Monday, April 17, 2017

Brian Boyd: We have reached Peak Synthetic Outrage

Stories about Pepsi, United Airlines and Sean Spicer ticked the “social media storm/online backlash” boxes but none of them stand up

Sean Spicer dressed up as a United Airlines flight attendant holding a can of Pepsi. A hilarious photoshopped dénouement to a week of synthetic outrage. A social media feeding frenzy which began with Pepsi’s much criticised “woke” ad moved through the gears on hearing of the plight of an United Airlines passenger who was “involuntarily deboarded” from a flight and went into overdrive when White House press secretary Sean Spicer used the “N” word. N for Nazi.

Godwin’s law states that as any online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler (“reductio ad Hitlererum”) increases. Spicer’s clumsy attempt to put the actions of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad into perspective by saying even Hitler didn’t gas his own people brought us climatically to Peak Outrage.

But even in the post-coital glow of offence taken and outrage expressed, we must know we were faking it. Superficially all three stories ticked the “social media storm/online backlash” boxes but none of them stand up. All have meretricious appeal for a system-supportive mindset but none are worthy of more than a shrug of the shoulders.

Soft drink company Pepsi have an ignoble history of ram-raiding youth appeal by signing large cheques for figures such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Beyonce to shill their sugary syrup for them. Sensing a change in the cultural climate this time out, their newest ad appropriated various U.S. protest movements to position the drink as being down with banner-waving dissent (albeit a very polite and inclusive form of dissent).

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