It was hard for me to get too worked up over this story about the Change.org petition created to “shut down” the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes over bad Suicide Squad reviews.
On the face of it, it sounded like another outrageous story of entitled and obsessed fans.
But I question the ultimate origins of these various outrages we constantly see on the Internet. What I mean to say is: did a “real” Suicide Squad fan create this petition, or was this just expert trolling which then was, Poe’s Law-style, taken seriously by thousands of people who actually lent their names to the petition?
Like, there is trolling that comes from a sincere space of genuine hatred, anger, etc.
But there has historically also been a degree of trolling just for the heck of it, as a sort of an Andy Kaufman-esque goof just to create chaos.
And then add on top of that the very real fact that people are paid to troll to support/tear down certain political candidates, ideologies, etc. That it’s stupid easy to just fund a small army of sock puppets on social media—Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, etc.—to infect the populace with any degree of propaganda. For example, here is a recent article from the Daily Beast about Russian sock-puppet accounts.
So many times I’ve gotten worked up by this or that story on the Internet—sometimes relayed to me second-hand by somebody else verbally telling me about it—only to find that it was anywhere from completely false (“click bait” sites that actually run nothing but fake articles), missing important information, ultimately proven to be a hoax (thank you Snopes), or instigated by a person with shady motives and benefactors.
This is not to suggest that what is “set off” by an online provocateur will not generate genuine strife and misery by real people ensnared in its web. For example, I question the motives of the persons responsible for the recentish attack on Leslie Jones on Twitter. I think the ringleaders had reasons that ranged from everything to “doing it for the lulz” to a conscious propaganda effort to press the primal buttons of the targeted disaffected demographic and “bring them into the fold” of a larger ideological movement.
However, the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of Twitter users whipped into a racist and misogynist frenzy…that was real.
But are these types of people being very consciously manipulated, either for the anonymous chuckles of small-time anarchists who “love to watch the world burn” or the aims and goals of larger groups, organizations, or even governments?
I mean, we all want empowerment. Attacking other people online is a method of attempting to regain a certain degree of perceived power-deficit.
But regardless of your political or ideological persuasion, I have to look you in the eyes and ask: are you being manipulated by what you read online? I’m not just talking news stories, but all the message boards, comment sections, Tweets, postings, and so on.
Because if you are indeed being manipulated by others—whipped into that dog-piling frenzy, joining efforts to shut down this or destroy that—you are not being empowered. You are being treated as a “useful idiot” by people with agendas that are far beyond really caring about your personal situation or happiness.
And so rather than get worked up over this Suicide Squad/Rotten Tomatoes thing, I would instead heartily recommend you read the original Suicide Squad comic book series from the 80s and 90s. A lot of twists and turns, tons of manipulation and intrigue—written by A+ writers with a real handle on politics and the human drama.
It’s what all us humans want in the end, isn’t it? Something we can all agree on, regardless of what separates us. We all want a good story…no matter where we end up finding it.