Between Black and White

Melencolia

Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75)
*engraving
*24 x 18.8 cm
*1514

One of the most curious changes in the mainstream approach to everyday news is the growing oversimplification of the narrative; I mean, instead of facts we get factoids, the space needed to explain matters or to introduce an argument has been dissolved. Facts and figures are presented to the public in a pre-arranged set, in order to align with the political (or ideological) side already represented by the magazine (or any other kind of news outlet). So, we basically have a loop of self-assuring news, ready and served on a virtual silver plate to an audience that will use such news on the social media scene in order to reassure its beliefs and/or to bash the “others”.

It’s a clever trick, crafted by professionals and honed to the max to reach the maximum effect on the largest possible audience. Said effect is a kind of polarization in the audience; on every goddamn piece of the news, there are “blacks” and “whites”, with the evident purpose of denying anything in between. You can name this kind of strategy as you want, of course, but the labels “politically correct” and “don’t get fooled” come to mind. Day after day, this loop from the traditional media to the social media goes on and on.

The ultimate consequence is the perceived need to choose a side, always, no matter the argument. You have to declare yourself as “black” or “white” and face boldly the opposite faction, not to mention the fact that you’re also expected to hang on with your side anytime and plainly refuse to recognize the others as plausible interlocutors. “Divide et impera” (divide and conquer), words attributed to Julius Caesar, should be written in capital letters on the first page of the newspapers and used as tagline by the likes of CNN and Fox News. Once you choose a side, it looks like you can’t come back. You will be ostracized, described as a traitor, labeled as a pariah.

Weeki Wachee Spring

A pity that between black and white there are infinite shades of gray. There are also a growing number of people who are sick and tired to be constantly manipulated and/or fed up by this artificial distinction. There’s a price to pay, of course. Freedom never comes easy. Social media will turn in a battlefield and your contact list will shrink in a matter of hours. What about real life? Well, going face to face is a bit more pleasant but you will get your share of problems (and a bit more) even there. The mainstream narration will likely affect a part of your friends and relatives, with all the imaginable consequences. What will change is the choice to explain yourself in a more direct way, aside from the online hysteria.

It’s a narrow path, with plenty of bad turns and fake signals. In times of black and white, being gray is a hard choice. The alternative is to find an easy port in the storm and accept to be part of the current narrative. I prefer to be gray.

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