By the time you read this, it will be the Thursday before a long weekend and most of us will have collapsed in our homes like Willem Dafoe in Platoon. As you may recall, Monday brought news that (alleged) sexual offender Jian Ghomeshi was resurrecting his career via podcast and new Twitter account, but that was eclipsed by footage of a passenger on a United flight being violently removed from the plane due to overbooking. The next day, press secretary Sean Spicer tried to argue Hitler never killed anybody with poison gas.
So all week long, we’ve been quite angry.
Which is a difficult feeling to navigate, particularly as it’s been the go-to since before Donald Trump was voted president. Most of us felt angry long before hearing him say “grab her by the pussy,” particularly as we watched him use any/all public appearances to promote his racist and xenophobic agenda. And most of us haven’t stopped feeling that way.
But our anger is a powerful thing. While public outcry led to last week’s Pepsi ad being pulled and apologized for, this week saw our anger bring about a setback to Jian Ghomeshi’s comeback as the software company he intended to use to host his podcast pulled out following a “barrage of hate.” It’s also led to two public apologies by United’s CEO (although each had a lot to be desired) and a $1.4 BILLION drop in its stock—plus an enraged demand for justice for victim Dr. David Dao, who’s currently being dragged by the media for a past that might not even be his. (And even if it is his past: who cares?)
And most recently, anger has led to the very real possibility that Sean Spicer’s White House position has a sooner-than-realized expiry date, especially as organizations like the Anne Frank Center call for his dismissal. Spicer has since put forth an apology (FYI he is only sorry for letting down the President), but lip service isn’t enough: an outcry so loud that it eclipses all other news calls for real change. And while change never seems to happen quickly enough, anger and outcry is why Obamacare still stands in America and why Trump’s Muslim ban is being so rigorously challenged. Outcry makes a difference.
Which, well, duh. To sit here and argue that anger and outcries and demand for reform are good and important things would lead to the most obvious and unnecessary piece of all time. But there’s a difference between outcry and trolling. As in: there’s a difference between calling out toxic, dangerous, and illegal behaviour and ruining a life for the sake of feeling special.
After the events of the last few days, last week’s Pepsi ad seemed trivial. But it’s key to remember that there’s a place for all types of outcry, particularly if what you’re seeing is irresponsible or offensive. The anger directed towards Pepsi (frustration at their ignorance) was hardly the same as what was thrown at Jian Ghomeshi (general exhaustion and disbelief). And the outcry for him varied greatly from what we reserved for United (see: collective horror in response to a human rights violation). All of the above mattered, deserved attention, and should’ve been corrected. And considering most of us are feeling defined by a sense of helplessness, social media makes for a viable, immediate outlet for our anger and demands for change.
Outcry yields results.
As long as that outcry works in conjunction with another form of more active assistance. It can be too comfortable to hang out behind 140 characters, rallying like-minds while deflecting insults from users who take great joy in saying horrible things. (I have fun on Twitter Dot Com™.) But the movements that bring about true change need help outside the social media umbrella. And that can mean donating time, or money, or items—or calling representatives and telling them that, as a voter, you’re unhappy and want to see changes brought forth. Social media may have helped pull the Pepsi ad or Jian Ghomeshi’s latest venture, but the Black Lives Matter movement was what Pepsi was trying to cash in on, and Jian Ghomeshi’s victims were the ones who’d especially suffer in the wake of his renewed public presence. And remembering those connections means that it’s on us to support the organizations that are attributed to the bigger picture; it’s on us to donate to Black Lives Matter or to LEAF, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, whose mission is to ensure that Canadian women and girls aren’t discriminated against in our court system. Twitter is an effective avenue for outcry, but real traction isn’t gained without offline work.
Besides, with so much anger fuelling us so often, it’s not like we’re about to run out of reasons to curb our outcries any time soon. And to that end, just imagine what we could get done.