Viral Videos & Hated in the Nation

One of my favorite episodes of Black Mirror is “Hated in the Nation,” which many of you may recognize as the bee episode. Whenever I see a viral video of somebody doing something despicable, my reflex reaction is to look up the person’s name and tweet them or read hateful social media messages about them. Lately, though, the bee episode buzzes around my brain and acts as a corrective. Not to get too Burkean but we scapegoat to purge our own individual and collective shortcomings, or sense of guilt. It’s not a big slip from “I am nothing like that awful person” to “I am/have the potential to be/have been that awful person.” In Discipline and Punish, Foucault discusses the “spectacle of the scaffold,” or how punishment has historically been a form of entertainment. That’s what these viral videos feel like, spectacles of the scaffold. We get off on saying we’re nothing like BBQ Becky, Jogger Joe, and the mother melting down at an Apple store. These people certainly need to learn a lesson and reflect upon and adjust their behavior. In a way, I’m glad that we have cameras to capture so much stuff that used to go ignored and undocumented. But, to reference another Black Mirror favorite, I’m frightened by 1) the “nose-dive” effect and 2) our cultural propensity to enact rage as a corrective for rage.