Here is Adam Curtis’ analysis of the rise of ‘Oh dearism’
Danish news is no different. World news is presented as fragmented examples of human cruelty with no attempt to bring the context into view. National news is a laundry list of minor stories and if there is an overarching narrative, it is how the immigrants are fucking everything up.
We are being distracted.
This is a week where Boko Haram massacre thousands and a man received the first 50 of his 1000 lashes for criticising Saudi clerics and the western international community mull over making Assad an ally now. The reporting of these stories has generated a few news articles and a couple of columns.
Meanwhile, the attacks on French cartoonists have been dominated the news cycle. Real talk now: murdering a bunch of people for saying/drawing offensive stuff is obviously wrong. But so is whipping someone 1000 times over 20 days. So is murdering thousands of people for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So is making an ally of a war criminal. But those narratives are hard to fit into the current agenda. They are complicated. They are same-shit-different-day. Why is Boko Haram on the rampage? How come Saudi Arabia is as fucked up as North Korea and one country is a dear ally and the other is a mustache twiddling monster? How can one leader be as bad as Hitler one day but a necessary evil the next?
‘Whataboutery’ is a ridiculous point scoring exercise in debate. But surely the deaths of these innocent French people, be they cartoonists or policemen or shoppers, are just as worthy of being buried under the news cycle as the death of a 10 year old girl used as a living bomb? The guy in Australia who held a shop hostage and killed a couple of people got buried in the shuffle because he was a bonkers lone gunman. These guys in Paris, they fit a narrative. They fit a story about Good and Evil. We can stand together in solidarity because all the context and nuance are washed away.
So, now people who say “yeah but those cartoons were pretty mean, I am not really going to defend racist trolling”, are automatically on the side of Evil. People objecting to being snooped on by governments are automatically condoning Evil.
Whereas, the other news stories are just too complicated to be understood, so no one has an opinion other than “oh dear” or “people are sick” or occasionally “that continent/country/culture can’t look after itself, we should save them”.
We are being rallied to a choke point. Right now, it is needed that we feel under attack by faceless, barbaric enemies. It wouldn’t do to denounce the killers as bonkers. They are part of a plot. We are under attack and we need to take action. And the action we will take? It will be complicated and no one will bother to explain it to us. It might take the form of attacks on countries we are not at war with. It might be drone strikes. It might be economic sanctions. And when innocent people die or it sets off a chain of events (like the mistreatment of people set off ISIS), we just get to shrug and say it is too complicated to understand. That is until a crime is committed where context can be shrugged off like a jacket.
We don’t need to look at why cartoon trolling of particular people sets them off into a murderous rage. We don’t need to consider the response to world events only benefits a small minority. We don’t need to look for context or nuance, we just need to be outraged long enough for our masters to do what they want.