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December 28, 2011



Twitter and chatrooms and Facebook and email and all the speed-of-light communication has a lot to do with "offense culture" or whatever you want to call this, but it's also a result of the "tabloid model" being adopted by an increasing number of internet news outlets. That is, more and more outlets (or so it seems) have keyed on to the Daily Mail (or for an inexact U.S. analogy, the New York Post) strategy of milking whatever minor outrage is possible to spike readership--or, in 2011, pageviews.

For a variety of (probably obvious) reasons, people are more likely to pick up a paper (as my editor frequently reminds me) that expresses an opinion and uses charged language: all things being equal, "U.S. FINALLY KILLS OSAMA" will sell more papers than "U.S. KILLS OSAMA," just because "finally" implies an opinion, attitude, or "take." On the internet, where people are inundated with more information than they know what to do with, and can read the same story told straightforwardly in an enormous number of places, this effect is multiplied, and articles that can express outrage will routinely do better than articles that "merely" report on events.

All of which is a long way of saying that "political correctness 2.0" is also being stoked in certain ways by the way internet media "works," so to speak. And not just in an accidental way!

Will Davies

Thanks, Max. That's interesting.

In Britain, we've had tabloid newspapers doing this for decades. In a sense, it's always been like a pantomime, in which everyone knows what to expect, nobody takes it seriously, but it provides cross-generational entertainment nevertheless. I guess the tabloids were like X Factor judges, hamming up their opinions and emotions for the benefit of the watching public. I've even bought tabloids in the past after certain types of major events, just to see how they've reacted.

What's changed now is that we're all seemingly entering the panto. We all now raise our eyebrows, parade our hurt feelings and our shock, as part of the act. But we're not even paid to do so - in which case, what the hell are we doing? It's like amateur dramatics on a mass scale. We then goad the 'offender' into acting out some apology or some staged act of charity.

Dick Pountain

I've never been one of the "political correctness gone mad" brigade, but I do see it as a phenomenon of defeat. It's as if the Left, having comprehensively lost on the political and economic fronts, decided that establishing Gramscian hegemony on the cultural/linguistic front would do as compensation. It won't.

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