Case Study Polarization

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE PROUD BOYS?

Who the Proud Boys are and what they stand for is far from the binary thoughts that have recently been published across many media platforms. Here’s what you need to know.

The problem with polarizing articles isn't so much the exposing of (in this case) the Proud Boys - a group rallying and exacerbating racism, homophobia, violent misogyny, etc - but the hit-piece hyperbole and a conspicuous absence of any attempt at dispassionately researched evidence. The latter, if included, tends to introduce nuance, which makes it incompatible with the former. There are too many cases, in 2020, where the former completely displaces the latter.

In the article's own sub-heading, it claims to be a non-binary investigation, i.e. implying superiority to the crude Left versus Right spin propagated by the mainstream media. Is the claim honest? We know that prejudice devalues journalism. We tend to filter out unnecessary specifics if we know they've been cherry-picked simply to play to an easily identifiable, predetermined message. Writers, mindful of this filter, frequently try to present themselves as authentic and objective; but often it's a cover for standard propagandist techniques. Presenting a piece as genuine reportage sugars the pill of its subordination to a particular team bias. This article, sadly, is not genuine reportage.

By choosing to address serious cultural phenomena with a tabloid opinion-piece - politicized gossip, at best - instead of laying out facts in all their bald, incriminating, sometimes contradictory detail, the article isn't pushing back against the culture of prejudice; it's contributing to it. Perhaps this is the aim?

Polarization is a powerful atomization goal for manufacturing consent. We're told how clickbait and social media loves outrage and prejudice, to maximize engagement and profit from advertising. This may be true but it's also spin. Institutional authority loves them more. It uses outrage to cut lines of communication between groups (atomization) and polarization to weaponize demographics into more easily controlled public opinion blocs.

How and why does a tabloid opinion-piece exacerbate prejudice? Because hit-pieces aren't interested in educating about or understanding a phenomenon. They're all about brutalizing it; caricaturing it; dehumanizing it. Hence the dog in dog-whistle.

Consent, in this paradigm, is manufactured by emphasizing Ubermensch-Untermensch thinking, an approach that deliberately leaves no room for (nor has any expectation of) dialogue. The ubiquitous aim of Ubermensch-Untermensch propaganda is to reduce public discourse to a lowest common denominator game of team zealots. Ultimately, this makes larger dumber groups easier to manage by smaller smarter ones; which is why it proliferates in the mainstream and counter-cultural media.

Is the intention of the Proud Boys article to play into this divisive mandate? Or would the writer have concluded that his article had only become a hit-piece because the Proud Boys are so particularly evil, without perceiving himself a victim of prior conditioning and unwitting contributor to the very polarizing prejudice he seeks to expose?

Or is it simply that sensationalized or hyperbolized articles get visibility, whereas more considered, nuanced pieces fail to attract reader attention? Does an article have to use dog-whistling because dog-whistling is the only way to get an audience's attention? If that's what the reading population needs, shame on us.

I guess if dog-whistle sensationalism is the only reality of journalism today and if some vilification has to happen - if an article is to be read at all - it's understandable the article's writer chose to vilify the Proud Boys. It fits his bio's modus operandi and the "white chauvinism" concept, at least, deserves the approbation.