Monday, February 05, 2018

Mob Mentality

            It always boggles my mind how easily people’s opinions are swayed, particularly in this age where information is so accessible. Discovering the truth of a situation is a bit of quick research away, and only requires a little bit of critical thinking to figure out the truth.

            For example, word reached my ears this week that J.K. Rowling is homophobic. I laughed, because anyone who knows anything about that woman knows this to be untrue. However, a lot of people – even professionals in the literary world – were buying into this rumor. So I did my research – and I still can’t believe that people are believing this rumor when all they have to do is read.

            The evidence for J.K. Rowling being homophobic is that someone involved with the latest Harry Potter movie said that Dumbledore (known to be a gay character) will not be openly gay in the movie. So people immediately assumed that, since Rowling wrote the screenplay, she was chickening out from presenting the character as gay. The mob mentality roused and people began haranguing the Rowling about it.

            Her response was quite simple and to the point. She muted people on social media, saying that she wasn’t going to accept abuse from people who read an interview that she wasn’t involved with about a screenplay they hadn’t read – incidentally, a screenplay that was the first in a five part series.

            Somehow, people took this as proof that Rowling is homophobic, when it is quite literally staying the opposite. It’s almost explicitly stating that Dumbledore, while perhaps not portrayed as openly gay in the first movie, will become so over the course of the series.

            Yet, the rumor has been started – and people are believing it. Why? It’s so easy to find the truth, but people are so eager (as with political situations) to believe the first thing they read that they don’t go digging. They would rather believe a falsehood and flip their opinion about a person or a subject than do a bit of research.

            Why? Is it simply not worth the effort to fact check? Is it mob mentality – everyone else is saying it, so let’s not go against the crowd? Is it pure emotion – has the internet given us such a safe place to lash out at the smallest provocation that we no longer show any restraint? Is it simply that people care so little about their opinions that they don’t care if they change their mind about it, so they go with the clickbait headlines rather than the facts?

            To me, it speaks to something rotten at the core of our society. What it comes down to is that news is viewed as a form of entertainment – not by those who consume it, but by those who create it. This has come to be because, given a choice between news that is boring and news that is entertaining, people will always choose the one that’s entertaining – so the news has become more entertaining, more dramatic, to compete. The result is that facts and truth get lost amid a swirl of opinions and misdirections intended to draw people in.

            And, slowly, the truth has stopped mattering to us. It’s the entertainment that matters. People believe what they read, because they trust the source – or, conversely, distrust what they read from sources they don’t like, regardless of accuracy. Many even believe satirical articles that they didn’t realize was satirical.

            So, is that all it is? Do people no longer care what’s real? Is it too difficult for us to figure out what’s real?


            Or is it just easier to follow the crowd? After all, when has a mob ever been wrong?





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