Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
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Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
By now it’s clear that nobody over thirty really has any idea how the Internet works. We’ve seen this phenomenon happen over and over again: some celebrity or corporation begs their fans to turn them into a “meme” (thus providing them free advertising), only to see the people who loathe them swarm and paper the Internet with brutal indictments of their wrongdoings. It happened to McDonald’s, and now it’s happened to Bill Cosby, as his website was flooded with people making graphics about his alleged history of rape and sexual harassment.
It’s unclear why, exactly, Bill Cosby (or his entourage) thought posting the invitation to “Go ahead. Meme me!” to Twitter was a good idea. Cosby is a man with nothing to gain from the campaign and everything to lose. On the one hand, the man could easily live on back-royalties alone for the rest of his life, and while he’s undeniably still a talented performer, his best years are clearly behind him, and he’s unlikely to pick up any new fans. On the other, there’s very little overlap between Cosby fans and the lazy, entitled Millennials who make up the majority of the Webz’ meme-making crowd, and the potential for abuse was incredibly high. The invitation and the meme-making engine were both posted right as the double-digit rape allegations against Cosby were resurfacing for the umpteenth time, and the engine allowed the masses a zero-effort means of lashing out at a man whose position of power makes him extremely unlikely to be indicted, let alone convicted, for his alleged crimes.
I, of course, don’t know if Bill Cosby is a serial rapist, and neither does anyone else, except for Cosby himself, and possibly his alleged victims. (Let it be known, though, that these women may very well be telling the truth. The statute of limitations is up on all of the allegations, so they have nothing to gain from making them.) And in an ideal world, we’d all be able to soberly opine that “The man is innocent until proven guilty; it’s for the courts to decide, etc.,” but men like Cosby almost never stand trial for their wrongdoings, and are convicted even less frequently.
Cosby has simply achieved a level of success where he’s essentially invincible. He’s quite capable of paying off alleged victims and, if put on trial, can afford an army of lawyers to defend himself. Add to all that the reality that rape almost always goes unpunished (it’s a difficult crime to prove), and you have a man that is (a) most likely a rapist, and (b) extremely likely to get away with it.
To call that frustrating is an understatement.
As I wrote last week, though, memes are the opiate of the masses. (As with everything I write, I was half-joking, but only half.) They’re a means of punching upward at those who have no one on earth to answer to. A lashing out into the dark, probably to no effect, but certainly to considerable catharsis.
After all, what is there left to do against one whose formidable privilege has shielded him from even having to obey the law? By all accounts, Cosby is basically a terrible person—demanding, vindictive, spiteful, and entitled—nothing at all like his affable stage and TV persona, and arguably exhibiting all the signs of narcissistic personality disorder, if not straight up sociopathy. But ours is a culture that—consciously or otherwise—not only tolerates these traits but celebrates them, conferring the most financial and social rewards on whoever manages to be the most brash and manipulative.
This, of course, is not new.
There are those among us who act as though the human race only began acknowledging its social problems at some point in the 1960s, but the Bible has entire Psalms devoted to lamenting the prosperity of the wicked and entire books of prophecy that harangue the rich for their misdeeds. Using privilege as a shield is not new, nor has it only recently been condemned.
There is hope beyond raging at the dark with some bolded Impact text on a cheesy photograph. Not all will be brought to justice in this life, but we have assurance that the crooked will be made straight, the rough places plain. Even the virgin Mary herself assures us that He will bring the mighty down from their thrones and exalt the lowly; He will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich empty away.
Some will undoubtedly find my sentiments here too political; others, not political enough. But I’m only reporting what the Scriptures say about the God I serve. The earth may be ruled by men who trample the weak to maintain their power, but the universe is ruled by One who lifts the weak up and tells them, “Come to the feast.” The one who tells us that “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” One who has already won the battle, and will soon return to complete His work.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.