Once again, social media has proven that we’re all just as angry, resentful and racist as we were before. The only difference is we treat that as though it’s news, the fact that technology gives each and everyone of us a platform to say whatever we want to say. Just because we bandwagon and all bunch up like cows about it, shouldn’t make anything any of us have to say – especially if it’s angry, resentful and racist – newsworthy.
Allow me to explain: in preschool, one day, a holographic box magically appeared on the classroom floor. If you looked at it from the right, there was a skull, and if you moved to look at it from the left, the skull disappeared to reappear as a scary holographic skull. It was the talk of the tots, and when our teacher came over to investigate, she proclaimed: “You’re all bunched up like cows!”
Now allow me to explain on point:
A group of armed protestors in Oregon have taken over a U.S. federal building. The group of “militiamen” want the release of two ranchers convicted of arson and the release of federal land and resources to the people. For more, I like this New York Times piece because it has facts, colour, little hype and zero hashtags.
Almost everywhere else, it’s the opposite. In fact, it’s a messy war of words, drunk on the opportunity to champion different agendas, and filled with all kinds of slurs. The word “terrorism” keeps getting thrown at the situation like a never-ending string of virgin Molotov cocktails, achieving nothing save some pretty bad virtual explosions. Police aren’t storming the building, the president hasn’t declared #OregonUnderAttack. And from what I’ve read, anyone remotely near the actual protest is mostly annoyed, not terrorized. Whether this can be defined as a terrorist attack on the U.S. government is, contextually, a pretty weak argument, too.
We have #YallQaeda (al Qaeda) waging #YeeHawd (jihad), #YokelHaram (Nigeria’s Boko Haram) and #VanillaISIS as some super fun and sarcastic hashtags on Twitter. Because when we cry terror at the big bad western wolves and everyone stops listening, we can conveniently import and appropriate the real-life terrors of the “third world” for our own amusement. Like I said, really fun.
There’s how this is about #whiteprivilege, because the “right” (or perhaps more accurately, the ability) of a group of armed black citizens to pull off this stunt is, many claim, non-existent. This is probably true, and it’s part of a larger discussion about how a section of society is labelling these guys “patriots” (one man’s freedom fighter is, after all, another man’s terrorist). It’s also about how government and media have responded. It is very clear that America’s history, founding and strong racial divides need to be properly addressed and discussed. It’s no one’s right, no one’s “privilege” however, to storm a building or host an armed protest. And while everything does tend to be about race, it isn’t always just about race.
Which brings us to a final theme: that this whole situation is really a first-class citizen fight over illegal land, seized many years ago from the continent’s original habitants.
“Only in America,” right? Wrong. Maybe it’s because of who owns the world’s media organizations, or the distractive power of trending hashtags, or simply that this is what we really care about, but few are mocking this “attack on Oregon” in its entirety – the event, the response, the coverage, the opinions – as something not worth the air time it’s gotten, and as something worth dismissing entirely.
Yes, it’s sort of a crazy story. But it’s quite possible we care more because it’s homegrown American drama (they do make great TV) with entertainment value and familiar, relatable characters. There are peripheral issues attached to this that are important, but not really important to this story. In fact, they deserve to stand alone.
And as important as they are, they maybe aren’t quite as important as the widespread life-and-death issues posed by #ChocolateISIS. (Okay, I’m going straight to hell. Which incidentally is now a place on earth where the skulls aren’t holographic. So let’s get back to some of the bigger, pressing, humanitarian issues of our time.)