Click Bait Violence
Have you ever noticed how many article headlines include violence? Even if it’s rhetorical violence that has no reality in real life, the trend (at least it seems to be a recent trend) is disturbing, since its focus is on people, mostly public figures. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen some politician, or far right blow-hard demolished, trampled, smashed, slammed, pulverized, obliterated, annihilated, shredded… There’s nothing new about metaphorical violence used to attract readers, but I don’t remember it ever being so ubiquitous and heavy-handed.
I haven’t watched tv since it went digital, haven’t seen a movie in several years, so a great deal of pop culture passes me by. Someone I’ve never heard is suddenly big news, a meme starts going the rounds and I have to look it up on Google so I can understand what’s going on, but I do know that violence has gone mainstream and saturates American society to a new and frightening extent. Fads come and go and too many of them involve potentially deadly violence. Example: the “fire challenge” — dousing yourself in flammable liquid and setting it on fire. http://www.denverpost.com/2014/02/09/teen-who-set-himself-on-fire-at-standley-lake-high-school-dies/ This was a suicide a couple of years ago, but the challenge goes on despite young people being seriously burned and even dying.
So it’s understandable, I guess, that news outlets, desperately competing for eyes, are going to ride on that as much as possible. In doing so, though, they help legitimize the concept of violence as a way to deal with the world.
The Official Badge of Conformity
Boing Boing, has a discussion about a black student being taken out of his high school graduation ceremony by police for wearing a Kente cloth around his shoulders. Apparently, he tweeted the whole incident, included here. He did violate a rule, which allows for scarves or other signs of awards the student had earned, but he was still allowed to go across the stage, shook hands, etc., but was taken out before he could get his diploma. Why the police were called in is a mystery. The Boing Boing discussion went back and forth about it, noting that many schools have (usually after the fact) ruled against anything but the cap and gown. What I found most interesting was the support (not very much, though) for following the rules on the basis that everyone should look the same at this so very important ceremony. If you detect cynicism there, you aren’t imagining it.
Part of the discussion, naturally, is about whether calling in the police was a racist act. All in all, the school’s decision was stupid, as are the rules that emphasize conformity. But that’s the point, really. Graduation ceremonies are, by their very nature, emphasizing the product the schools and colleges have turned out. You might even say that they’re the ultimate visual sign of what they hoped to accomplish — conformity to society’s rules and regulation, whether or not they make sense.
I attended my own high school graduation under duress. My parents wouldn’t have it any other way. It was as boring and miserable as I expected, and I felt like a complete idiot, wearing the official costume. Hmm. Maybe that’s why I dropped out of college after my freshman year — to avoid going through that horror again.