Polarizing Language

It’s no secret that political parties now lie at opposite sides of the spectrum. Nowadays divulging your political party is akin to claiming a religion that is intolerant of others. I use this analogy because political parties often operate like religions. They exist of tight knit communities, that have a set of morals and ideals they believe the world should abide by. Those who disagree with this sentiment are often regarded with scorn, and if you happened to share with Facebook this presidential season who you voted for and why, you probably lost a few Facebook friends in the process.

I won’t try to say that this is uncommon. For centuries, political parties have been at wars with each other, each trying to push their party into the position of power and majority. However, it is only recently that the polarization of parties has been encouraged. Media, both right and left, has been contributing to the headstrong attitude that political parties members already retain. If you’ve paid attention to President Trump’s recent antics, you’d know about his hatred for CNN, which he mockingly refers to as “Fake News Network” or “FNN”. To Republicans, CNN is a repeat offender, manipulating the public into rejecting Republicans, and using language to encourage others of “fake news”. If you navigate your way through CNN’s website page for politics, it isn’t hard to point out.

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This screenshot was taken from the website on July 8, 2017. In it you can see how the word choice significantly contributes to fueling hatred towards the opposite party. Inflaming article titles such as “The survival of a Southern Baptist who dared to oppose Trump” and “Haley: Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections” which are suggestive of a tyrannical Republican government fill the page. Each title serves as evidence to an agenda fulfilling network. Shocker. CNN is widely known to be a Democratic media outlet, so the surprise is little.

But CNN is not the only news network guilty of this. Its counterpart, Fox News, a renown right-wing news network, similarly utilizes the same tactics.

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While the number of articles is significantly dwarfed by the number of articles present in the CNN screenshot, the concept is the same. Fox News writes “Obamacare problems deepen, as Senate bill sideline” and “House Republicans stymied in their efforts to adopt a budget” suggesting that the left-wing is responsible for many of the government’s problems. Each network points the finger at each other. And this warfare is executed using language and practicing selectivity by choosing which stories will be covered over others. Similar topics will be written about in very different lights, or simply not covered at all, in order to withhold valuable, maybe even game changing political stories simply to fuel the fire.

This tactic has been around so long media has been alive, there were political newspapers going back to America’s conception that had allegiances to parties and served as propaganda. Now, both CNN and Fox New’s use of articles is responsible for shaping millions of American’s political opinions. Which is admittedly a big deal. Ideally, news networks should be all encompassing, serving up information without the embellishment of political bias. The purpose is just to inform the public right? However, since both CNN and Fox News do not claim to be unaffiliated or even non-partisan, we can’t really try to hold news networks accountable for the influence they have over the public. Attempting to hold them towards some sort of gold standard, in which reporters only report the super detailed truth and nothing but, is simply ridiculous. If all reporters did that, we’d only need one news network. But because news networks have agendas, things they support and rebuke, there is a plethora of news networks. And it is up to the public to decide which network they prefer. I say the word “prefer” here because someone might opt out of choosing a more non-partisan network because they may be a Republican or Democrat unwilling to here any oppositional news or opinions contrary to their own.

In a perfect world, we’d all be willing to hear other’s opinions, but let’s face it, we don’t want to hear news that might somehow shake or change our set beliefs. If we bring back the religion analogy, a zealot might choose to ignore the new evolution study because they are unwilling to entertain the risk of their beliefs being challenged. For a moderate like myself who favors a panoramic briefing, rather than a one-sided one, it means extra work: watching several different news outlets, partisan and non-partisan.

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We’ve all been a Tom or a Summer

The movie 500 Days of Summer was written nearly a decade ago, and yet I have never felt like the content of the movie has been more relevant than now. If you haven’t watched the movie, I’m about to give away the entire plot, so SPOILERS ahead.

In the movie, Tom meets a girl at his workplace named Summer, who he immediately finds an attraction towards. Summer reciprocates those feelings and the two begin a casual relationship that Summer has made clear will not develop into anything more, because she does not believe in love.  However, things between the two change, as Summer and Tom begin to cross over into relationship territory. Tom, ecstatic, because he is in love with Summer tries to push the relationship forward, much to the annoyance of Summer. They fight, and Summer pulls away from Tom, referring to them as “just friends”. Tom, heartbroken, tries to piece his life back together at the encouragement of his friends, while Summer meanwhile finds a new man and becomes engaged with said man. Summer then asks to meet with Tom, explaining to him that their relationship was just not meant to be, but that she is happy with her fiance and Tom helped her realize that true love does exist. Tom ends up finding his own happy ending at the conclusion of the film, when he meets a new girl with whom he can begin anew with.

When I first saw this movie, it was very popular among my fellow peers; it was a teen must-see movie holding the same ranks as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Breakfast Club, Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is probably because all of these movies have that same romantic adult angst about not being able to be with someone you care about. Although the movie has somewhat faded into the oblivion of my mind, 500 Days of Summer occasionally makes an appearance on Facebook feeds and Tumblr posts alike. Recently, I was perusing my Facebook feed when I saw a shared video someone had made about the movie. The video was making a case from Summer’s perspective about how Summer was blameless throughout the entire movie, and that it is Tom’s delusion and infatuation with Summer, or rather the idea of Summer, that is the cause of Tom’s heart brokenness. Usually after watching the movie, the consensus with viewers is that either Summer is a bitch who led Tom on, or that Tom is crazy for over romanticizing her.

When I first watched 500 Days of Summer, I was probably in high school, and I had never been in a relationship of any sort myself. I had often been chastised by boys for “leading them on”, but in my opinion I was just being friendly and it was their own faults for thinking it would ever amount to anything. When I watched the movie, I thought I saw Tom for what he truly was: an angry nice guy who had been friend-zoned. I sincerely thought that Tom was to blame for his own heart brokenness. He was the one who had projected unrealistic expectations and unrealistic fantasies on someone who had said they weren’t looking for anything serious, after all. Had I watched the video on Facebook during this time, I probably would have slammed the share button as fast as I could.

Now that I’m older, and had my fair share of experiences being both Tom and Summer, I definitely see the movie from a new perspective. Whereas I had previously been critical of Tom, I could now sympathize with him. I once was in a relationship with a friend of mine, that we both did not want to be serious, but as the course of the relationship went on, things got muddled, it escalated to the point where we were Skyping each other to compensate for long-distance, we texted each other nonstop, went on public dates, and if I called him in the middle of the night because I was having a bad nightmare, he’d answer and console me. It was definitely a weird relationship, considering we both claimed exclusivity didn’t matter. Anyway, after a while I started to genuinely like him, and wondered because of the over-step of boundaries he felt the same. He did not. I was pretty disappointed; not depressed as Tom was, but disappointed enough.

I could see my own faults in the relationship, for believing that actions could trump words and feelings, and thinking “well even though he says he doesn’t want a relationship, he might because we are doing relationship things”. If we parallel this experience with Tom, I could understand why I was foolish for ignoring my friend’s initial statement that it was only going to be casual. I was wrong for assuming that my friends actions would somehow negate his words, and that we might end up together. I put too much meaning into those moments of over-stepped boundaries and thought that they meant something, when in reality, they were meaningless. However, at the same time, I also felt somewhat betrayed, and this is where I can really sympathize with Tom’s character. My friend had set up boundaries, like Summer, but had repeatedly overstepped them. I had had casual relationships before, but both of them were not invested in me as much as my friend had been. With the two other casual relationships I’d been in, I did not text, or even hang out with the guys in public, so much as hold hands or Skype. Based on previous experiences, it felt like my friend really did want more.

This is kind of where I chastise Summer’s character. To me, Tom and Summer were equally to blame. Summer over-stepped the boundaries of the relationship: she went on dates with Tom, she opened up her mind to Tom, and if you’ve seen the movie, it genuinely looks as if Summer cared about Tom (with exceptions leading up to the breakup). Summer knowingly continued her relationship with Tom, even though she knew he wanted more, and when she was pushed to an ultimatum, she backed out and was forced to break away from Tom so that she wouldn’t hurt him anymore. This was really a mature thing of Summer to do, because she ended it before Tom was past the point of no return. At the same time though, it was Summer’s selfishness that allowed her to hurt Tom in the first place; she wanted Tom’s time and affection, but did not want all of the ramifications and labels of such. When I think about myself, I see Summer in me when I led on a few close friends by long late night phone calls, cheek kisses, and sadly the drunk make-out. I could have used more self-constraint, but because I was hungry for attention and my needs I couldn’t really see how the guys were being affected.

Now, I try to do my best to not be a Tom or Summer, because Tom was delusional, and Summer was selfish. It just so happens, that after I watched the video, I took to the comments to look at how others were receiving this absolution of Summer’s sins. Some were outraged, saying Summer was a bitch who led Tom on, others agreeing with the video that it was Tom’s fault. Unsurprisingly, those that could see the movie from both perspectives argued that it was both their faults. In my opinion, this Tom-Summer relationship is becoming uniform, especially in today’s age. With hookup and “friends with benefits” culture so prevalent, there’s so many Toms and so many Summers, and I guess that’s what makes 500 Days of Summer a great movie. I definitely recommend watching this movie, it has re-watch value and the meaning of the film changes when watched at different points of your life. And isn’t that what a good film is supposed to do!

CNN Doxxing Threat of Memer & (Han)Asshole(Solo)

If you’ve followed recent news, you’ve become aware of the President’s CNN meme, and the following outrage. Basically, CNN tracked down the meme creator, a Redditor named “HanAssholeSolo”, and came across a host of other ugly posts by the redditor that appeared to be Islamophobic, racist, and misogynistic based on post history. They tracked him down on Monday, and messaged him, but with no response. He issued his apology the next day, seemingly aware of his terrible mistake, and CNN issued an article about the investigation about the Islamophobic, racist, misogynistic man maintaining that while they reserve the right to publish his identity, they are going to be merciful and withhold it because the man was remorseful:

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

The language used in this article was somehow reminiscent of a just parent. In my mind I recalled all the times my father considered punishing me, but said “because you apologized and show remorse, I’m going to forgive you. Try anything like that again and you’ll be in big trouble”. I don’t disagree with media branding this the #CNNBlackmail , because frankly it does look like blackmail. CNN sought the Redditor out and upon finding him, and the skeletons in the closet he harbored, they reached out to him in email (who’s content was never released, it could be blackmail), and the next day HanAssholeSolo published a lengthy and profoundly apologetic statement. It appeared to be a deal in exchange for his anonymity.

In this day an age, doxxing, a term used for releasing personal documents, is a widely used tactic on anonymous users. If you can recall, wikiLeaks Edward Snowden also was under the guise of anonymity before he was revealed and forced to flee the country. Recently, a good samartian attempted to help a lost girl find her parents, when the parents beat the man thinking he was a kidnapper. Although all was quickly cleared up with the police, the parent’s relatives took to Twitter to go out on a witch hunt, writing “Twitter, do yo thing”. This is not the first social media witch hunt seen; in recent years it has only become more and more prevalent. Recall how the hunter of Cecil the lion lost his practice, his home, and his friends all at the behest of outraged people over the internet. These days I can’t peruse through Tumblr without some blogger rejoicing how some racist lost their job due to social backlash. While I’m not against the common person enacting and defending justice, people can now act as judge and jury, regardless if they are warranted or not (as was not the case with the good Samaritan). Doxxing is a very scary thing, and I can imagine why the Redditor chose to issue an apology, whether sincere or not.

As you can imagine, the #CNNBlackmail hastag persists and not without anger, especially from the Reddit community. I personally use Reddit, and in the rules of the website, doxxing is strictly prohibited. There are plenty of assholes on Reddit, and they are constantly in-criminalizing themselves with their admittance of using drugs, committing crimes, and just being racist, bigot, angry jerks. But that’s what makes Reddit. Every user, regardless of what they say is meant to be protected from doxxing. Or so you’d think. Just because Reddit prohibits doxxing on their website (e.g. A Redditor cannot dox another Redditor), parties from outside the website can still track down Redditors and publish their information (e.g. a non-Redditor can dox a Redditor). This is why so many, like myself expressed immeadiate disgust at CNN for threatening to dox HanAssholeSolo; it’s like coming into someone’s safe place and threatening to pull the curtain.

Ultimately there shouldn’t be much sympathy for HanAssholeSolo. If it’s true that he’s an overall terrible human being, then why should we care if there is a hunt? Although I have never thought Trump was a good president or ever supported the clownery that is his presidency, he was right about one thing: it is witch hunt. Doxxing and getting people fired over terrible trespasses, without true knowledge of their guilt is a witch hunt. And it is all fun and games until you’ve taken it too far or become the witch yourself, as the good Samaritan was. Of course, all eyes are now on CNN, who asserts that they were not trying to blackmail the Redditor. This is just a string of slip ups for the network, since it was just last month that they were in hot water for publishing a now retracted article about how Trump officials had Russian investment fund ties. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but its clear that with a President who has effectively become a meme and posts memes, and with CNN threatening to dox a memer, thus becoming a meme themselves, this whole fiasco of politics is one giant meme.