The Jerks Aren't the Ones Ruining the Internet

The internet is a lot like talk radio or 24 hour news channels.  It seems that the main appeal of any of those things is outrage.  People want to be outraged about something.  They want to be righteous and indignant.  I'd honestly love to know, say, what percentage of Fox News' audience is made up of liberals who want to decry everything they say.

The problem is that this makes things that aren't stories into stories, and it makes these made up stories seem more important than they really are.

One of the more recent examples of this came when the Hunger Games movie was released.  And not long afterwards, "articles" like this start popping up: 
The Hunger Games hit by racism row as movie fans tweet vile slurs over casting of black teen actress as heroine Rue

I probably found close to a dozen articles online covering this story.  And, across the board, every single one of the articles quoted the same batch of Tweets.  Said Tweets proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: that there are like 20 teenagers out there who are varying degrees of both prejudiced and stupid.

But that's not what these articles say, because in the internet age if enough people (say, more than 2) say the same thing, then it must be an issue.  And if enough articles are written about it, suddenly people are talking about it as if it's something we should all be really worried about.

I'm not saying it isn't awful that these people on Twitter are bigots (and, apparently, illiterate).  But it's not like book clubs across the country are gathering to decry the actors who were cast in the Hunger Games because of the color of their skin.  Even worse, there are actual examples of racism in this country that could surely use exposure more than a score of people on Twitter, yes?

But people want to feel righteous.

Why does Rush Limbaugh's opinion on anything matter?  Because he has a radio show?  He's not an elected official.  If he has so many loyal followers, then why doesn't he hold some kind of office of power by now?  And if the only people who listen to him are those that agree with him, than why is he in the press so often?
He's in the press so often because people want something to be outraged about.  Hey, don't get me wrong, I think the guy's an asshat, but he's only an asshat that gets attention because people keep giving it to him.  You might think his views are vile, but simply by going on and on about him you are, in fact, spreading those views.

Every once in a while, I will see someone on Twitter complain about seeing so many Tweets about something that they find obnoxious and/or ridiculous.  At first, I was surprised -- you choose who you follow on Twitter, so if these people are really that far off the reservation, why are you following them?  But it leads back to my point above: people want to be indignant.  The internet needs it, talk radio needs it, 24 hour news channels need it, and people need it.

Just imagine, though, if someone saw someone saying something outlandish and awful and simply said "that guy's an idiot" and walked away.  Imagine if that stupid thing didn't get shared by anyone.  But that's not the way the world works -- it's certainly not the way the internet works.

So, no, it's not the jerks who are ruining the internet.  It's the self-righteous, who need to learn that they are part of the problem, not the solution.