This is a piece I’ve been wanting to write for ages. I’ve never really known how to do it, though. The dilemma is that I have to talk about what I don’t want people to talk about. There just isn’t any way to do that without talking about it. I feel like a hypocrite talking about something I’m asking other people not to talk about. I’ll try to get around that by only talking about examples where I believe the damage is already done, so I will not be making anything worse.
There’s a common phenomenon where someone says or does something hurtful or offensive, then that message is amplified by the very people who are hurt or offended by it. I don’t think there’s a name for it. I’ll give a couple of examples and I think you’ll see what I mean.
Let’s start with the most recent one. Some sexist idiot wrote an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal (No, I’m not going to link to it.) where he said that Dr. Jill Biden shouldn’t call herself doctor. The piece is offensive and has no value at all. The Wall Street Journal should never have published it. They’ve been garbage for years, but this shows how far they’ve fallen. The only reason I know about this op-ed is because of feminists and other women with doctorates who have been sharing and complaining about it on social media. In an effort to make fun/shame/reprimand this guy, they have widened his platform greatly.
Perhaps the most famous example is a Kentucky county clerk (No, I’m not going to name her. I can’t even tell you how annoyed I am that I know her name.) who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples a few years ago. There was no story there. Some homophobic idiot was willfully bad at her job. Her supervisor should have written her up and/or fired her and that should have been the end of it. Instead, everyone was tripping all over themselves to denounce her and turned her into a celebrity. She was the very definition of a nobody. Now she has a following and people actually listen to what she has to say.
If you think for a few minutes, you can probably come up with dozens of other examples. And it works both ways. Fox’s near-obsession with AOC has done a lot to increase her reach. Trump’s ascendancy was pushed along by liberal outrage. We need to stop spreading messages we don’t like.
I say, next time you happen on something that offends you, don’t share it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t draw attention to it in any way. Instead, find something you do like and share that. If someone says something sexist or homophobic, share an essay by a woman or an LBGTQA+ person you admire. The press is shockingly bad at their job, but we need to stop giving them incentives to be bad.