The past couple of weeks, I’ve examined the news, looking for topics for this column. There are certain subjects I’ve bypassed, not because I haven’t heard about them or couldn’t think of any quips, but the stories themselves were obvious bait.
I will argue (long after my identity is stolen, my friends’ profiles have devolved into mafia dens and virtual pastures and PayPal wipes out the human race to collect our debts) that the Internet is the greatest thing to happen to communication since the printing press. However, there is a seedier element that has spread from the online community into the established news media: trolling.
“Trolling,” for those of you who are just now joining Facebook, is the act of posting an intentionally inflammatory post in order to elicit a purely negative response. This is different from satire or parody because, when successful, the reader “sees what you did there.”
The latest top news items are trolling. Well, except Haiti …. Unless you’re Pat Robertson, but he’s God’s troll.
I fully realize that, by discussing these stories below, I’m officially not not writing about them. Just bear with me; there will be a point at the end.
Stupid as a fox!
When Fox News announced that it had hired professional Facebook troll, Sarah Palin (no really, how would you describe her professionally post-governorship?), they knew that the world would talk about Fox News.
They knew people who hate Palin would tune in to shows already featuring people they hate like O’Reilly. They knew these people would write about Sarah on The Factor, post videos and remind others that there’s a real chance to see stupid on television.
And it worked. Fox News was able to manipulate its detractors into plugging its upcoming programming schedule.
And the best part? Palin didn’t say anything new. It was her same old schtick of decrying the mainstream media on the most-watched news channel … proving that Fox no longer knows what “mainstream” means.
Did you watch late night talk shows this week?!
NBC executives ran into a new conundrum this week—as opposed to their usual “hookers before or after blow” conundrum—when they realized they moved up Jay Leno’s and Conan O’Brien’s programs, but nobody cared.
But, when they mentioned a plan to bump everyone back to their old slots but not change the name of the programs—which haven’t been used since Steve Allen was a host—viewers suddenly turned up. Sure, they were angry viewers, waging a war over an aging format that will soon be replaced by content edited movies and infomercials, but they were viewers none-the-less.
Even Jimmy Kimmel got into the act, using a prosthetic chin to jockey ratings through Youtube for the next night. It was arguably the funniest thing he’s done since Sarah Silverman.
“Oh! He said the N-word! The other N-word!”
Let’s say you’re a political party. More specifically, let’s say you’re a political party that has trouble convincing voters that you’re not racist. Sure, you’ve spent that past 30 years opposing hate crime legislation, social program spending, Equal Opportunity, and immigration; but, you’ve also appointed a black man to a figurehead role in your party’s fundraising committee, which consists of him talking about the black president on the news.
If only there were some way to take minorities’ eyes off of your party for a few minutes. If only there were an opportunity, say a kind of unpopular Democrat Senate leader who used an ancient term to describe the president. If only ….
Oh, yeah. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was quoted in a book (that also somehow made Palin look even dumber) as saying “that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one'” [emphasis mine].
It wasn’t much, but the Republicans would take it, knowing their base would never read the book and that they could count on Guy-who-once-got-in-trouble-for-racist-comments to use it as an opportunity to exonerate himself: “If what he said isn’t bad, then I’m not a racist!”
But, just like Guy, top Republicans still don’t understand why what they said could be offensive since “it’s what I honestly believe.” They think making a note of someone’s race or using a magic word is what got them in trouble. The meaning of Trent Lott’s mistakes (for instance) is beyond them out of a refusal to learn about Americans of a different background.
Ironically, the GOP was trying to rile up swing voters that would rather vote for the “well-spoken,” “articulate” black man than “RINO” John McCain, which are exactly who Reid was talking about.
At the end of the day, these are still troll stories. By talking about them, we have given Palin, Fox News, NBC, Leno, O’Brien, Kimmel, Republicans and the authors of Game Change exactly what they wanted: our attention. The resolution–if there is any–of these issues does not change the world or the nation. No matter the outcome, the status quo will continue.
If we really want to fix these scenarios, there’s only one real solution: don’t give a s#%t. Let that s#%t slide. You’ll be less angry, and these idiots will have to find another source of income.