Hate, But Don't Look: Reporting On The Other Side
Review of "TFW No GF," as well as "Alex's War," the controversial new documentary about Alex Jones by director Alex Moyer, who says: "It used to be called journalism."
They ask me why I’m hateful, why I’m bad. — Crass
In TFW No GF, Alex Moyer’s brilliant documentary about disaffected young American men, a pensive loner in a ski hat named Viddy describes how some turn violent. Hardcore internet subcultures like 4Chan, he says, attract some by way of the “trolling aspect,” but others are serious:
They think, okay, what do people hate most? And then they just become that, because it gets the reaction every time.
Then some of them forget that they’re playing the character. Next thing you know, they end up at a place like Charlottesville.
Obviously there are people that are so disenfranchised, so alienated, so demonized in whatever way, that they feel like their only choice is to lash out in whatever way they can.
“I’m not excusing that or anything,” he says, seeming genuinely confused, “but, what, that happens for no reason? Do people like really think that?”
They do. In fact, the quasi-official line about the snowballing wave of rage and nihilism in American culture is that it has no motivation, at all. Here’s the Nobel Prizewinning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, just this past weekend, diagnosing a 74-million vote Trump phenomenon as “based on nothing, or less than nothing”:
In the pre-Trump era it was understood reporters weren’t supposed to avoid ugly or scary topics. We were supposed to dive right in, and in the nonjudgmental manner of doctors figure them out. That was the job, but somewhere along the line it became taboo to ask the usual why? questions about the likes of Trump or 4Chan surfers or the subject of Moyer’s new movie Alex’s War, the infamous InfoWars host Alex Jones.
The difference between understanding the world or not can depend on whether your journalists of choice really inquire about difficult topics, or whether they’re the believers in the media equivalent of Lamarckian evolution, thinking rage, discontent, and populist uprisings appear out of nowhere, like flies spontaneously generating on carrion. Not long ago, no one outside the Bush White House (and certainly no journalists) believed “Bad people are just bad,” but now we have versions of those truisms to explain almost every species of malcontent, especially Trumpian conservatives, 4Chan trolls and other reasonless pestilences. Journalists now aren’t supposed to look too closely at their motivations, and most don’t, wearing incuriosity like a badge of honor.
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