Mathew Mackie

United against #United: The Internet’s Golden Days of Criticism

First, we got the Pepsi ad taken down. Now, we’re looking to take down United Airlines. But just because their PR doctors deem our criticism right, that doesn’t make it so.


Not too long ago (some social historians theorize as late as early April 2017), Internet criticism was a toothless beast, a paper tiger, one that growled it’s crumply roar en route to the shredder. No one wept for the passing of the tiger, because it was a wholly ineffectual creature, one that spoke only to hear itself speak.

That was, up until a recent turning point, one that fizzed its way into the public consciousness in a refreshing, albeit entirely unsatisfying series of gulps. I’m talking of course of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi fiasco. If you happened to miss it, Pepsi smartly promoted the next generation’s Che Guevara, Kendall Jenner, as Che Guevara. Clickbait gave way to anger, which gave way to change, and the advertisement enabled exactly what it was promoting: ironic revolution. Or precisely the change you can win with a beverage. The fact that the revolution tore down the walls that the Pepsi-man built with the device to free the proletariat is irrelevant.

And while we’ve chalked this up as a win over the stupidity of commercialization and the ills of toxic capitalism, what it boils down to is fucking complaining.

Now, what’s important to take from Pepsi’s decision to take the video down is that they’ve validated this mode of complaint, much like how when an adult capitulates to the high notes of their child’s tantrum just to make them stop and the child then learns that that behavior is okay – 10/10 would screech in the deli again. Well, screech we have, this time with the news that United Airlines “re-accommodated” a passenger with blunt force, with the general vibe emanating from Twitter being abject rage, the ejection of the passenger (replete with busted lip) on par with the injustice felt of seeing your father sent to Siberia to mine salt while wearing a hat made from your mum’s head. It’s wrong, so very wrong.

The imagery speaks for itself. Or rather, the claret flicks our brains over to that of the bull running headlong into the United flagship, screwing our faces to show our teeth as our wit and assumptions double as a middle finger firmly fired two inches away from the face of whoever did what, and they deserve it.

Yes, it is bad, and the hollow apology is worse, but the inches of haphazard Internet dissertations are no better. It was wrong, yes, but we’re not adding anything to what we already feel. Our well-constructed points are masturbation. We do it solely for our benefit.

A toggling of the words, a solution does not make. The United Airlines criticism is background to a much larger picture, as is the unfortunate passenger who drew the short straw and was removed from the flight (and momentarily entered Internet folklore). Here was a man who suffered injustice, today. Now, 12+ hours later, I’m assuming that this article is already too late, that we’ve already moved on. While change will surely be won, as there will be new practices put into place to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again, we’ll chalk it up as a “W” and on we’ll roll.

The problem, of course, is not with the man who was ejected, but rather that we were again proven right. But much like the child who relocates all their possessions out of their pram to be heard, we do so because we know the adults will return and coo us back to normalcy, so we’ll just ferry our carry-on emotional baggage to the next crisis. A juvenile impulse emboldened by a parental figure turns into a personality trait. Fighting against injustice is important, yes, but the adult thing is to take things in their proper scope and whine only when you’re actually hurt as opposed to milking every misstep for attention.

The obvious step beyond that is, when our parents become tired of our whining, they’ll reconcile themselves to ignore us, so we’ll whine louder, shattering chat windows until our eyes are wet and our throats dry, brains muddled by the lack of response from Mum, which then prompts us to question why we were upset in the first place.

Were we crying for no reason? Was the noise and spectacle worth it?




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