The Blue Colosseum
Portrait of a digital landscape defined by its reckless pursuit of applause. Its occupants communicate only in barbs designed to pierce, not mend. This gathering of blue-tick clones jockey to be exalted in their latest attempt to zing what they consider “the enemy.” The enemy is somewhere to their right, but certainly not limited to that continuum. It can be anyone who questions their roarous fury. A fury comprised of pitchfork-brandishing, smug-quip ready partisans.
Quick to dig into their treasure trove of thoughtless, one-line dismissals, they shut down useful conversation 140 characters at a time. Bolstered by an audience ravenous in its lust for victory, the careful deliberation needed to truly examine ideas is left by the wayside.
That digital landscape is, of course, Twitter. It acts as a petri dish for the coagulated mass of snarky know-nothings that suck the air out of purposeful dialogue. After doing so, they stand upright and claim victory, and they view thousands of likes as a measure of how right they are, despite the reality that this is merely an exercise in who can pack the most ideological allies into an echo chamber.
This brings the issue of confirmation bias to light and the role social media plays in its reinforcement. Of course, this is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one.
The devolution of our political discourse follows a linear trajectory from the first debates between the godfather of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., and the preeminent left-wing author of that time, Gore Vidal. In 1968, they fleshed out their ideas in a combative sparring match hosted by the failing ABC. They proved extremely popular, and in response to ABC’s success, every other network began to create their own bastardized imitations.
This brand of point-scoring entertainment began to take hold over all of media and came into the form of the panelized shouting-matches we’ve all come to expect on cable news.
Then came the age of the internet, which has given rise to a blue colosseum. This colosseum is based on an insidious social media-driven click economy. These are the worshippers of indignation. Their religion is sanctimony. Their loyalties, first and foremost deal with retweets and likes. These incentives magnetize the self serving who are able reduce their opponents to caricatures for follows and favorites. Unable to withstand a modicum of scrutiny, their ideas are so simplistic that they can be sapped of any nuance and reduced to a few gotchas and gottems. This all contributes to a world where discussion is discouraged and everyone waits patiently for an entry point to snark us all into oblivion.
While this medium and its cable news progenitors splinter a nation for their own perverse ends, the success of those facilitating the exchange of information like Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, or Ethan Klein speaks to the clear and present hunger for rigorous debate and levelheaded discourse.
Although we’ve had deep-seated disagreements throughout our history, never before have we had such divergent views of what America is. That cannot be mended through snide witticisms geared to win petty political battles. Our ideological divisions can only be mended through meaningful investigation in order to paint a fuller picture of our opportunities and our crises.