By Victor Nero
After stepping away from social media one year ago (a temporary decision at first, now become permanent), I’ve felt that choice become more and more justified as the months pass by. I left just after George Floyd was killed, having expressed my anger at it, and my relief at the general response to it. My sense was that between that particular incident, the needless politicizing of Covid and the prospect of a looming US election, social (only facebook, in my case), was simply becoming too much of a minefield for one as sharply opinionated as I am.
Having being gone a year, it’s been clear to me I should have been gone earlier, as influencer ‘culture’ rises much like reality TV did twenty odd years ago, with similar deleterious effects. In that time, I have been watching lots of football. Not the thrown kind, the kind you play with your feet – the one 99% of the world calls football. I’m not going to change it’s name because half a dozen countries who think hands are feet call it soccer, and I’m in one of them.
Now football, as 99% of the world knows it, has long been plagued by racism, as one would expect of such an old sport, one played in pretty much every country. For as long as I’ve been watching, I’ve seen or heard of everything from monkey chants and banana throwing at black players, to mass brawls outside stadiums based on ethnic rivalries, both at club and international levels.
Lately, as with most conflict, things have mostly moved into the digital realm, as a great deal of attention has been brought to the amount of racial abuse suffered by black players online, especially in the English Premier League, where a boycott of social media by all clubs and the league itself occurred late last season. Let’s put this into perspective: The biggest league in world sport for the better part of three decades quit social media, all because the behaviour of it’s own ‘fans’ online was so bad – this, when they should be grateful to be getting any football at all in a global pandemic. This, in 2020 and 2021, when racism should be referred to in past tense, looked upon as a historical regret and not an going concern.
Why is that? Religion and politics are to blame, as always, giving false notions of ‘chosen people’ and ‘rightful destiny’ to silly maggots who should consider themselves lucky to be upright, in a world that could care less about whether they or their beliefs live or die. Truth is, if you need beliefs to make you feel special, you’re not special. Knowledge makes you special, and even then only rarely.
We could blame mainstream media, always fanning the flames. It seems they only have an interest in equality when it become socially convenient in terms of optics, and economically profitable. The current media portrayal of ‘diversity’ seems to be a lot of different coloured people wearing the same tacky clothes, listening to the same terrible songs, and patting themselves on the back for their ‘enlightenment’, despite being little more than walking corporate billboards.
But the gasoline to this and most fires these days is social media, eternally irresponsible under the guise of free speech; Nebulous ethical policies (or none at all) obscured by vague rhetoric defending the ‘rights’ of people to say whatever they want, whenever they want – a pretense of lacking bias in a world where true impartiality has grown impossible.
The reality is, no matter what you do or say these days, someone will find it offensive, and while many on the right wing will complain about the left constantly being affronted by things, the conservative side of things has been doing that for centuries, millenia even. They’re always going to be miserable, and they expect others to be so as such, because they lean into religious and political systems built on misery.
It’s infuriating to watch social, political and economic platforms lag decades behind where they should be because a bunch of mostly old, mostly male and mostly VERY inexperienced people are ‘offended’ by biological realities like gay sexuality. You know, as if what someone does consensually in their bedroom has any negative impact whatsoever on the lives of strangers.
They get offended at immigration, despite the fact that ‘immigration’ of a much more violent nature is how people of their colour are on the land in the first place. As if white culture is such a wonderful success story. They fail to realize how many immigrants took a pay cut and a career downgrade to come to countries that frequently fail them – often ones that tolerate levels of weakness, wastefulness, laziness and stupidity that are simply not viable in other cultures.
They politicize issues of ethics and basic common decency, frequently acting as though every concession somehow harms them. They worry about their boys being ‘negatively influenced’ by the queer agenda when the priest of their local parish poses a bigger sexual threat to their sons, statistically speaking. They worry about ethnic gangs and the subsequent proliferation of narcotics, but in towns and cities already ravaged by very white, homegrown epidemics of opioids and amphetamines, ones that make the threat of foreign weed or cocaine seem adorable by comparison.
Yet, despite having their heads decades in the past, they are continually accommodated and tolerated. You know, like the proverbial creepy, drunk uncle at the family gathering who always has an axe to grind, despite never actually chopping any wood (we leave the real work to the immigrants, right Gary?). As groups who understand real hardship and sacrifice fight for their basic, bare minimum rights, they constantly have to bend over backwards or wait another few years (or decades), because a section of society are constantly in their feelings, despite accusing everyone who doesn’t agree with them of being ‘snowflakes’.
The choice of that word alone is very telling – a bunch of cookie cutter, white, fragile people who melt under the slightest heat somehow accusing others of weakness. When people protested Trump’s election and inauguration, this was the term thrown around. Four years later, the same accusers were melting down on social media, storming government buildings and threatening to militarize small towns over the results of a legal election, one that deposed the most internationally hated president in American history (even ahead of those who started controversial foreign wars).
A lesson that society seems to lave largely forgotten in this century is that bullies can’t always be reasoned with, and it’s better to give them fewer chances to violate others than it is to attempt to correct their behaviour after the fact. We live in a world obsessed with cures instead of prevention – the last 18 months has been sobering proof of that.
Too many would rather have problems to bitch about than nothing to say, because if nobody hears them, they may cease to exist. While this phenomenon occurs at all ends of the political spectrum, it seems that many of the conservative guard have a sense that social media is their last chance at any degree of relevance. It’s hard to imagine Trump even being the Republican candidate without it, and it seems that where the internet is meant to be a rope, conservatives see it more as a stick to jab crudely at others.
If someone uses a racial, queer or gender slur at others in public, there are usually verbal or physical consequences, perhaps even legal – on social media, these only occur if abhorrent behaviour is outed with a concentrated effort, usually by multiple people. Most of the time, the idiot gets away with it. Social media does nothing, because apparently hatespeech is protected as ‘free speech’, despite the fact that hatespeech is inherently against free speech by virtue of it’s own fascism.
Thus, a paradox – do we allow all speech and offend several ethnic, gender and racial identities, or do we censor hatespeech and offend the one group that historically is always offended anyhow? I think the answer is pretty obvious. If these social platforms are going to present themselves with such a focus on modernity and futurism, then it’s about time they leave the last in the past, and actually police their public spaces effectively.
You want to talk influencer? Elite athletes are the most influential and popular celebrities on the planet. The celebrity, wealth and metric imprint of a Lionel Messi, LeBron James or a Christiano Ronaldo make the biggest selling performers in mainstream music look like minnows by comparison, and their appeal is much more universal, or international if you prefer. Their cultural shelf lives are much longer, as their popularity isn’t based on fads and trends.
Yet they are not protected from copious online abuse, despite being massive revenue drivers for these social platforms. Karen White is free to spout racial slander at people who do more in a week than she will in her life, but the platform values her freedoms over a black superstar who actually offers something to society at large, often beyond their chosen profession.
While LeBron is building schools and Marcus Rashford is out there feeing poor children in the UK, they are eating brutal racial abuse on the daily for missed shots, or the odd less-than-stellar performance. While athletes do require a certain amount of thick skin and mental toughness, this kind of nonsense isn’t what they signed up for, nor is it magically negated by their wealth and fame – all of which come with sacrifices and dedication most of us couldn’t fathom. If it can happen to them without consequence, there’s no chance in hell of anyone further down the social totem pole being protected.
If social media wants to truly embrace progressive ideologies and inclusivity, it needs to make a hard choice and leave the dinosaurs behind, to become extinct so we may learn from their mistakes. These platforms can’t play the middle by inviting people of all stripes to participate, then opening them up to abuse from party crashers who offer nothing but ignorant vitriol and dated opinions. Really, it’s like having a club or an arena with no security, then expecting things to just work themselves out.
In short, it’s time for social media, and society in general, to grow up. Regardless of whether you believe racism is naturally occurring, it’s simply too late in history to be a viable option – and frankly it never needed to be one. You don’t have to like everything about every culture or country, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out of the way to bury that which has no negative bearing on your quality of life.
If an immigrant can ‘take your job’, chances are you’re a lazy local coasting on tenure, and that immigrant probably worked harder than you ever did in your life just to get here (even as an English speaking caucasian I know what it’s like to be the latter, and battle the former).
If gender fluidity or gay rights are that much of a threat to your ethical foundations, you were on shaky ground from the start.It’s not a matter of politics or beliefs, it’s a matter of whether you’re an inflexible idiot or not. Either pivot and adapt, or perish. THAT is nature, not heteronormativity, or racial exclusivity.
Furthermore, if you have an issue with black players, stop watching football – pretty much every team has one, and many of the best ones are black. You don’t get to celebrate their goals if you’re hurling racial epithets over their occasional failures. If you hate black musicians, stop listening to just about anything but country – even traditionally ‘white’ music like rock and metal is rooted in blues, jazz and other black music influences.
If you hate immigrants, don’t order ethnic cuisine for your meal delivery. You can pick and choose what parts of a culture you agree with or enjoy, but not to the point of racially slandering them, then eating their food. And when it comes to immigrants, a warning: If they were to truly invade and take over, the basement dwelling, conspiracy theorist, gun toting neckbeards in places like the US, Australia and Canada wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop them.
So play nice. Don’t complain about gangs if you’re giving people reason to form them, and don’t play tough guy with people from places you wouldn’t last a day in. You might as well take the path of least resistance. There are meaner people with harder lives than you out there managing to do it, and some have worked harder than you ever could to come to and stay in countries lucky to have them.
You do not have the right to ignorance. You have the right to learn from it, and the right to form educated opinions, but running your mouth irresponsibly without consequence is a privilege. Your grandfather/father/uncle didn’t fight in that war you always bring up to protect your ability to spout off like a moron in all directions with no filter. In 2021, there is no excuse for not educating oneself, and adapting to a climate of genuine diversity.