Are We All Wrong?

I think most of us have been there. Look at this article that I found on Facebook, says your irate grandmother. The title? New Bill Would Require Officers to Call Supervisor Before Drawing Weapons.

That story, which was shared all across Facebook and the internet, alleged that democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris was sponsoring this legislation that she supposedly says will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow officers to check their privilege.

I hope it’s obvious to all of you by now that this story and the website it was originally posted on is wholly satirical. Why, then, are our parents and grandparents so much more likely to believe and share fake news online? Are they just stupid?

I don’t think so. I think the first thing to consider is the differences in media consumption between the generations as they grew up. Our grandparents were fed a diet of largely non-partisan television news anchors who sought to deliver the news in a way that appealed to everyone. After all, there were only five or so channels. They knew then that if they tuned in, they were largely being told credible information.

Let’s contrast that with Generation Z. Nicknamed the iGen for our affinity for smartphones, most of our first experiences with independent information collection (outside of school) were with smartphones or computers. Most of us then learned fairly quickly that the internet isn’t the most trustworthy place for information. Many were taught in schools directly how to find credible information and understood, at least on a surface level, that anyone with $10 can make a website.

Add to that the change in the traditional media landscape with vast increases in networks that all try to pander to different sides, and what results is an ingraining in each of us a distrust for many who try to feed us information. We’re (understandably) cynical.

Our grandparents developed a trust for reporters, as really all of those five stations they had access to were credible. The result is that our grandparents are more likely to believe that so long as a story is delivered in a manner that at least mimics journalism, it is credible.

So that’s it! Our generation is better!

Not quite. Generation Z faces a different problem. As I said before, many of us were taught in schools how to find information. We’re very good at finding the information that we want to find, and that’s exactly the problem.

Let’s say I’m a liberal in Gen Z and I think that Trump should be impeached. Many with this belief would google “Reasons why Trump should be impeached,” and often would be delivered exactly what they asked for. The information might even be credible, but of course they are only getting one side of the story.

We’re so good at finding exactly what we want, arming ourselves with facts that may all be true, while unknowingly ignoring things that we think might challenge our views. And when we go to debate other people, often their facts are true too, but we’re both missing sides of the story that we would have if not for our incredibly pointed search queries and carefully curated webpages.

The internet is a beautiful place, and you’re sure to find something that supports your views if you search well enough.

Slowly but surely Gen Z is becoming very similar to their grandparents in that their information diet is toxic and an echo chamber. For better or for worse, we’re the best at finding information and have more access to it than any generation before us. The question now is whether or not we choose to suffocate in our bubbles.

Cancel Culture and Cognitive Dissonance

I thought that my beliefs on ‘Cancel Culture’ were simple. If people do bad things, they shouldn’t reap the rewards of fame and certainly not the admiration and almost free license to do whatever they wish that often comes with public support, despite egregious faults.

As it turns out, I might not practice what I preach.

I couldn’t understand how people could support artists like Chris Brown, who infamously savagely beat Rihanna within an inch of her life. To me, that seemed unforgivable. It disgusted me to even think about listening to his music, the mere idea of giving him my .003 cents of streaming revenue seemed wrong.

Yet still there are people today that support him, despite continued evidence that he’s an objectively awful person.

Some say that you should separate someone from their music, that art doesn’t necessarily need to reflect its creator and vice versa, and maybe it was that I didn’t care for his music in the first place. I told myself I wouldn’t even try to give it a chance.

The problem came when one of my favorite artists came under fire. On Twitter. It wasn’t pretty.

A forty page Google document details the alleged sexual harassment committed by three of the band members, and soon after its release, the band dissolved.

I did believe at the time that the accusations were likely true, given that the band had disbanded, but I decided not to see what exactly they were accused of to protect the music and memories that were so special to me.

About a week ago I noticed that they had released a new album. Self titled, it was unexpected given their last and still most recent tweet made one year prior, “The Orwells have disbanded“.

This reignited the issue in my mind; should I support this band? I decided to finally visit the Google document and see for myself.

What I found shocked me, but not in the way that you might think. The document was disorganized. I could barely make sense of it because of how it was created, and I was disturbed at how such an informal thing could all but end a band’s career.

What bothers me most about this document is that nearly every testimony is anonymous. There has not been a single police report filed, picture evidence posted, or credible testimony recounted. Just a Google document comprised largely of reddit posts and tweets that describe some behavior that, yes, is troubling if true, but in all cases are seemingly unsubstantiated.

One of the most popular accusations is against frontman Mario Cuomo, who allegedly has sent nude pictures on multiple occasions to underage girls. While obviously disgusting if true, what bothers me is that there’s not a single picture that I can find online (I did the search for you, you’re welcome) of him nude. I can’t help but feel like if this happened as many times as alleged, or even at all, someone would have leaked those pictures or gone to the police, even anonymously as they have with this document.

Take the ProJared fiasco for example, accusations were made and those harassed published the photos online. In this situation, it’s easy for me to denounce and be disgusted with the creator. They should be ‘canceled’.

For The Orwells, it’s hard for me to ascertain exactly what they have and haven’t done, and how much I’m willing to let them get away with before losing my support. I don’t think I need them to be convicted in a court of law, but an anonymous Google document isn’t enough for me, either.

Them disbanding doesn’t serve as clear evidence anymore either, as that can likely be attributed to the band losing the support of their record label and one of their band members, them trying to figure out their legal options, and maybe them just deciding to give the internet what they wanted to end the situation.

If there was any hard evidence, a police report (like with Chris Brown), or maybe even a few non-anonymous testimonies from credible sources, I could feel confident in denouncing them as monsters and not just as punk rockers with bad attitudes and an affinity for destroying sets.

After this Google document, they lost almost everything. Their most recent album was released independently, without the support of their record label or even many of their old fans, and has grossed only a few thousand Spotify listens. This is in stark contrast with their next most recent album released in 2017, which itself garnered hundreds of thousands to millions of hits per song.

I don’t think The Orwells should have been ‘canceled’, not until the truth can be reliably ascertained. A Google document should not be able to end someone’s career, and I am scared for the precedent that is being set. I understand the immense difficulty in coming forward with such accusations, but I think there needs to be at least some level of accountability for what can obviously ruin someone’s life.

There will still always probably be an internal debate every time I listen to one of their albums, a twinge of guilt due to my belief that the accusations may be true, but for now I’ll continue listening to their music while keeping my eyes open for credible evidence.

Nonetheless, I find myself questioning whether or not I would allow the same level of scrutiny if this same situation was applied to, say, Paul Joseph Watson. Going forward, I will do my best to try to hold everyone to that same standard of evidence. All I ask of you readers is for when I run for the presidency in 2036, you hold me to a similar standard.