.

    • William Fuckerman

      Lol, you say 1) and then write a long very specific review. If it was so hard to read, why even comment… Dick alert.

    • James Keating

      The author politely invited discussion and you posted one of the most snide comments I’ve ever seen. pos.

    • voicedpotatoes

      i think this comment is also snide, but brings up some interesting points, but is worng in the end
      i cant speak for 1) but english isn’t my first language so ok

      for 2. i think #blacklivesmatter mentioned racism in american news stories which is what is being talked about here, how European lives, accident or not, is valued more.

      3. nyt covers everytihing yes but pop magazines like huffingtonpost.com cant claim to care about social issues and then just run them for hype

      4. kinda was a rather strongly worded rant but the call to action clearly appears targeted at the media for better presentation of matters.

    • ppp382918

      MSNBC does this shit too.

    • Austin Wu

      This comment would be seen as very good and constructive if it weren’t for point #1 and if point #4 was less… scathing?

  • ppp382918

    the comments below kinda are nitpicky af. the general gist of this article is right: the media only gives a fuck about most liberal issues when there is hype around them. then they disappear caring. finally someone voices this.

  • Austin Wu

    This article, honestly, is quite boring as you said. It’s more because it doesn’t give much new information. It points out the mistakes that the media has made, but fails to address the roots of this problem, (that the (less dignified) media basically needs money).

    Truthfully, the only reason this article is not that great is that there isn’t really anyone willing to disagree with you. Or that people that are willing to disagree with you are able to find somewhat large holes in your arguments that you haven’t addressed. I think the former is a much more likely scenario.