We live in a decaying society. All over the Western world, economic prospects are bleak. Good jobs, which pay a decent wage, and which are fulfilling to do, are few and far between, with rapidly increasing automation only going to make this even worse as time goes by. Affordable housing is an unobtainable fantasy for most young people these days. In Europe, the Barbarians are at our gates, and are actually being welcomed in with open arms, predictable consequences for doing so be damned. In America, racial tensions are the worst they’ve been in almost half a century. Terrorist attacks are happening so regularly, that they barely get any attention anymore, unless they have an exceptionally high body count. Gender relations are completely out of whack, with divorces on the rise, an inability for people to make relationships work at all, and with many men just giving up on them entirely, turning to pornography, masturbation, and soon, sex robots, as an alternative. We live in an absolute nightmare.
On some level, most people know that things aren’t right, and look for distractions from it all. This is nothing unusual, and has been a pretty common occurrence in societies on the verge of collapse. The Romans had a term for it, “Bread and Circuses”. Basically, the Romans had figured out that as long as the people weren’t going hungry, and had some form of entertainment to take their minds off of things, that they could be appeased, and the real problems facing the empire would be ignored. Of course ignoring the problems doesn’t make them go away, so Rome eventually collapsed under their weight, circa 476 AD.
Things really aren’t that much different today. Society is going to hell, but people have plenty of “circuses” to keep them pacified. Movies, TV, professional sports, social media, videogames, etc., etc., all fulfill this role in the modern world. However, I’ve noticed a very interesting phenomenon that has been taking place in recent years. The whole point of the circuses is to distract people from the problems that are all around them, a temporary respite from them, if you will.
In other words, they’re supposed to be a safe haven from, not a reminder of these problems, because if they remind people of the problems, they lose all effectiveness as a distraction from them. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happening these days. The problems people are trying to distract themselves from, are becoming conflated with the distractions themselves.
Lets take sports as our first example, specifically, the NFL in America. As I already mentioned, professional sports are a perfect example of the modern equivalent to the Roman games, and if anything, are probably the closest thing to them. The NFL was a very popular distraction for many Americans from the everyday problems that they face, or at least they were until…
So for those who are unaware, the NFL is currently being plagued by massive and very public controversy. Many black players are choosing to kneel, rather than standing in respect when the national anthem is being played. Their reason for doing this is to protest against alleged racial injustices that black people supposedly face in America. This of course serves as a reminder of the problem that is America’s increasingly poor race relations, a problem that people would rather distract themselves from. So can you imagine how this must look to white NFL fans who see this happening? They’re ordinary, working class people, dealing with problems of their own, that they wish to distract themselves from, and they turn on the TV and see a bunch of millionaires, paid to play a sport they probably enjoy playing anyway, whining about how oppressed they are, and how privileged their audience is. How do you suppose that has gone down with the audience?
So the NFL has actually gone from being America’s most popular sport, to its least popular, directly as a result of these protests. People didn’t watch the NFL to be lectured to, and to be reminded about the problems in their society. They watched it as a distraction, and now that that distraction is gone, they’re tuning out instead.
But hey, it’s not just the NFL that is failing in its duty as a distraction for the masses. There’s plenty of other forms of entertainment doing the same thing. Look at late night, comedian, talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, etc. Ever since Trump came along, he has pretty much made up the entirety of their acts. Now I’m not saying that it’s anything unusual for comedians to take shots at political figures, and I certainly don’t think that Trump should be exempt from their ridicule. There’s definitely a lot of material to work with there. The problem is, they aren’t simply mocking Trump himself. They’re mocking his base, his supporters, the people who voted for him. That’s 63 MILLION people that they’re attacking. It’s quite possible that many of these 63 million people were at one point, viewers of one or more of these comedians. Do you think they’re still fans now after having been labeled as “racists”, “misogynists”, “dumb rednecks” etc., simply for voting for what they felt was the better choice for themselves and their families? I would be shocked if they are.
Why would any of these people tune in to distract themselves from the problems in their lives, if they know they’re just going to be mocked and insulted by the hosts? What is the benefit to them? There are two other notable examples of entertainment media that I can think of off the top of my head, which are having similar problems. Video games, and comics.
Long considered refuges for geeks and nerds, in the western world at least, video games and comics have both generally been most popular with males, particularly white ones. Most of the most popular super-heroes have historically been white males and this makes sense when you consider the fact that most of them were created in America, back when America was still somewhere between 85 and 90 percent white. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been female and racial minority super-heroes as as well, but the most popular ones of all, such as Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Iron Man, Captain America, etc., have all been white men. Similarly, popular video-games have usually had white male protagonists, because these are more relatable to the biggest target market, but again, plenty of exceptions exist.
In recent years however, there have been attacks on these two industries from outside. People who aren’t even fans of them have whined about how “noninclusive” “racist” and “sexist” they are, and have demanded changes to better suit their own tastes. One of the two big comic publishers, Marvel, has done exactly that. Rather than do the sensible thing of better promoting their existing female and racial minority characters, or creating brand new heroes altogether, they took the approach of taking their most beloved and popular characters, with decades of history and reader attachment, and either replaced them, or made drastic changes to them. Lets take a look at some of these changes that they’ve made the past few years.
That’s just off the top of my head. These changes have not been well received by long time Marvel fans, and Marvel is aware of this. They try to frame it as if the fans are just a bunch of bigots who can’t accept diversity, but is this really the case? Nobody had any problems with racial minority characters such as Black Panther or Blade, nor did they have any problems with the many female super-heroes that have appeared on teams like the X-Men or the Avengers over the years. Over at their rivals, DC, nobody ever had a problem with Wonder Woman, the black Green Lantern, John Stewart, or the gay super-hero, Midnighter. Diversity was never the problem, because diversity has always existed to some extent in comics. The problem is that they’re replacing beloved and popular characters that fans are emotionally invested in, and then making derogatory comments about the fans when they speak out against it. And sure enough, their sales have declined, and they’re blaming the fans, rather than themselves for this.
With regards to videogames, there’s too much for me to even cover. I’d just suggest reading up on the “Gamergate Controversy” to get a superficial idea of what’s been happening there. Of course, there’s a lot more to the story than what is being reported there. There’s always the Encylopedia Dramatica article on the topic, if you want to get the other side of the story.
Seeing this infestation of politics, social conflicts, and other problems into what are supposed to be distractions from these issues could have an interesting effect on how people react. The whole reason for bread and circuses is to pacify the masses so that they don’t pay attention to actual problems, and demand real solutions to them. But if these distractions stop working, and people no longer feel that they have a safe haven from these problems, then what are they supposed to do? How can they be kept pacified? Could we perhaps be on the verge of seeing a big awakening soon? I sure hope so.