Bigotry is big business. But maybe not for who you think it is.
“Bigoteer” is a neologism for someone who profits not from bigotry themselves. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be much action in promoting bigotry these days. The “alt right” is largely being fed by the mainstream media’s attention rather than being an organic movement. Far more profitable is the living to be made from lumping Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and the few people pretending to be actual Nazis online together along with 300-follower Twitter accounts run by edgy teenagers with politically incorrect senses of humor.
Racism is largely a thing of the past, but you wouldn’t know that if you went on Twitter, where low-status whites using racial slurs in a Walmart parking lot are filmed by teenagers looking for attention and shock value and parading it as evidence of the continued existence of Jim Crow and a burgeoning Fourth Reich.
Much of the invective levelled at President Trump boils down to style rather than substance — Barack Obama also kept “kids in cages” (to use the preferred term of the left), but at least he was polite on Twitter. Hate hoaxes, whereby hate crimes are fabricated for social media clout and hopefully a few dollars, have been well documented by the independent journalist, Andy Ngo.
Indeed, it’s not a novel observation that significant, if not the lion’s share, of web traffic is driven by hate clicks. The news industry is on its deathbed and the thing keeping its remnants alive is online outrage. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the best way to profit online is by calling out the folk devils of our modern-day moral panic: the so-called “far right” or “alt right,” so nebulously defined that it includes sensible centrists such as the aforementioned Peterson and Harris as well as avowed racists and fascists.
Did Two-Minutes Hate in 1984 Foreshadow Bigoteering?
The bigoteering industry can be seen foreshadowed in 20th Century dystopian literature. It’s perhaps a lazy formulation to say that our society has become like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, but there are parallels not so much in the broader strokes (totalitarian societies, which we clearly do not live in), but rather in the finer points: the Two-Minutes Hate of 1984 and the compulsive and neurotic need to “protect” the public from unpleasant ideas in Fahrenheit 451.
It’s not entirely unfair to characterize Twitter as being a sort of Uber but for Two-Minutes Hate. While pre-social media public outrages certainly existed, they didn’t have the pervasiveness nor the permanence of the current age of public social media crucifixion.
While the hate may be over in two minutes, the damage is done and often long-lasting. This is why the Covington Kids sued CNN for nine figures: Because their social media savvy attorney knew that it could impact their future earnings by orders of magnitude, making it difficult for them to get into top universities and thus get the elite professional positions held by those with a certain academic pedigree.
In truth, the books in Fahrenheit 451 aren’t burned by government edict, they’re burned out of public outrage and a desire to be protected from unpleasant thoughts.
There’s a lot of money to be made in this kind of outrage and not just at the very top. The precariat journalist class — those who live and die by click throughs and thus earn a handsome living at writing the most inflammatory pieces available — might not be using their freelance pittances for caviar and champagne, but there is decidedly a career path that involves finding the latest outrage du jour and picking at the scab for page views.
Cancel Culture Fuels the 24-Hour News Cycle
Roseanne Barr is a good example of the changed landscape. She had a number of public scandals prior to the one that caused ABC to cancel the Roseanne revival, going so far as to do a sort of dance on her metaphorical grave in the form of having her character die of an opioid overdose (imagine, if you will, NBC producers deciding to kill off one of the Cosby kids with crack in 1987 and you have an idea of how inappropriate this is).
Previously, Roseanne had lewdly desecrated the national anthem at a baseball game, posed as Hitler, and doxxed George Zimmerman. None of these significantly impacted her career. But a single tweet about then-Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett did. Why?
It’s not because there was anything particularly inflammatory about her remarks relative to her previous public scandals. Indeed, in the case of doxxing Zimmerman, she likely put a man in imminent physical danger. The difference was the change in the social landscape. Bigoteering is a thoroughly modern profession.
There is every reason to expect that this will get worse, not better. Artificial intelligence can do just about anything, including making it easier for the woke scolds of the world to scour the Internet for impolitic thoughts and words to dredge up “content” about. The future could easily offer a handsome living in the form of bounties (literal or metaphorical) for those who can leverage the right technology to find today’s slip of the tongue in the wild and transform it into a full-blown Two-Minutes Hate.
Combating this tendency is no easy task, in part because of the quick dopamine hits that are necessarily a part of social media and the hunger for “news” that fuels that 24-hour media. How much time was spent pillorying the Covington Kids, repeatedly, on both legacy media and new media, before they were allowed to get their story out? In how many similar cases were the victims too poor to finance any kind of fight back?
More to the point: What consequences exist for those who pursue a career in bigoteering? So far, it seems to be good work for those who can get it.