by Walter Foley and Heather Shayne Blakeslee
“While we don’t burn witches anymore, the impulse remains to react to perceived danger, stay within our in-group, and purge heretics. Some of our impulses for scapegoating have veered into the (largely) non-lethal tactic of online shaming. We’ve had help from media companies who have monetized our more base impulses to punish: Outrage is one of the emotions that provides the strong response needed to generate clicks, likes, comments, and shares. To make matters worse, hiding in our phones alone we have an infinitely deep well of outrage-provoking injustice throughout the world—and a corresponding amount of possible witch-burning and scapegoating that will never alleviate those injustices.
Most media companies, in order to maximize profits, have chosen to focus their energy on this easily generated outrage. Many of us have inadvertently chosen to line their pockets: by sharing politicized content, engaging in call-outs and cancel culture, beating up on outgroups, and staying plugged-in to a constant stream of news and feeds that pepper us with alerts and alarm. Given our history of moral panics in America, which range from the Salem witch trials, up through McCarthyism, and then onto the Satanic Panic of the ’80s, we must also be mindful of the fact that sometimes we don’t know what’s true, but we go along with the crowd anyway for purposes of self-preservation.
Thankfully, we are also prone to collaboration and play. Our natural, primitive impulses toward tribal violence have also been redirected toward the less-deadly outlets of professional sports and video games. Awe also generates strong emotions, but it’s harder to come by in our feeds, aside from the sporadic monster storm or raging fire that reminds us of our own vulnerability. But quiet and uneventful sunrises happen every day if we are present enough to notice them. It’s possible to shift our overall paradigm—from rage to reflection—should we choose to. But we face a formidable gauntlet to get to the other side.”
For full text and images, consider reading RQ in print, on a Sunday afternoon, sun streaming through your window, coffee in hand, and nary a phone alert within sight or in earshot… just fine words, fine design, and the opportunity to make a stitch in time // Print is dead. Long live print. //