Stop Telling Us What to Do


When I can't deal with reality, I go stand in the shower. I think any body of water would do, but my shower happens to be the closest one. I had to do that today.

I can't deal with reality today, specifically virtual reality. It's the day after a tragedy, just like every day, but one of yesterday's tragedies was a bombing in public in America, which always has a devastating effect on virtual reality.

That's probably why terrorism is effective. Its effects are amplified by the media megaphone all the scared, affluent people carry around. Terrorism is a way to create a culture of extreme violence in places where the baseline level of violence is relatively low. To some people from cultures of extreme violence, especially ones caused by violence sent from those very same, less violent places, it's only fair.


There's a lot of macho talk in virtual reality today. On the one hand, there's "Refuse to be terrorized, or the terrorists win." On the other, there's "Wake up to the reality of this violent world! You have to see the bloody truth!" Both of these straw people think they're helping. They both think the way to help in a crisis is to tell people what to do.

The media have assumed the role of telling people what to do in an emergency. It's a way to manage panic and chaos. And now that the broadcaster job has shifted out of the newsroom and onto everybody's phone, people are psyched to play that role for all their friends and followers. People love a chance to boss each other around.

I don't think that's helping. I don't think telling people how they should deal with a violent reality helps them do so. I don't think yelling heals trauma, let alone showing images of trauma over and over and over again. That sounds like more trauma. hat sounds like abuse. And victims of abuse do not get better through further abuse. They get worse.

I've never been a victim of extreme violence, the kind we saw in Boston and Iraq yesterday. But I've had enough of the rusty taste of the kinds of emotional violence we act out on each other at our worst, and I know this: seeing it, being reminded of it over and over in the media does not help make it better, especially when those media are also your friends.

I'm supposed to be working today. I'm supposed to be writing the introductory post for my new media operation. I'm supposed to be explaining what it stands for. But I can't type because I'm shaking with anger at the whole world of online media for being so ill prepared to deal with reality. When I eventually got out of the shower, I had to write this by hand.

The chauvinist, mansplaining media apparatus is a weapon. It has to be disarmed. It did not escape my notice that the most violent messages I saw yesterday came from men, and almost all the supportive responses to my plea for harm reduction came from women.

Media are a distorted reflection of the diabolical power structure of real life, and the distortion makes it worse. It makes us — beautiful, tragic humankind — look into the mirror and see only ugly tragedy. And then, feeling ugly, we behave as ugly, we express ourselves as ugly, and the world gets more distorted.

Break that mirror. We are not ugly.

We are fucking beautiful.