My friend Villate developed a definition for ”politiporn” and in this guest post describes a phenomenon that is only continuing to grow.
politiporn (n.): images or text (often enhanced, manipulated or taken out of context) intended to 1) dehumanize and objectify those with whom one disagrees politically or ideologically; 2) incite feelings of anger, contempt, fear, and hatred against political figures or partisans with whom one disagrees; 3) impute “true” motives to otherwise innocuous statements or actions; 4) justify and aggrandize the opinions or beliefs of the creator or disseminator, regardless of the veracity of the material
The objective of the pornographer is to profit from the lusts of those who consume his product and stimulate further consumption with ever more shocking pictures or stories. Producers of political commentary may also make a financial profit, but they mainly seek the currency of influence, either persuasive (i.e., convincing others to believe as I do) or cautionary (i.e., convincing others that those who do not believe as I do are wrong). Those who create and disseminate the type of commentary under consideration here fall under a third category – those who are willing to use any means necessary to defame and discredit those who disagree.
Pornographers use exaggerated, often surgically enhanced bodies and sensationalized depictions of sexual acts to titillate and stimulate the consumer’s desire for more. Producers of politiporn Photoshop pictures, forge documents, misattribute quotations or take them out of context, and add spurious descriptions of location or circumstance to actual situations in order to create the desired negative and repellent effect. Not coincidentally, they also tend to position themselves as sources of truth or interpreters of meaning.
As an active participant in various social networking milieus, I endured the recent Presidential election season as most people did – being inundated by the rarely informative, often false or at least misleading memes, pictures, quotations, clips and other digital campaign materials so favored by our attention-deficient generation. I snickered occasionally, but mostly I felt offended and angry, not necessarily due to the issues at hand but because of the obviousness of the lies and manipulation. Yet people whom I love and whose opinions I normally respect gleefully spread these items, even after they were disproven, because they matched and solidified the image of the targeted person, legislation, or attitude in the disseminator’s mind. When I pointed out errors in fact or reasoning, the response was often along the lines of “it doesn’t matter because this is what they REALLY want to do” or worse, “Wake up to reality!”
Rather than going back to normal levels now that the election is over, the public discourse has become even more spiteful and hysterical in discrediting opposing views. This is the real harm in politiporn, whether it be the soft-core sarcasm of Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart or the hard-core mendacity of whoever created the latest version of Barack Obama’s “actual” birth certificate or “discovered” Tagg Romney’s links to voting machines. Like “real porn,” politiporn transforms political debate from normal, beneficial, and even pleasurable into vicious, titillating, and addictive, destroying the producer’s integrity and the consumer’s ability to tell what is real or important. It desensitizes even the casual consumer to the mundane reality of the political process, creating instead a false expectation that the Other Side embodies Pure Evil while My Side exemplifies Benevolent Wisdom. Meanwhile, those who disagree or feel ambivalent are derided as idiots, dupes, or conspirators by those who “truly know” what’s going on.