When Followers Are Fans or Sheep or Just Onlookers
The sheer numberof followers of Trump or Obama or Katy Perry has led me to wonder about the difference between sheep and followers. Trump’s Twitter account boasts some ridiculous number of “followers,” a number we are led to believe is an indication of his popularity. I wonder though. How many of those followers are just news junkies, reporters, pundits, and content aggregators searching for information or simply something to fill their content holes? And let's not forget all those foreign agents trying to worm they way into Trump's favor and always on the lookout for a juicy tweet to incite Trump's love. If nothing else, Trump has simplified news gathering. He’s a content gifting machine that never stops giving. Still, I imagine a fair number of Trump’s followers are the social equivalent of gawkers who slow down to see accidents or the crowds one invariably finds around dumpster fires and Confederate monument topplings. LikeChauncey Gardenerof Being There, some people just like to watch. And no one likes to watch more than Trump.
The number of Trump’s Twitter followers doesn’t necessarily indicate approval, and while some might be Trumpians, many are not. Twitter followers of politicians, unlike those of entertainers, might be politically aligned with the guy or gal they are “following” but a good number are just interested onlookers. People who follow Katy Perry actually like her for the mostpart, otherwise why bother? The same I suppose can be said of brand junkies, those crazy high school football players, for example, who come to believe that Nike or Adidas or Puma are the killer brand to wear and so veer towards college programs that sport the right logos. These are the tiny diehard band of brand followers one finds on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest with whom their respective marketers are swooning to have brand conversations — about what I can only imagine. Arch support? Hi-top or low? Velcro or laces? Mitigating shoe stink? Etc. And I’m quite sure with the right scholarship offer those footballers (perhaps at the behest of mom and dad) would find a way to sport that other guy’s logo. Money talks. Brands walk.
It's certain that Trump has politicized social media with lots of help from industrious troll farms in Moscowand Beijing or that 400-pound guywho Donald talks about. Of course, Bernie and Hillary and Obama relied on social media to share their beliefs and amp up support, turnout, and donations. All’s fair in love, politics, and hacking. Yet as we turn our personal social media into echo chambers, our ability to think cogently will continue to wither. And with no shared public square, a place where truth is actually truth (no matter what Rudy Giuliani thinks), the ability to have meaningful conversations about how to govern ourselves will disappear. We will return to our most basic of instincts to tar the other, mistake our foolish prejudices for facts, and surrender our better angels to the demons of division. Like sheep to the slaughter, many will go happily while some small few will look on, hoping for better days.
©2018 John Hofmeister. All rights reserved.
EPIC. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?
Few days pass that I don’t see a ridiculous post like this:
There is nothing epic about this. At best it’s little more than a typical martial arts fight scene that shows some cool Audi technology. But epic? A little visit to dictionary.com gives this meaning of the word:
Adjective. Also epical.
Mediocre advertising and lazy writing in general has turned the term epic into a cheap expression that means “awesome shit” or whatever cliché one might dredge up to describe something that is generally ordinary. And when placed in a headline, it’s either a lie or what Huck Finn would call a “stretcher” at best. I wonder how many writers who seize on epic — struggling for that headline that will draw eyeballs and likes and reposts — even know who Homer was. If asked, the likely answer would be the dad in the Simpsons, not the blind poet who passed along Western literature’s greatest epic poem to humankind.
The Audi ad has no epic qualities. It will be forgotten by the end of the month. Maybe sooner. I am already having trouble recalling its particulars. And calling the martial arts mayhem in the ad epic isn’t even a stretcher, given the range of scenes that might compete for the title, Uma Thurman’s role in “Kill Bill” being an obvious example. And let’s not forget Bruce Lee.
Robbing the power of words to connote their true meaning makes all of us poorer.
When everything becomes epic or awesome or heroic, virtually nothing is. Awesome, like epic, in common use bears no relation to its meaning — that being, inspiring awe. Heroic long ago lost its heft from overuse.
The laundry of lazy writing and writers could fill a bajillion laundromats, which, if one knows the meaning of bajillion, is fairly likely since you can’t find laundromats as readily as we once could and whose steady disappearance from the landscape mirrors the likes of gas stations and phone booths. But bajillion is simply a term that denotes an extremely large number — and readers know that. Use it at your leisure to describe big numbers with some freedom, knowing that everyone knows you’re just talking about a lot of fucking stuff.
So, when might epic be used to reveal its true meaning? There might be some value in using it in writing about global warming or describing James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Other than that, writers ought to give it a rest. An epic rest, that being an impressively great and epically long one.
©2018 John Hofmeister. All rights reserved.
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me.