On Monday, Joss Whedon just suddenly up and deleted his Twitter account, which had accumulated more than a million-and-a-half followers. Speculation quickly turned to the monumental amount of grief he was getting from the usual suspects among Twitter's identity politics outrage brigade for plot points in Avengers: Age of Ultron involving Scarlett Johansson's character, Black Widow. In a piece I wrote on the subject, I didn't say definitively that political militants drove Whedon away, but I said that it wouldn't be surprising considering that he had no reason to put up with threats and challenges by juvenile narcissists to "block me."
Well, Whedon is talking about that speculation now and he says it's "horseshit." In an interview with Buzzfeed, he echoed the sentiment he expressed in 2013, the first time he bailed from Twitter for a while. “I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place,” he said about quitting Twitter. “And this is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life. … It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella."
Now certainly, he's right about Twitter. As a platform, it's become our culture's greatest broadcaster of white noise. But while it's distracting on any level, what really makes it so impossible to attend to while doing anything else of value -- what makes it so "least quiet" -- is that if you're somebody who's putting him or herself out there creatively, you're constantly hearing negative feedback. And these days, like it or not, that feedback often comes in the form of a backlash from Twitter's millennial activist PC police, who are always on the lookout for something to be offended by and "call-out." If you think Whedon didn't at least notice the kind of hate he was getting for the Black Widow storyline in Age of Ultron -- and for every other thing this fanboy-fangirl or that was complaining about -- and realize he just didn't need it, you don't understand how our brains have been rewired by social media.
We like to think we can turn off our heads when every few seconds something new is being shot in our direction on Twitter, but we just can't. And if you can't really ignore it, you have to shut it down completely. Now imagine if a lot of what you're getting from social media is negative or a cry for attention.
What really might be the giveaway here is a comment he makes later in the interview. He sums up perfectly the issue with outrage culture and the era of liberal self-cannibalization. “Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That’s something I’m used to," he says. "Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause." That's it right there. That's exactly what needs to be said. It's what reasonable people think of the constant state of war between the various factions of the identity politics tribe. Instead of knowing the real enemy and uniting to take it on head-first, every perceived slight becomes another excuse to turn on each other. And every harmless offense receives the same DefCon 1 response.
Joss Whedon says it wasn't the militancy that led him to quit Twitter, it was the noise. But that's the thing. For anybody who cares about equality and justice, but who doesn't reach the level of ideological purity -- because how can anyone? -- the militancy is the noise.