Saying nothing is another option

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Monitor a weekly column dedicated to everything that happens in WIRED the world of culture, from movies to memes, from television to twitter.

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First, let’s note one thing: the very thesis of this essay lives in the realm of hypocrisy. This column, as stated in the description above, exists to talk about what people are talking about in popular culture. And this week, only one story dominated social media. You know that one. The incident that happened at the Oscars. (This may kill the SEO of this story, but in the spirit of the practice of what I’m preaching, this place will be free of the names of the participants.) People’s thoughts about this incident have been all over the place since Sunday evening, and they weren’t going to let up. But writing about how people don’t have to share all their opinions, as I’m going to do, is still sharing opinions. I have to live with it.

Moments like this represent the Internet at its worst. Not necessarily the ugliest, but the most unbearable. Yes, everyone can have their own opinion about what happened; not all of them need to live online. Saying nothing is an option. It’s hard not to want to be part of the conversation, but in times like these—when there are few, if any, clear conclusions and even fewer people to deliver them—STFU should be encouraged among those who do not have relevant experience. This allows those with a valuable point of view to be heard and frees up everyone else to do literally anything.

Otherwise, we have what happened in an almost constant cycle last week. First, there were the Sunday night tweets—wise reflections on trauma and violence, and even some helpful comments about the relevance of the Oscars. Unfortunately, this more valuable discourse has been accompanied by more than a few ill-advised jokes and overblown rhetoric. They continued the next morning with feature stories, hot shots, reactions—the news outlets were reporting more than just news. The celebrities began weighing in, some were in the room at the time of the incident and some were not. Then came the social media backlash against these celebrities; then there were reports of the backlash these celebrities faced. This has been going on for almost five days and (maybe) 20 percent of the comments have shed light on what happened; the rest is not.

To be clear, this plea for thoughtfulness isn’t necessary when, say, Jennifer Lawrence trips over her dress or Apple TV+. beats competing streaming service in disorder. These events are part of a cultural dialogue and they did not harm anyone physically, emotionally or psychologically. But the Sunday incident is a case where some people can make a really insightful contribution, and everyone else would be wise to listen and not make jokes or hot lines. Those add to noise and do in shrewd comment harder to hear.

They also distract from a lot of other news. After the Oscars, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed controversial state bill “Don’t Say Gay”, Bruce Willis announced that he has aphasia and leave to act, a new sub-variant of Covid-19 became dominant in the United States, and Russia continued its offensive against Ukraine. It’s not that these incidents didn’t get attention, but they probably didn’t get the attention they could and should have if the Oscar incident hadn’t dominated every strip.

Of course, I was guilty of rushing to write a hot take myself. But the current situation is simply out of control. The great thing about the Internet is that it has given voice to so many; Unfortunately, on the Internet, a lot of people use it to talk, not listen. The signal-to-noise ratio is far, and it has been for a while. If the last few years have brought any clarity, it is that the price of freedom of speech can be a cacophony when everyone speaks at the same time. People deserve a word, but before they get it, they need to consider whether their voice matters. But that’s just my opinion.

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