Unfortunately, not even I can escape the wrathful Dog Days of 2014, because this week, while thinking about what I should write, I almost immediately settled on the ongoing trouble in Ferguson, Missouri.
The murder of Michael Brown and the ensuing events, which sparked nationwide discourse on police brutality and police force militarization, certainly is not soft news.
The happenings in Missouri this summer will be considered by some, and should be considered by all to have the possibility of being a watershed moment. In fact, even the way I just now described the Ferguson fallout is weak —a mere assortment of buzzwords—that only scratches the surface of this country’s darkest black eye: the reprehensible way in which it treats minority citizens.
Yet, this summer I harvested almost all of the news coming out of or concerning Ferguson on Twitter (and by proxy, Facebook and other pop-culture aggregators). The result left me with the following impression: Ferguson, Missouri was just as important in the last two months as fantasy football and comedic diatribes about Sharknado 2.
See, Twitter and co. do not have a front page that prioritizes the actual important stuff. There are no huge, bolded headlines proclaiming the dominance of one story over another.So, when I’m scrolling I’m taking in news like this: Ferguson-Emmys-Robin Williams-Ukraine-Hottest Players in the World Cup-Ferguson-Hottest Female Fans at the World Cup, etc. That’s a funky, distracting mess.
In 2014, “trending” may be the stupidest, most demeaning word to use when describing real, impactful events. The VMAs “trend”: a viral video of a llama hopping in a farm like a cute little maniac to an overdub of a DMX song “trends.” That Ferguson, and any other truly important news event, is simply an ingredient in the trendy pop-culture soup du jour is limiting the scope with which we process it.
Now, of course, the above diatribe only applies to people who get most of their news online. Oh, who’s that? According to a 2012 Poynter Institute study, more than half of people get their news online. Ok, so good for you, pious newspaper-lovers, this doesn’t apply. For the rest of us it does: the way we are getting our news is becoming increasingly less newsy.
And so here I am, a student who thinks it is perfectly applicable to write about race relations in America for a culture section. I now digest my hard, important news homogenously to the place I passively digest silly jokes about the size of some new pop-star’s backside. I’ll go back to writing about Outkast now—that’s much more fun, anyways.
Devon Sheridan is a columnist at The Fordham Ram.