As the year draws to a close, every two-bit magazine has already devoted some space to rating the best albums of the year, or to rub your face in whatever clickbait crap they managed to popularize in 2016. There are enough lists out there to keep you occupied until the next fiscal quarter, so if that’s what you’re looking for I’m sure that there are plenty of places where you can find such a thing.
Instead, I would like to use these closing hours of 2016 to reflect on the problems that affected us throughout this year, and how we can move forward. You see, this year has been extremely polarized, with politics affecting virtually every part of our daily lives. It seems to be that today, perhaps more so than ever before, we are expected to take sides in bizarre and ill-defined culture wars, picking between different flavors of idiocy. Because of things like Youtube and Facebook, the soldiers fighting these wars are younger and younger, often unable to articulate exactly why they follow their ideology, but visceral in their hatred for those who picked the other side.
Although this reflection might bring to your mind images of the election of Donald Trump or the Brexit referendum, I think that the battlefields extend much farther than the ballot boxes. All media has become, in one way or another, part of this strange war in which one side gives you a choice between being a tolerant, progressive, individual in the right side of history, or a racist, misogynist, fascist one Horst Wessel Lied away from goosestepping towards a new Kristallnacht. The other side gives you the choice between being a rational, intelligent, alpha person, or a cuckolded, dominated, marxist, social justice warrior with a liberal arts degree, who will see racism and sexism in everything.
There are no middle grounds. It’s the idiotic Bush-era idea of “you are either with us, or you are against us,” being espoused by both sides of the same conflict. Hidden in the battle, of course, is the fact that there are no assurances that either side is correct. Nuance is lost, and your ability to make your own decisions, to make your own judgments, is done away with.
The fact that these battles are being waged in the entertainment industry (like heavy metal and the media that covers it) is beyond question. Take the criminally idiotic Metal Sucks Manifesto, for example, where they proudly boast about how “Artists who espouse our values will continue to get preferential coverage,” while those who don’t will “be called out for it.” Nowhere in their insane rant do they include whatever crazy rules you are supposed to follow in order to fit within “their values,” although they do seem to suggest that those who oppose them must be racists and misogynists. Similarly, although from the other side of this ideological shit-flinging battle, outlets like Death Metal Underground unironically call everyone they disagree with (including the billionaire CEO of reddit) a “communist.” It’s like dumbed-down McCarthyism. And that’s saying a lot.
What this environment has created is the otherization of our opponents. We see those that disagree with us not as if they were creatures made of flesh and blood, but as cartoon villains that deserve whatever happens to them. This is why so many internet users have no problem in engaging in the persecution and shaming of “offenders,” ready to destroy their lives, or are willing to believe insane conspiracies, simply because they fit with their cartoonish ideas about their opponents.
If you want a rule to live by in 2017, let it be this one: De Omnibus Dubitandum; Doubt Everything, Question Everything. Don’t let anyone, no matter how famous they are, no matter what authority they have, tell you who to like and who to hate. Don’t analyze ideas based on whether you like them, but on whether they are factually correct. Don’t be a pawn on anybody’s ideological struggles. Make up your own mind.
When it comes to the media, and I know how hard it is, stay away from the clickbaiting titles that try to simplify complex problems. I know that titles like “look at how the other side is always terrible,” and “10 reasons why our side is the best” are tempting, and they offer the kind of reward your brain is always craving for, but, in the long run, they’re bad for you.
I know that the challenge is big, but so is the reward, if you’re up for it.
Whether 2016 was good or bad for you, I sincerely wish 2017 will be terrific. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join us then too. From all of us at Metal Blast, Happy new year!