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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The internet is a haven for bigots

Many+use+the+anonymity+of+the+internet+as+a+means+to+express+counter-normative+views
Many use the anonymity of the internet as a means to express counter-normative views

A little over five years ago, after President Barack Obama had clinched the 2008 presidential election win, the optimists among us (or perhaps, the naïve?) believed that a racist America was a thing of the past. I mean, who could blame them? It was unprecedented — a black man was the president of the United States. If such an idea had been thrown around in the 1950s it would have been met with the same reaction as a Louis CK stand-up routine.
Alas, discrimination, not just racism, but discrimination of several forms including homophobia, disability discrimination, and sexism still runs rampant in present-day America. Some, including myself, would argue that it’s even more pronounced and prevalent today than it was in the early 2000s. A recent study conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal show that race relations in the US are steadily deteriorating, and are even worse than in 2009 when the first minority president took office.
Make no mistake about it, in recent decades discrimination has been very much alive. The only difference between 2013 and 2001 is that in the latter year there weren’t very many platforms to express bigoted views — at least not without incurring the indignation of the members of society who know what it is to be sensible.
In the past, if you wanted to be a dick, you had to deal with the consequences. If you felt the need to blurt out homophobic slurs at members of the LGBT community, you had to do it to their faces and then subsequently face the fallout.
Society’s progression coupled with the stigma attached to engaging in discriminatory traditions seemed to be forcing discrimination into oblivion. Things like racism and homophobia seemed to finally be taking a back seat to common sense. Unfortunately, this wasn’t true. Discrimination wasn’t dying, it was simply bloodied, hiding out, waiting for a perfect time to rear its ugly head.
The internet age is that time.
Nothing brings people together like the internet. Unfortunately, the internet also provides a platform for bigots to find themselves and come together.  It’s almost impossible to scroll down a Facebook newsfeed and not unearth a sexist joke. Anti-feminism is to the internet as releasing terrible songs is to Justin Bieber — they are connected at the hip.
Any Tom, Dick, or Harry (especially Dick), can create assume a pseudonym, go into an online forum, chat-room, or even a YouTube channel, and  express their innate need to discriminate to their hearts’ content. Professor Gazi Islam from the Grenoble École de Management, who has studied online communities extensively, described these forums as where “people with like-minded opinions could express sentiments that would otherwise be counter-normative.”
A Google search of any combination of the words “black people” and “monkey” or “gay people” and “disgusting” or “women” and “kitchen” will give you an insight into just how “progressive” our society actually is.
We’ve always grappled with several forms of discrimination in the US, as is the case in almost every developed nation, but different high profile events have brought these issues to the forefront of everyone’s mind. After the George Zimmerman case, national race relations undoubtedly took a hit.
Scores of people — activists and bigots alike — took to the internet to express their opinions on the matter, most of which are too inappropriate to be written here. Here’s an example, an excerpt from comments posted on Fox News’ website’s 2012 reporting of the shooting of Trayvon Martin:
“What a shame — a tragedy, really — because the dead lil’ gangsta could’ve used ‘A-FIRM-TIV AK-SHUN’ to go to kollige an play footballz and make lotsa cash munny!”
A recent trending topic on French Twitter was #LesGaysDoiventDisparaitreCar, or “Gays Must Disappear Because.”
There’s no doubting the fact that we’ve come a long way as a society. Similarly, there’s no doubting the fact that we still have an equally long way to go. I’m sure most of us are looking forward to the time when bigotry is fully eradicated, not just limited to the internet.