Ramping up the anger
There’s a theory
that YouTube’s recommendation engine suggests videos just a little bit more extreme than the one you’re currently watching. Watch ‘how to put up shelves’ and before long it’ll tell you how to build a house. Watch videos of Donald Trump, and soon you’ll be a radicalised neo-nazi.
That’s just one way the internet has made many of us into more extreme versions of ourselves. Through the lens of social media, something that would once have made us a little bit grumpy for a few minutes becomes a source of pure, unadulterated rage.
That ramped-up anger has spilled out beyond the internet. The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper has published increasingly seething, outraged headlines in the past couple of years. Capitalising on the divisions in the country exposed by the Brexit vote, editor Paul Dacre appears to want 'his side’ to be as filled with rage as possible. After all, politicians like to be liked, so an angry mob of Mail readers will need to be listened to and appeased.
Today, the issue making Dacre mad is passports. In a case of mild irony, the contract to make Britain’s post-EU passports has gone to a company inside the EU. But the UK company that missed out makes ID documents for countries all around the world, so it’s not exactly going to go out of business. And the French company that has apparently won will save the taxpayer money. It’s really nothing to get upset about.
It used to be that you had to go online to find people expressing overblown anger over tiny issues. Now it’s on our newsstands, I fear for the quality of public discourse if such overblown, theatrical, toxic bile becomes the normal way of expressing our feelings.