When war becomes entertainment

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

Without any basis in facts, reason and argument, as Hannah Arendt advocated, the opinion that moves men is nothing more than an ideological slogan.

As the tragedy deepens in the Middle East, the performative uncovering triumphs and blinds. With each dark and tragic move, the spectators become more excited, due to their stoned and ebullient superficiality. Social networks go into uproar, audiences repeat tearful slogans and the carnage turns into poignant and noisy melodrama. This outcry made up of high-sounding and insensitive platitudes is definitive proof that “there are no limits to insanity”, as an old journalist said. Public opinion goes into madness.

A rational being – this endangered type – may even glimpse, out of stubbornness, a timid hope for a peace agreement for the Gaza Strip and its surroundings, but he will have no illusion that common sense will have a place on the face of the Earth. The war progresses like a strange and morbid participatory entertainment. This is our greatest damnation.

The nonsense is not limited to street demonstrations that celebrate massacres; They also appear in WhatsApp groups and random conversations. They cross the street in front of you, they are at the bus stop, in line at the supermarket – they are audience champions. Sofa activists consume the deaths featured in the news like those savoring a hot genre of expanded realities. They feel their imagination salivate. They become addicted to the sensations of terror and ask for an encore.

No, audiences are not informed about events – they gorge themselves and dope, insatiable. As if it were a chemical stimulant, war offers them potent doses of easy emotion. And here come the memes and the seals. Addicts believe they have a side and pride themselves on their imaginary bravery, in narcissistic exhibitionism. They are weekend warriors. Its essence is in appearance. They chew on images of murders or bombings to numb the lack they feel most: lack of affection, meaning and relevance.

What is there on the market to delight these crowds of nobodies? It could be a football championship final, perhaps. It could be a crowd fight under a traffic light. Could be a reality show on TV. Now, however, the dish of the day is slaughter. The subject uses himself and “engages”, to use the expression in vogue. In his intimate fantasies, he is the hero of a sacrosanct cause. It consumes. He shouts. He and his counterparts are in full swing.

Still in the XNUMXth century, Spinoza warned: “Men are moved more by opinion than by true reason”. Shortly after this, the so-called “urban masses” arrived on the scene as a byproduct of cities breathing soot from industrial chimneys. Born to be the (bastard) better half of (savage) capital, they never formulate ideas, nor could they; they just drag on, gelatinously sticky, in instinctual waves, driven by “opinions”, not reason. Your bread is your circus.

Today, our problem is that the masses of the XNUMXst century are even more rudimentary than their peers two or three hundred years ago. Yes, what ignites their libido is opinion, but now, an opinion in a debased form. Without any basis in facts, reason and argument, as Hannah Arendt advocated, the opinion that moves men is nothing more than an ideological slogan, a ready-to-wear slogan, a non-durable consumer good, like a Grammy-winning song chorus.

That's more or less how we arrived at this babel of perverse and opaque frivolities, full of speakers who don't understand a word of what they say. Never seen so many influencers pontificating about Israel and Hamas.

During the pandemic, these same figures worked as leading epidemiologists, immunologists or infectious disease specialists. They all talked about messenger RNA, ivermectin and surgical masks. Then they took on the role of experts in Ukraine, Cyrillic alphabet. They gave thirty-second lessons on Great Russia. Now, they chatter about the cosmogonies that take place in Jerusalem. They don't understand what they're saying.

Sometimes there is news of children who, playing superheroes, jump out of the window to fly out and crash to the ground. They are victims of the typically childish inability to dissociate the real world from the cartoon universe. Most of today's adults suffer from the same disability. They do not understand the difference between the value judgment and the judgment of fact, they do not suspect the border between factual truth and fictional creation and they do not distinguish the pleasure principle from the reality principle. They believe that every power struggle is reduced to a dispute over narratives. Immediately, they embark on a pre-fabricated narrative and, aboard it, they fly across the screens to win the battle against the “evil”.

By consuming war as an interactive spectacle, entertainment culture buries reason, normalizes the jungle and it surrenders. We are a world of grown-up children who have fun with lethal toys. Someone out there is still going to fall against the ground of reality again.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic).

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