A funny thing happened today on Twitter. Comedian Patton Oswalt tried an experiment wherein he created some faux outrage, just to see the results. Unsurprisingly for the Internet, the results were exactly as you might have expected.
In the age of social media, it’s become easy to be offended. Why think about something when you can respond right away? We have suddenly become thrust into a reactionary age, where we can register our disgust at something in 140 characters or less without even checking if it’s true.
It’s a curious thing too that people are so quick to believe what they read. Retweet something enough times and that’s it, it’s become fact. In the race to be heard any kind of cognitive thinking is left by the wayside.
So Patton Oswalt tweeted this:
And also this:
The best thing is of course that if you just look at his feed it’s clearly a joke. Seven tweets, all within the same time period. Seven jokes. Seven new things to be outraged about. And outraged people were.
The responses, predictably range from people who get it immediately to those who…don’t. My favourite usually involves someone having the joke pointed out for them, and then the claim that the joke wasn’t funny to begin with. Rather than ‘get’ the joke, they sidestep it in a way to undermine it. After all it’s better to do that than to consider how you just got sucker punched in a totally harmless way. It’s like getting really angry at a Magician when he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. “There’s no way that rabbit could be in that hat!” Some people will cry. “I think what you’re doing is offensive to rabbits.” Will reply others. Some people want to enjoy the trick, the others want to kill the Magician.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this response, which is wrongheaded in the dedication it took:
Imagine if Twitter rallied around a real cause and the good that would do? Russia decides to size up the rest of the world? It’s OK, someone else will take care of it. Comedian doesn’t make a joke? Well now that I can do something about.
There are some who insist that Oswalt is making fun of rape. Of course they ignore the Holocaust joke, the Lyme Disease joke, the joke about Kim Kardashian etc. It’s a curious thing that all of those go somehow unnoticed, in favour of a rape joke that didn’t happen. It’s almost as if these people understand that the whole point is about faux-outrage, and just fall at the final hurdle. I get how for some rape would be a traumatic subject, to the point that even a joke in which it’s alluded to would be problematic. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead people are being called out on their propensity to be angry, over literally nothing. However, as was proven with the recent Stephen Colbert twitter controversy, once people have their mind made up, particularly on as public a platform as Twitter, they’ll keep digging that hole.
Being offended is enough these days. There’s no examination of why, no discourse on what exactly is offensive or why it might be seen as such. It simply is. It’s an opinion that somehow is meant to be treated as a factual statement. For all the good it does you might as well just put your fingers in your ears and sing with ignorance.
So congratulations Patton, you’ve proven that the Internet will, by and large, literally get offended at nothing.