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When Getting Attention Is the Only Goal

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

The horrible news about the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash was greeted with shock and horror, as any unexpected death would be. It was also greeted with awful people attacking him, attacking President Trump, attacking anyone they already wanted to attack but hadn’t yet that day. In other words, it was like every other story – quickly weaponized by people with too much time on their hands and an unstable psyche.

I don’t know if human beings were always this awful and we simply lacked the ability to act on it on a large scale, or if the ease with which social media allows us to scream into a metaphorical megaphone has awakened something sick in our DNA. Either way, there’s something seriously wrong with a lot of people and it’s all over the Internet for the world to see.

It stems from a place in our brains that seeks attention, any kind of attention. It was something most people outgrew as they entered adulthood, but adulthood has been postponed, even canceled, for so many now.

There also used to be a line between being “famous” and being “infamous.” As I wrote in my book, that line is gone. All that matters is getting attention.

There are consequences for that mentality. Used to be, if a man stripped naked, walked into the middle of an intersection, and started screaming at cars, that person would get help. Now they gain followers and we’re left to wonder if they’re clinically insane or if it was a “brilliant publicity stunt.” There’s an equal chance they’ll be committed or given a reality show.

It’s our fault; we watch, we follow. Some do, anyway. Enough to make it worth the while of the person doing it to do it in the first place. Accomplishment is gone, no longer celebrated; attention is all that matters.

If you start a business, risk everything and work tirelessly to make it a success, the Democratic Party is more likely to attack you as greedy and a thief than celebrate your fulfillment of the American Dream. Our culture has shifted, dramatically, and for the worst.

Leading this charge is the media. You can’t have a massive cultural shift without a way to spread it and give it legitimacy. In this case, they’re not only cheering, but they are also the tip of the spear.

The so-called news media celebrates attention-getters, brings them on their morning shows and gives them puff-profiles on their newscasts. And with each new person elevated, 100 more will try. It’s the Kardashianization of the culture.

This “shoot first, figure out if there was a target later” mentality is now how journalism works. An anonymous source tells you something, run with it. Heard a rumor? Spread it. You can always correct it later.

That method of reporting used to get people fired. Now it gets them cable news contributorships.

When the news of Bryant’s death broke, it broke on a celebrity gossip site before the families involved were notified. Why? While tragic, it wasn’t important, it didn’t put other lives in jeopardy. But they wanted to be first. They wanted to “own” the story and all the web traffic (read: money) that went with it. A local TV reporter reported rumors that all of Bryant’s children were killed in the crash. Where are the standards? Where is the accountability?

The Washington Post did suspend one reporter who tweeted about rape allegations made against Bryant more than 15 years ago, even though it never went to trial. But she wasn’t suspended for having poor character and making inappropriate choices in the immediate wake of a tragedy. She was allegedly suspended for sharing screen captures of her email inbox and the nasty emails she was getting for having spread the story. Apparently it is against The Post's policy to share the names of people who contact reporters. It seems The Post has standards, not journalistic ones, but standards.

Do we? Does our culture anymore? It doesn’t seem like it.

Whether clamoring for followers, clicks, or to be first to break news, too much of our society exists in a post-consequence world, a world where attention-seeking overrides basic human decency. There will be consequences for that, none of which are good.

Derek is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show on WCBM in Maryland, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.

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