By Timothy Dillon
Photo courtesy of Marie Claire.
Each year I take some time to look back on the messes and stains on the reputation of the passing year. I reflect on all the little failures and upsets, the fragile moments in our nation’s moral history, and in that I try to find a way to explain all of this madness.
A great deal of any article like this could (and probably should) be dedicated to highlighting those who have fallen victim to war, famine, terrorism, and natural disaster. For that turn to shows like Third Eye Weekly, The Daily Beat, or spend some time with the Knefels. For the on going transgressions against women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, The Hash is a safe place to go. Here are a few fumbles for you to feel smug about.
Living in the Digital Age comes with certain perks. The internet can supply almost endless information (and distraction) and communication across the world has never been better. But who could forget Big Brother?
Obama played it cool and kept military intervention off the table but the fallout has been more of a fog than I could have anticipated. I think it’s safe to say we the people expected the government was reading our emails. The revelation that the NSA had built an actual facility was slightly more daunting. But what is the most frightening part of this whole debacle? No one seems to care.
Snowden lives in exile while Federal Judges argue about whether NSA surveillance is illegal or not. In fact, they have the privilege of dreaming about a quantum computer that has the potential to break most encryptions. How do these people still have their jobs?
I get that people expect a certain amount of their online activities are known and tracked. I can buy that the public will tolerate the gray areas in their information if it means ads for things they want and terrorists being captured. But are we really all so content with being placated with bureaucracy to fix this problem?
I am not exempt from this either and that is why I am more terrified than ever. Somewhere in a hard drive in Utah there is a file with a number on it that corresponds to my name. It is more than likely that no one has looked at this file, and if they did, the most interesting thing they would find would be excessive search queries into prospective space propulsion systems. But the fact that it is there upsets me. And it should, but perhaps the worst thing that happened surrounding the NSA scandal is that no one is doing anything about it.
How much time did we spend on Miley Cyrus this past year? The answer is going to be different for everyone. I spent a great deal of time avoiding Ms. Cyrus and her antics, not that the internet made that easy. But I don’t dislike Miley. I think she is the woman of the time who is painfully aware of her situation. Sadly, so is everyone else.
Twerker-gate, as I like to call it began with the Cyrus-Thicke VMAs performance and as far as I know, has yet to end. Questions about racism or the cultural authenticity of twerking, or her version of it, have plagued the internet ever since. It is everywhere.
BTR managed to witness the Guiness World Record for the greatest amount of twerking in one place just this past September. It is pervasive bullshit like this that makes me grateful to live in 2013, which was also the year of Netflix and binge-watching. Unfortunately shows like Breaking Bad have been laid to rest, and Girls seems to be here to stay.
The sensation set off by a single musical number was absolutely the result of it’s proximity to digital devices that feed the internet machine. So what is worse, the spark that started the fire, or the wood that fed it?
We practically beg the performers of each MTV VMA performance to shock us. Look at Britney, Madonna, and Christina just a decade before. Or the 2009 Lady Gaga performance which was (forgive the pun) bloody awful.
If we can take anything away from all of this it is two things. First, Twerknation is unfortunately here to stay for the time being. Not even I can escape the gravity of bouncing hips. The second is that this shocking display of sexually charged dancing is just another way pop icons push the envelope on what can be seen on TV, and this will certainly not be the last.
This year we have seen more finger-pointing and overall a ton of internet shaming. Gothamist, a New York-centric website, featured a series of posts on shaming commuters throughout 2013. This is a practice, mind you, that is in and of itself rude and an invasion of a stranger’s privacy. Each article features an image that was taken of a passenger committing a transgression and, while it is not strictly illegal, the city isn’t so keen on the practice.
Of course, this is what the internet is for right? A public forum to connect the people and share ideas and blah, blah, blah. Even this article so far has gone on to shame people participating in these cultural events. We can’t get away from complaining on the fiber optic cables filling the digital void.
I am thankful for a lot of things this year, and a lot of them I found out about via the internet. CERN discovered the Higgs, the new pope is practically a real life superhero, and commercialized space flight is going to be a reality in the near future. These are all things to be elated about. Innumerable successes and failures of this past year are decent indicators of where we are as a society, but at the same time… not really.
The fact that every single thing that happens in society now gets meticulously recorded and criticized via the internet is almost too much, but can’t we all just get along?
One of the things I look back on as one of the most profound revelations of the last year was something from Louis CK’s comedy special, Oh My God: “Of course, but maybe.” I first saw this routine at a secret show on Long Island prior to CK taking his latest act(s) on the road. The routine follows a very simple methodology: Of course things ought be a certain way, but maybe things are that way because we are, say, lazy. Or don’t care. Or would prefer not to do something ourselves.
The moral of this rant is that people are perfectly capable of being both considerate and terrible to each other. Shaming people online is as inevitable and the number of posts praising things. You’ll notice that we don’t mention sites like Upworthy and Thought Catalog because, while sometimes quaint, these are positive influences online. For all the shaming that can happen online there is also great potential for good.
So while we may have to deal with the NSA snooping and we now have to wait patiently until they add twerking to the dictionary and we now need to deal with a potentially limitless amount of shaming and blaming to go around on the internet, 2013 could have been worse. Alright 2014, let’s see what you got.