While I am not remotely interested in Rebecca Black or her new song, “Saturday”, I find it fascinating that merely two days after her video was published on YouTube, it boasts over 9 million hits.
Think about that for a second, because it says almost nothing about Rebecca Black and a great deal about our society. Throughout social media Black is talked about and roundly mocked, and all of these people who supposedly don’t like her product made haste to view her video, why?
So they could then report to twitter and facebook and join in the witless, often vulgar sneering at her.
So they could rush to embrace the dark joy of hate — to be included in the mockery, lest they be thought out of touch — to add a brick to the designated “safe hate” moment, which will be for all the people: Go make fun of Rebecca Black, everyone, and direct your self-hate that-a-way for a few; don’t worry, it will come back to you, later!
Pope Francis has referred to “the dark joy of gossip”, the soul-shriveling pssssting that we slip into — again, to assuage our self-loathing and temporarily feel included, privileged and superior. The sort of hate that drives 9 million people to view a video of an admittedly vapid song — and then encourage others to view it so they can make fun of it, too — seems like a logical outgrowth of the gussied-up gossip upon which social media thrives.
There’s no point in asking whether we are a society of bullies; we all indulge in bullying, sometimes, either openly or passive-aggressively. It is a symptom of our shared brokenness, and a deep, cold crevasse that can slide us right into the fires of hell.
But this public engagement with hate, it reminds me a little of the “two-minutes hate” in Orwell’s 1984. That was a scheduled social exercise that had the effect of both relieving personal stress through manic, sanctioned ranting and affirming one’s place in the crowd — nay, one’s need for the crowd — and its safe, accepted “logic.”
Last night, I was talking to Dan Sealana on his radio show, The Mess, and before I went on he talked about the fake Paris Hilton tweet that went out, upon the death of Nelson Mandela. The tweet, of course, was offered up to the crowd for no other purpose than allow a hate-feeding on Hilton, who managed to prove that she had not sent it. Sealana confessed to feeling a bit bad for Hilton, who did nothing to deserve being offered for a public lynching/munching.
Again, the fact that people were so quick to not only believe the tweet (without even looking at the source, which was just a few hours old) but to slip right into hate-mode, says more about us than about Paris Hilton who — whatever you may think of her — was created by a God who loves her, and wants her with him.
That’s something I need to remind myself, also, when I get ready to rant on this fellow.
By my middle-aged lights, the new Rebecca Black song is pretty bad, but to be honest it’s not much worse than a lot of the over-processed, oversynthesized bubblegum girlpop that I find unlistenable. And in her video she manages to make fun of herself a bit, which — increasingly — I am finding to be a virtue worth practicing. It is, perhaps, the antidote to our embrace of the bully.