Unsocial commentary - the artless art of online abuse
In “Network”, Sidney Lumet’s groundbreaking 1976 media satire, disgruntled TV anchor Howard Beale successfully urged his viewers to lean out of their windows and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.
In the film, it caused a paradigm shift and Beale’s instant transition to overnight celebrity, a modern day shaman clown, a television messiah. Today, however, everyone is leaning out their windows, screeching to the heavens and the streets below.
But the verbal diarrhoea spewing forth from their many belching mouths isn’t anywhere near as poignant as Beale’s infamous phrase. It’s happening right here. It’s happening right now. It’s happening at the bottom of this very page.
I think I have an addictive personality. I smoked too much weed in high school, I’ll glue my consciousness to video games for literally days at a time and my local cafe won’t sell me banana bread anymore because they don’t want to be responsible for my slow and hideous plunge into obesity.
So when I find myself browsing the comments sections of articles of this or any other site in this binary ocean of mental detritus, I can’t stop. My eyes remain glued to the screen.
But it’s not happiness I’m getting high off, it’s hatred.
Perhaps it’s just hormonal fury associated with my youth, but if I had two cents for every time someone’s smugly misguided two cents filled me with a feeling of burning rage, I’d be drowning in a copper nightmare.
There are always the thirty or so bozos who feel the need to congratulate the writer and declare their unwanted and usually bigoted allegiance, the digital equivalent of throwing nickels into the Grand Canyon.
You tune them out after a while - a bog of exclamation marks and meaningless statements to be navigated quickly in search of the juicier, nastier treasures. Although sometimes they can turn out to be genuinely amusing. This ending, for example, to a comment posted by “Imlessbiasedthanyou” on Charlie Brooker’s latest article with The Guardian: “I love the bit about carving your brand name on the face of a live baby!” Admittedly, it’s only fascinating if you haven’t read the article, but at least it catches your eye.
Then come the smugs, those smarmy, vaguely educated keyboard jockeys who feel the searing need to weigh in for the “against” team, with a few cryptic lines of insulting glossal frap. They’re good for a quick flash, to make you see red for a smatter of angry moments, but vanish from your mind quickly enough.
But what I really crave are the trolls. Those belligerent podunks, so incensed by the article that they belch reams and reams of ill-informed, contrarian bile, riddled with spelling mistakes or capital letters, declarations of boycott, mass complaint or even religious war. They make my day. They make my day awful.
I feel as if I need to punch a brick wall. Or headbutt a vacuum cleaner. Or throw my body, head-first, down a well.
Anything to soothe the howling banshee clawing its way out of my emotions, begging me to write back, to enlighten or teach or at least spit, verbally, into the digital equivalent of these idiots’ faces.
I have no idea what these people are like in the land of real-life. I’m sure they’d all be cuddly little pugs.
But in my minds eye I see a writhing mass of fetid, over-turned grubs, with hands on their faces and keyboards on their tits, endlessly churning out comebacks, retorts, insults, congratulations, judgements, words and words and words and words and words and words.. Every word an echo, a galloping roar of repeated sound, wrenching open my head-lid in ways that make me despair more and more for what I can now clearly see to be a race of gurning digital morons.
Throw your computers out of the window, yon dolts, and throw yonselves out with them. One more of your words and my soul will bleed.
Waves of self-loathing wash over me. Though I try, I can’t take the needle out. I find myself wanting more of your stinking opinions, wanting to find new and exciting ways to loathe someone whom I’ve never met. On one page, I can hate a deaf man from Burma. And another, I can hate a kind old-lady with a well natured-cat. Over there I can hate a young man with interesting ideas about post-structuralist philosophy, and here, I can hate you, and you, and you, and you.
No. The needle’s coming out.
Drop as many comments here as you like, idiots, but I won’t read a word. At least, not the kind words…
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