Perhaps at some point early in its development, the addition of comments under YouTube videos was probably seen as a positive societal advancement in which consumers were encouraged to help sculpt content via accompanying feedback — to idealistically form a community where new-media is a two-way road for both creators and the audience, unlike old-media formats like television and print where content delivery is chiefly one-way.
The awful reality of comment sections, however, is obvious to anyone who’s clicked on a video: YouTube threads are hellscapes of pointless, barely literate vitriol posted by sociopaths who prove with every misspelled word why they shouldn’t be allowed the privilege of unsupervised internet access. Each and every thread is a total waste of space, bandwidth and design resources. The only value, optimistically speaking, is as a sociological case study into why the unwashed mob is totally undeserving of a public platform, and why perhaps the media gatekeepers should be allowed to reassume their posts.
Take the comments under the new Star Wars trailer, of all things. The usual nitpickery of the villain’s triple-bladed lightsaber and an appearance by JJ Abrams’ signature use of a lens flare were annoying but to be expected. Mostly, however, the comments are populated by mindblowingly racist remarks about John Boyega’s role as an Imperial Stormtrooper in the opening shot. Suffice to say, the word “nigger” is alive and well in the Cuckoo’s Nest that is the YouTube “community.” (In fairness to YouTube, it’s all over Twitter and social media, too.)
Here’s probably the most mild of the comments, posted by an anonymous bigot who calls himself “ACFM hd”:
“Disney has no shame. Using the Star Wars platform to push the Race-mixing, ‘diversity is good’ agenda. I have officially resigned my Star wars fanboyism. To Hell with all involved with this.”
Race-mixing? Is this “fanboy” 97-years-old? Either way, it gets much worse from there.
Again, we’re talking about a three-second shot in a movie trailer for Star Wars in which Boyega wears Stormtrooper armor while being black (Boyega was born and raised in London and is of Nigerian descent). For this, he must be punished, obviously.
Sadly, the reaction prompted Boyega to post on Instagram: “To whom it may concern … Get used to it.” Nice, but in 2014, this shouldn’t be necessary. The democratization of the media and the misplaced empowerment of the mob has amplified the voices of a marginalized and nearly extinct subculture who collectively believe that a Star Wars actor ought to be relentlessly attacked for not being white — and all Stormtroopers must be white for some reason. Hell, we don’t even know for sure whether Boyega is an actual Stormtrooper or is just using the armor as a disguise like Han and Luke did in the first Star Wars.
But yes, heaven forbid there be a little casting diversity in a universe where one of the lead characters is a Wookiee.
The racist backlash to Star Wars was especially resonant in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. One of the most common white reactions to the uprising in Ferguson following the grand jury has been to suggest that the over-the-top police response is mostly black people’s fault.
Here’s Rudy Giuliani on Fox News Sunday:
I think some of that responsibility is on the police department and on police departments to train their officers better and to make their police departments much more diversified. But I think just as much, if not more, responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community.
It’s remarkable coming from anyone with even a cursory sense of the history of the last 300 years, much less the history of the last 300 days. What else do we call it when a white man refuses to acknowledge the reality that it’s the brutal majority oppression of the African-American minority which is solely and forever responsible for what’s occurred in various African-American communities?
How can anyone with functioning gray matter possibly believe that a categorically more powerful majority doesn’t deserve a categorically more powerful share of the responsibility when it comes to violence and unrest? If you were subjected to injustice every day of your life, as were your parents and their parents before them, how is it possibly your fault when you reach your tipping point? When your city is abandoned by industry and rigged to fail by politicians and the power elite who almost solely invest in white suburban communities, you’ll quickly learn that “lifting yourself up by the bootstraps” is a cruel joke. Throughout the history of this country, and, yes, even during the Obama era, white communities have been offered most of the money and nearly every societal advantage. Strip out the money, jobs and upward mobility of any community and watch what happens next. Someone is to blame for the stripping and abandonment, and we’re supposed to believe it’s the side without any power?
It’s the classic “she was just asking for it wearing that perverse mini-skirt” excuse.
While it’s not as obvious as it was, say, 50 years ago, the system is still very much rigged against African-Americans. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia indirectly forecasted the injustice of the Ferguson grand jury, but that’s just a blip in an ever-lengthening series of injustices that, yes, include the onslaught of racist condemnations of John Boyega not based on his acting chops but the color of his skin. Evidently, the racism directed at Boyega was Boyega’s fault.
Indeed, there’s no better example of a rigged system than that of Giuliani’s Republican Party, which has confessed to winning elections by stoking white animosity toward black people, thus legitimizing bigotry as an acceptable campaign strategy, and white racists as a desirable voting block.
Throughout the aftermath of the grand jury announcement, I couldn’t help but to laugh at the white male sanctimony in reaction to the violence in Ferguson — given how white men have historically been so peace-loving and nonviolent. When folks like Giuliani finally wise up and accept the fact that all of the wealthy white men who’ve forever controlled every level of the American infrastructure are completely and unarguably responsible for the illnesses of our society, the sooner a true conversation can begin. Except with YouTube commenters. They can go fuck themselves.
Adding… Chris Rock put it this way in an interview with Frank Rich:
Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.