Will Smith’s Oscars slap in the face has created a storm of ever paler internet hot catches | JR Hennessy

Wsick Smith has taken to Instagram to apologize to slap Chris Rock on the cheek at the Oscar ceremony, after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia. “Violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive,” he wrote. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and unforgivable.”

That may have somehow fixed the relationship between the two men, but one thing is for sure: it won’t stop the punitive hot catches that have made social media virtually unusable over the past 24 hours. The forward momentum is simply too great; too intransigent. The animal is awake, and it must be fed.

Smith and Rock are celebrities, worth many, many millions of dollars between them. As is the case with most rich people, the things they do with and to each other are as far removed from normal human experience as the domestic affairs of the Greek gods. Will Smith lives inside a 10,000-square-foot mansion in an inlet community in the San Fernando Valley. It may have been Zeus slapping Hades up there as well.

But considering so many of us are now taking our moral teaching of things we see on screens of various sizes, the slap heard around the world has quickly become the world’s least interesting mass exercise in applied ethics and what things. It was no longer just a sensational gossip – it was an expression of all that was good and bad in the world at the same time.

Within minutes, a televised act of mild violence emerged as the flashpoint for almost every social, moral, and political issue you’d like to call, and grain for the endless content mill, most of human culture is now accused of power. (Christos Tsiolkas thought far too conservatively about the possible social repercussions of a single slap in the face, it turns out.)

What started as an on-stage biff between two celebrities due to a disrespectful gag, quickly became a Thunderdome for increasingly insignificant arguments, as millions of users experiencing the sugar equivalent of the internet tried to plug it into whatever their pet thing was at the time. Was Will Smith’s slap in the face a sadly perfect example of toxic manhood? Proof of Hollywood’s double standards of misconduct? A radical act of civil disobedience against skill and misogyny? Evidence for structural racism? Evidence against structural racism? Cancel culture? A a metaphor for the Russian invasion of Ukraine? An intentional distraction from that same invasion? An indisputable proof of how the Holocaust could be allowed to happen? Brexit? Trump? 9/11?

Because the facts of the matter are unquestionably simple, many expert posts deemed it appropriate to create a series of increasingly abstract counter-facts to process their chosen point. What if one of them was a white woman? What if the joke was about asthma instead of alopecia? What if Smith had a gun? “Just a reminder that if Will Smith slapped Betty White on the cheek for a joke she made (however insensitive), she could easily have fallen back, cracked her skull and died of brain bleeding, “read one immediately viral tweet, aimlessly evoking a scenario in which the deceased actor was not. alive but doing out-of-color alopecia jokes at the Academy Awards.

In each post you can see a painful effort to establish some new territory on the endless torrent of internet opinion, and find some new meaning resonating to an event that was, at the end of the day, an internationally aired moment of flaming passions that. had very little to do with the Russian shelling of Mariupol.

I could make a broader point here about the perverse motivations of the modern internet and the resulting toxic impact on discourse. In the early days of mass use of social media, some theorists turned to an academic term from the world of media to capture the profound social oddity that these new platforms brought with them. “Contextual collapse” – which relates to the deployment experience of having infinitely diverse audiences occupying the same web spaces and consuming the same content in radically different ways – has become part of the fabric of everyday life.

But you know what? If I made the point, then I might be no less crazy than the people imagining a scenario in which Will Smith slapped Betty White to death on the Oscar stage.

Instead, as an engaged consumer of some of the worst posts on the internet, I will continue to have the time of my life.

  • JR Hennessy is a Sydney-based writer who runs The Terminala bulletin on trade, technology, culture and politics

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