Thursday, September 3, 2015

4th Estate vs. Social Justice Warrior

Brittany Oblak

According to the first chapter of The Elements of Journalism, "The news media serve as a watch dog, push people beyond complacency and offer a voice to the forgotten." However; as is discussed in the same chapter, journalism is nearly impossible to define, but I personally think that description certainly isn't wrong. There's a reason journalism is referred to as the 4th Estate, after all: because we are meant to keep governance in check and the citizens informed. We're supposed to speak on behalf of those marginalized by the system, we must seek truth from a two-party system that is more obsessed with self or party-serving agendas than serving its constituents. We're supposed to be constantly pushing things forward; remembering to celebrate progress, yet always remembering the push must be constant and complacency will lead to backtracking.

However; in this Internet-saturated age, and especially in this time of extreme social unrest, specifically in America, everyone has a (very visible) opinion about everything. Every login to Facebook brings exposure to comment upon comment on everything from Fox News articles regarding socialism to Complex Magazine articles debating just how much of a pervert Tyga is for dating Kylie Jenner for months before her 18th birthday.

But the biggest conversations nowadays seem to be based around the ever-changing political and social discourse of this country. People left and right can be as vocal as they want about hot-button topics while remaining safely behind anonymity on the internet, or even just the vast space of the internet itself.  In addition, the nature of social media allows this arguments to turn into day - sometimes week - long arguments that have no end in sight due to everyone always needing to have the "last word in." And as the rise of the internet argument grows on, of course new terms come into our lexicon to describe every type of person on the internet.


The least innocuous, as far as the general internets estimated temperament goes, seems to be whats come to be known as a Social Justice Warrior. Since this is not a "legitimate" phrase, we must look to Urban Dictionary for a definition.


Of course the people the seem to be the most upset with this "type" of person seem to be those who fancy themselves "real" journalists or "real" media. Being paid to be a media professional seems to include a pass that, Joe Schmo, the civil engineer with a blog doesn't get.

Now, in the most meta sense, could this be trolling of trolls? Who is to say exactly why a person is militant about a certain topic? Isn't pestering people for their reasoning just contributing to a never-ending spiral of  social justice warrior-ism? At what point do you become an SJW? Is anyone that sheds their opinion on any social issue on social media considered one? Is it only those who most consistently post, or is it those who only chime in a certain times?

While I; as a PR semi-professional who literally spends countless hours scouring the internet for content daily, completely understand how annoying varied people can be online, I think its time to just let it go. First, let's just think about how fine the line between professional and citizen journalism is nowadays. While I do agree that a blog does not a professional journalist make, the rise of "citizen" journalism is in no way a negative thing, even if it can be annoying at times. I would actually argue that citizen journalism is crucial at this point in America. These are the people that are on the streets, vigilant for cases of police brutality and other systematic injustices that this type of "reporting" is necessary for.

Secondly, and most importantly, the fact that this type of "uncomfortable" but necessary dialogue is even taking place is the biggest win of all. This country as a whole has always avoided talking about things such as institutional (or general) racism, marginalized populations, LBGQT rights, etc. Perhaps these people don't have "good " motives when they post incessantly about feminism, but who is to judge?  Motives are subjective based on who you ask, just like most things. Maybe instead of policing each other, we need to just be glad that people are taking it upon themselves to push for change. Maybe people's stances don't fit your idea of feminism, or your idea of whatever, but if anyone with a visible voice is speaking on behalf of those who don't, that's progress. If people are being vigilant and trying to keep the government and politicians in check: that's progress. If people are actively and continuously engaging in conversation about progress and not falling into stagnancy, we are moving forward. The constant conversation happening right now is crucial - especially to our country - at this point, even if that conversation is not in our ideal package. these types of conversations, "professional" or not, show how journalism of any kind is instrumental. Much like the bigger picture in this country right now, we need to stop being so worried about classifying each other and continue to use our words to make change.

- A video from "conservative" media using Social Justice Warrior as a negative synonym for "liberals."

No comments:

Post a Comment