The 2021 Superpower Is Ignoring Dumb Shit on the Internet

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Photo credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock - Getty Images
Photo credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock - Getty Images

One good way to get brain disease on this fine Wednesday in June is to search the terms, "Fauci emails" on Twitter. There may well be some deeply revelatory messages among The Fauci Emails, but whatever cream there is in this informational crop has yet to rise to the top. We are neck-deep in the attention economy these days, and the same forces that serve you the Takes about how LeBron James is no longer a Hall-of-Famer if the Lakers lose to the Suns tomorrow is serving you Marjorie Taylor Greene's takeaway from The Fauci Emails. The takeaway, you ask? I'm not going to give it to you. You'll have to seek it out yourself. In this space, we will be living by the hardly newfangled—but newly resonant—principle that ignoring shit carries immense power.

We do not have to engage with Tucker Carlson's contention that private enterprises requiring people to get vaccinated is "Medical Jim Crow." We do not need to get into the comparison between discrimination based on immutable characteristics and the same kind of requirements most schools have for children to attend. We don't need to get into how close he was to saying segregation rocked. All of this is complete horse shit served up to Carlson's audience to assure them they are victims and they should tune in tomorrow night to find out more ways in which they are under siege in their own country, which has been stolen from them by some combination of foreigners and annoying coastal elites. We do not need to focus on the extreme non-mystery of whether Tucker Carlson himself has been vaccinated.

Photo credit: Adam Berry - Getty Images
Photo credit: Adam Berry - Getty Images

Ah, crap. They got me. I failed to ignore this bad-faith bullshit. But I promise you, if we work together and try our darndest to ignore some of this stuff, it really works. Donald Trump is the Frankenstein's monster of the Attention Age, seizing on social-media algorithms and the desperation of a mainstream media in financial peril to literally become the president, and even he was defeated by being ignored. The ex-president took a break from fantasizing about his re-installation in a Summer Coup to close down his blog, which everyone seemed to tacitly agree to ignore, and which consequently failed. Similarly, his removal from social media platforms might represent a worrying precedent well summarized by Germany's Angela Merkel, but also it has dealt him a serious blow as far his effectiveness as a vector for vitriolic misinformation. It has allowed people to very easily ignore him. Even when political reporters do him the favor of sharing his grammatically abhorrent press releases on those same platforms, they've been drained of the same attention-sucking effect. Just ignore! Thank you!

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We can't ignore everything, of course. We shouldn't ignore all the Coup Talk making the rounds as part of the American Right's celebration of Memorial Day, or when Republican state legislatures try to suppress the vote or open up space for future elections to be overturned per the instructions of that same ex-president. But Senate Democrats should really start ignoring their Republican colleagues and create a January 6 commission to dig into the last insurrectionary attempt. They should ignore the bad-faith Republican negotiations on infrastructure, clearly designed to hack away at the bill until it's a sad facsimile of what this country needs, at which point they will vote against it. And by God we should all ignore the Senate Parliamentarian, a position with zero small-D democratic legitimacy using nonsense to issue toothless rulings that amount to more nonsense. It's all made up, folks! Ignore it. The easiest way to do so, of course, would be for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to allow the Senate to function as a majoritarian body rather than a debate society that shovels money at the Pentagon.

Ideally, the Ignore Principle might grow into wider applications. Could we, as a culture, take a step back from social media more generally, or at least allow the majority of the informational flotsam to float by un-engaged-with? Probably not. These systems are designed to make that as impossible as possible. But one can dream. You can definitely ignore anyone still using the term "woke," however. Ignorance is bliss, but ignoring shit is power. Your brain might even start to feel better after a while. Having so far successfully ignored the question of whether Kimmy Schmidt was in the Ku Klux Klan, I can attest to that.

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