Whilst society is progressing socially, the court of public opinion is not. Journalists have proven themselves unworthy to hold “wrongdoers” in contempt, allowing social media to become the new place for people to be publicly prosecuted and shamed. Social media users move likes hordes, tearing down public perception and providing financial punishment to whomever they see fit.
Realistically, the punishment never truly meets the crime, and the consistency of the court is questionable.
Whether it’s James Gunn being fired from his own film series due to jokes from years prior to that series even beginning, or Chris Brown not receiving any punishment despite his inability to stop assaulting his girlfriends; trying to understand how social media decides who receives this backlash and who doesn’t is an impossible task designed to cause insanity.
The first problem with trying to understand the court of public opinion is that issues are now black and white, there is no longer room for grey. Because of this, social media determines there are two kinds of human; people and nazis.
If you’re left winged politically, you’re a person. If you’re right winged politically, you’re a nazi. If you’re central politically (like me), you’re actually right winged, and therefore you’re a nazi. If you’re left winged but are upper-middle or upper class, you’re really a secret nazi (unless you’re a trendy actor, in which case you’re a person). Of course, nazi’s aren’t allowed to voice their opinion.
It’s quickly devolved into absurdity, and it’s to be expected when you consider that social media runs on raw emotion.
This raw emotional reaction to every issue mirrors the same irresponsible reporting that resulted in journalists losing their credibility, and what allowed social media to become the new face of public opinion.
So what’s the difference between irresponsible journalism and social media cancel culture? Money.
When journalists lie and incorrectly accuse someone of a crime, the news agency they work for can potentially face financial repercussions. When thousands of people on social media falsely report on a story, nothing happens.
The issues that the court of public opinion deals with aren’t black and white, despite how social media may represent them. There are grey areas, and as it currently stands these are completely overlooked because there’s no reason for them to be exposed. If people were exposed to all sides of a story, we would live in a more empathetic society, but social media is designed to be more of an echo chamber than a fair playing field.
Of course, it’s only a matter of time before social media becomes silenced due to this flawed design.
Learn more in my previous article, The unclear future of social media.