That we live in an era of outrage-fuelled clicks has been clear for some time. In 2014, online mastheads were already declaring “This ‘Let’s Anger Our Readers For Clicks’ Thing Needs To Stop”. (Worth noting that very same outlet just ran “Bad News, Leunig Has Made Another Cursed Boomer Cartoon, And People Are Angry”.) 

But a few recent examples from the US demonstrate just how far removed from reality stories of absurd wokeness or anti-PC culture can be.

One of the better known fables in the World Gone Mad genre is that of the college cafe accused by “offended” students of “cultural appropriation” after serving less-than-authentic versions of Asian cuisine. First reported in 2015 in Oberlin College’s student newspaper, the story was later picked up by several major outlets, with headlines like “These College Students Claim Their Cafeteria Food Is Racist”. Four years later, it turns out the episode was significantly less insane than it seemed.

Meanwhile, a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review tells the behind-the-scenes story of a reporter who “exposed racist tweets” of a local hero and was then fired for his own “offensive tweets”. (Spoiler: it may not have been his comeuppance after all.)

And remember Nick Sandmann? The MAGA-hat-wearing teen who “smugly grinned” at — and blocked the path of — a Native American protester at the Lincoln Memorial. That, too, turned out to be a little more complicated than early reports suggested.

Closer to home, we’ve had reports that Victorian libraries were considering “banning” gendered books like Thomas the Tank Engine (they weren’t), and that Woolworths had caved to the “PC brigade” and renamed Christmas cake “celebration cake” (they hadn’t).

The moral of the story? Don’t get mad online — that’s just what they want you to do.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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