I’ve read enough books about technology (one) to possess an astute and coherent understanding of precisely just how the internet functions: scientifically speaking, that is. An understanding that the finest minds of our generation would do well to take into account when prophesising the outcomes and implications of their expensive press release-ready studies in the future. And now I am going to share it with you all.
Step 1) Switch on your phone/ computer/ tablet/ inexplicably advanced toaster, and open your preferred browser. This should take no more than thirty seconds, unless of course you are using Internet Explorer in which case HELLO, FRIEND, AND THANK YOU FOR TYPING ‘VADA MAGAZINE’ IN TO YAHOO SEARCH IN 2003.
Step 2) Open up your social networks; by which I am obviously referring to Twitter and Facebook. Literally no other important social networks exist, despite what ‘Next Big Thing’ articles written by journalists who do paid PR for supposed ‘Next Big Thing’ websites have led us to believe since the dawn of time. Facebook and Twitter: that is all, and you know it.
Step 3) Find out what you’re scheduled to be angry about today. Has the Daily Mail done more to progress their upmost desire of turning Britain into a 250,000 square kilometre re-enactment of the second Lord of the Rings film? Has a Tory MP suggested that poor people relying on the reach of food banks ought to be more economic with their resources by eating the flesh of their young and burning the carcass to heat their homes? Perhaps a person you don’t know is having sex with another person you do not know. There’s just so much to be angry about.
Because this, I assume, is how the internet functions. Did you think it ran on electricity? Easy mistake to make. No. The internet is powered solely by collective uninhibited rage, our biggest source of energy as a country and one that is far easier to transport than hydro or wind. Nor does it require dodgy state compensation like shale. You just start a sentence with “Cannot believe that…”, “Shocked by…”, ensure your comment is less than 140 characters, and hit send.
Which isn’t to say that anger, or “outrage” to give it its more frequent tabloid name, is a bad or unjustified expression on its own. Outrage comes from belief, beliefs that fuel debates, and makes us all more savvy and informed than we were to begin with.
But how many times have you read an article on economic policy or changes to legislation and, halfway down the page, read “Richard from Winchester thinks…” in a manner that would suggest any of us actually give a fuck what Richard from Winchester thinks? Too many times, I suspect. Quoting tweeters is the new Question Time, a digital town hall of people who know nothing, opening their mouths to prove it. I’d like to know what economists think of economic policy, and what campaign groups relevant to legislation think of measures being drawn up that will affect their issue. Sorry, Richard, but you’re just not cut out for that.
We have normalised outrage. It’s become as much a part of our day as breakfast, though our digestive track can only dream of being as quick to intake and shit out the latest non-scandal with the speed Twitter manages.
Last week, a now infamous UKIP councillor – a title which ought to justify the complete abolition of democracy in itself – claimed that the flooding in southern England these past few weeks was caused by the passing of legislation last year to allow for same-sex couples to get married. “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war. I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill. It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods. But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so. It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.” Reports from my own imagination that this letter was written with one hand using his own faeces, whilst the other performed the more useful task of self-mutilation with a whip, just like the monk from The Da Vinci Code, remain unconfirmed.
His claim does not ‘offend’ me, nor should it ‘offend’ you. It should offend geologists. The useful reaction from LGBT people to such borderline-Washington Congress levels of ill-informed homophobia is to laugh, importantly, and make clear to anyone who even thinks of drawing out the tatty old “entitled to opinion” card that such statements are as ridiculous as crocs. And though we would never seek to legislate against his right to say such incorrect things, we will always be there to loudly proclaim that they are just that: incorrect.
A more justifiably needed instance of LGBT outrage did occur this weekend, though, when the fifth most attractive member of the-biggest-boyband-on-the-planet-with-the-least-memorable-songs tweeted to an American reality TV star I was, until recently, unfamiliar with (Freeview has its perks): “huge love to you/ your family huge respect for your business prosperities and the family values you still all behold. big fan”
Apart from being indicative of a strange phenomenon among celebrities to tweet repetitious boring insipid mounds of undue praise to each other/ Jesus (see: the Kardashians), it also stood out to members of the LGBT community – such as you and I – who have lived lives different enough, due to homophobia, to understand what is really being said when the phrase “family values” is rolled out.
And it was a fairly big story when Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson (no, I don’t know either), father of the guy Liam Payne tweeted, said in a GQ interview: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
I do not know if Liam from One Direction is a homophobe, I just know that he is an idiot. In part because – as his Twitter feed displays – he possesses the literacy levels of a feral child, but also because using a phrase such as “family values” as a way of praising the family of a known homophobe was a reckless and foolhardy thing to do under any circumstances. I hope the tweet follows him around, and he is forced to seriously address his opinion of LGBT people in public, so that we can properly measure him up. Because to make such bland statements as “its none of my business” and “people can love who they want” is a textbook example of just how to sit on the fence and pander to homophobic parents that would not purchase the albums and merchandise of a boyband whose members openly support LGBT rights, whilst still profiting from the young LGBT fans who do just that.
Our rage is useful in instances such as this; in campaigning, and in calling people out when we suspect them of harbouring a quiet dislike for us or our relationships. But we must not let it become monotonous, a continual whine comprised of the same language and same clichés. Remember: the most important reason for the existence of LGBT rage is to keep the south-east under water.