By now, we’ve all witnessed selective outrage in real time — a misdeed, tragedy, or other infuriating item blows up national headlines and almost immediately receives backlash in the vein of, ‘well, why isn’t anyone irate about ___ ?’ It’s as if society has developed not only an odd hypocritical corner on the market of concern, but a notable inability to impassion itself with more than one issue at once.
Dichotomized moral outrage receives an altogether greedy leg up from corporate media. After all, networks understand all too acutely how tragedy drives opportunity — and what better way to cash in on casualty than by capitalizing on ethical wedges people invariably manufacture?
Cleaving division, in fact, comprises the bulk of propaganda. Intense bickering and debate saturate social media, both obfuscating other potentially significant happenings and setting the foundation for further division in the future. If personally invested in passionate disagreement over one issue, people’s resentments linger — prejudicing friends, colleagues, and associates against one another when an equally divisive topic or incident takes place in the future.
Now that we’re about halfway through 2016, having seen this polarity replayed innumerable times, one conclusion can be surmised with a degree of certainty — people simply favor certain things over others. And the examples comprise a list both telling and distressing in scope.
1. Harambe, an endangered western lowland gorilla living in a confined space at the Cincinnati Zoo, died after staff decided extreme measures were necessary to save a hapless four-year-old boy — who inexplicably managed to escape his mother’s notice and slip into the animal’s habitat. When zoo director Thane Maynard faced the media to justify the shooting of Harambe, social media had already amplified the controversy to a feverish pitch.
Though Maynard’s confirming the shooting had been unavoidable served to fan a growing conflagration, Cincinnatians familiar with his normal enthusiasm saw a fierce struggle underlying the resolute public stance — particularly as primatologists, animal behaviorists, and a whole spate of experts threw their personal opinions into the mix.
To varying degrees, Maynard, the zoo, the child’s mother, the people filming instead of somehow preventing the child’s foray into the enclosure, and even protesters and those mourning the loss of Harambe all became targets of countless arguments and rants across social and news media.
Was the shooting really justified? Why wasn’t that mother watching her kid? How did an entire crowd of people not stop this four-year-old, even if the parents didn’t? Who cares about an animal when a human child’s life was at stake? Why wasn’t Harambe’s habitat better fortified against errant kids? Must zoos be a thing?
As soon as these questions hit keyboards, the inevitable expansion of the backlash also hit. Why should we care about one gorilla when so many endangered animals are poached in the wild? What about factory farming? Why all the attention on an animal when millions of innocent people perish in multiple wars? What about the refugees? What about people dying from hunger? Cops kill people with impunity, what about justice for their victims?
Really, it would take an entire article to begin to cover the posed points of contention, alone.
Judging by the explosive outrage from every conceivable perspective on Harambe’s shooting, however, people seem capable of only two, albeit highly generalized, camps of thought. Either the lives of animals constitute equal or greater value than humans, or human life takes existential precedent over animal life.
But one rarely posited question could potentially halt the quarreling — while still maintaining the imperative validity in many of these concerns:why don’t we value both lives equally — even to the point extraordinary means are taken to preserve each?
2. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross,” Sinclair Lewis is most often attributed, though unconfirmed, in saying. But while debate over fascism’s conditional arrival in the United States most often centers on the presidential run of Donald Trump, it isn’t a dispute for the faint-of-heart.
Arguably not seen in any previous presidential election, extreme polarization concerning the three remaining contenders would be farcical if determining the next ruler didn’t hinge on the outcome.
Constant feuding — and even a few physical rows — that so far mark the rise of an impudent demagogue to power, largely surround Trump’s derogatory boasts, skewering of the media, and apparent all-around proclivity for fascism. Appealing to unfounded but deep-seated fears, the billionaire has managed to garner equally concrete base support and a runaway segment dedicated to nothing but preventing his occupancy of the White House.
While such flagrant fascistic tendencies certainly deserve heated discussion, if not outright alarm, it should be noted Trump has in no way attempted to hide his no-holds-barred, totalitarian leanings. Worse, shredding one another apart via social media — sporting though it may be for some — completely forgets one imperative fact: fascism has already arrived.
Evidence can be found as close as your local police department.
In 1990, U.S. law enforcement received a boon in the National Defense Authorization Act when Congress switched out Section 1208 for Section 1033 — allowing even local departments requesting it to be granted ammunition and other military accoutrements, free of charge, courtesy of the Department of Defense. Under the guise of ramping up the already-failed war on drugs, even local police — tantalized by militaristic shiny new things — began to look as if they’d been replaced by the Army.
MRAPs, riot gear, and every conceivable light weapon of war are now expected items at both violent and peaceful protests, alike. By design, and in concert with an utter lack of forethought, militarized police have acted precisely like the warriors the program sought — though the explosion in deaths by police proves police aren’t soldiers at all. Rather, law enforcement made a radical transformation from the friendly cops you call in an emergency to paranoid, trigger-happy soldiers of the State parents warn their kids to avoid.
With the attacks of 9/11 came additional fascist policy appropriate for a burgeoning police state. Dissent now earns a spot on the government’s terror watch list, and several amendments to the Bill of Rights are all-but forgotten through court judgments and legislation.
Decry Trump’s special brand of fascism in every imaginable forum all you want — the criticism won’t change the squeeze of totalitarianism already choking away our rights.
3. How the choice of which public bathroom someone uses came to occupy headlines for weeks recently further proves people simply don’t pay attention — or have no earthly understanding about many topics making the public spotlight. North Carolina first instituted what’s come to be monikered the Bathroom Law after paranoid, clueless politicians scare-mongered the public into inexplicably equating gender identity and transgendered individuals with pedophilia and crime.
Fear-wracked posts to Facebook and Twitter evidenced an acute misunderstanding of what it means to be transgendered in modern America. ‘But the children!’ they all screamed, ‘What about the children!’ Some even appeared to believe women would suddenly be subjected to random rapes if bathrooms didn’t declare staunch divisions over who could use which john when the need to urinate struck.
Transgendered people protesting the inexplicable, sudden legislation proved the law’s arbitrary idiocy — which mandates one’s birth certificate-assigned gender match their choice of bathroom — by posting photos to social media from inside North Carolina’s public restrooms.
In truth, people across the gender spectrum have been going into the public restroom they feel comfortable using for centuries. And guess what? No one noticed. No one even cared. Not one iota. And they never would have if it weren’t for the brainless trust for the body of politicians people somehow felt deserved to hold office.
Unsurprisingly, all this bathroom theater dominating headlines managed to obfuscate matters of the utmost pertinence. During that time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed Hillary Clinton’s role in facilitating the transport of sarin gas to Syria for an attack that successfully kicked off the U.S.’ military campaign — exactly as it was intended. Another report astonishingly showed the Pentagon let off the hook troops responsible for the almost certainly deliberate bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital facility in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in which 42 patients, staff, and civilians perished.
Though the freedom to use the bathroom of one’s choosing shouldn’t even be a point of contention, it is possible to care about more than a single issue at once.
Divisive debates will forever follow moments of controversy — and headlines will linger on the same topic as long as social media allows. But, lest we forget, each topic spans a breadth of valid concerns for each of us — though we’d be in a better position to advance as a whole if we didn’t insert our own divisions where they never should exist in the first place.