Advertisement: Outrage For Sale

It’s a scary experience for me to browse the internet because it’ll be like standing near an unstable powder keg. Nowadays, I can only see people being enraged over trivial reasons while lambasting someone for saying anything against the status quo on Twitter. At times I feel like the masses’ anger is misplaced. The worst part is people with power and influence are pulling the strings of the public’s outrage for their profits. That’s how they sell outrage to the general masses to run a narrative.

History brought us many witnesses of what happens when an individual or a group sells outrage to destroy many lives. The obvious example of this is the Nazis. They used Germany’s economic depression and social upheaval to scapegoat the people from the Jewish community. Eventually, their outrage became deadly as it tragically led to the Second World War and the Holocaust.

This is only an example but in a time of internet censorship and cancel culture, the mismanagement of people’s anger has led to the rising digital mob mentality.

Imagine I made a joke on Twitter about BTS, one of the most popular Korean Pop bands worldwide. It is common knowledge that their fanbase is one of the most toxic fanbases in the current internet landscape. If you say one thing about their precious band, they will go banshee mode immediately. It will be like stepping on a live minefield.

Anyway, let’s say I made a joke about their songs. And some of the fans saw my tweet and sent it to their friends. The whole ordeal will be a hurricane. The fans will take my joke out of context. One fan will become the white knight while pushing the narrative that I was mocking the band despite the intent. I will become the butt of lampooning and harassment. In the end, the whole misguided outrage will take a toll on me and my mental health.

When someone with power and fame sells an outrage to people, it is very apparent that the public’s anger will be misguided for something beneficial. The T-Series versus PewDiePie YouTube feud was one such example. At the height of their bickering, PewDiePie’s diss-tracks against T-Series pushed the patriotic narrative to make people express their anger against PewDiePie and his fanbase. It led people to jump the gun and subscribed to T-Series on YouTube. I wondered whether people knew that T-Series abused its influence for their gains like plagiarizing songs. They have also been accused of mistreating their artists.

When T-Series uses the outrage to push the narrative of patriotism, it’s clear that they’re using this to gain clout. Because of this, they were able to gain 100 million subscribers on YouTube, making it the first YouTube channel to do so.

Last year, when the Indian and Chinese troops traded blows which led to severe casualties on both sides, the Indian Mainstream Media sensationalized the whole situation. The public was enraged about this and they went to boycott the Chinese-made products. The problem was, the Indian media took advantage of the situation and used it to gain ratings. The thing about the modern public outrage is that it is fickle-minded. A few days after the clash, the sales of One Plus 8 skyrocketed. And One Plus is a Chinese phone company. This shows that the public outrage can not only be misguided, it can also be selective.

When outrage is misguided, it can lead to a tremendous impact on one’s mental well-being. Sometimes excessive bullying from the mob can lead to tragic consequences. The Hana Kimura situation sums it up pretty well. A Japanese wrestler who unfortunately passed away due to suicide sparked a whole debate about public outrage. It was all because of an argument that happened in a reality show. It was enough for the mob to bully her despite ignoring what happened. It makes me sad that people can be toxic on the internet.

I used to be a part of the mob. Back when Google Plus was a thing, I was a part of a hater community dedicated to hating celebrities like Justin Bieber, One Direction, and K-pop. In that process, I’ve said a lot of offensive things to people. Things I don’t mean. So did most of the members of the said community. Eventually, those celebrity-based communities received a lot of hate and outrage from us. The only reason we did that was to gain more followers. For clout, we manipulated people’s anger which made the platform more toxic like radiation. I didn’t know this was wrong and immoral. Come to think of it now, I regret everything I did.

After school, I’ve decided to leave Google Plus once and for all. I also swore that something like this will never happen again. I’ve decided to move on from this for the better.

The current internet environment at this point is unstable, divided, and angry. It makes me want to stay away from Twitter because you don’t know what will make the people go berzerk. Sure there are solutions to deal with the public outrage still, I don’t think people will listen. And with the current pandemic wrecking everything, it’ll only make things worse.

Maybe someday, people will understand that they should use their anger for good reasons like Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. They inspired people to use their anger against the oppressive system of racial segregation. Or when people used their anger against Blizzard, when they banned Blitzchung to appease their Chinese masters at the height of the Hong Kong protests.

The only solution I can give is to take some time off from social media and enjoy your time with friends and family. Come back to social media once the dust settles.

This article has been written by Anish Bachchan, Student of Law at Amity Law School, Noida.

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