*This is the companion piece to how another person has been systematically and methodically infringing on my IP for half a decade. However, I have opted to remove the person’s name and presence from my blog, so that companion piece is temporarily set to private. I believe that I made my point in publishing that piece for 40 days and here forth refuse to allow that person to take up space in my life.
The process of calling out another person for a wrongdoing is an exercise in serving as a mirror for that person. To do that is always a favor to the world, to the matrix that we cohabit, because to call out another means to acknowledge a lack of love, and that can make the person doing the calling out feel—really feel—ugly. But it is no one’s job to hold a mirror for another person indefinitely. And so to seek a path between compassion and right way, right action, I have chosen to walk the line between making the sacrifice of calling out that influencer for serial plagiarism and not giving them any more attention.
I have spent a lot of time contemplating how to find compassion for someone who tries to narcissistically feed on you or your art. What I found was a piece of me that wanted to resist feeling compassion for the person because they had caused me pain. What I pushed forward into was forcing myself to practice feeling compassion for that person. I think if someone spends half a decade serially plagiarizing another person, there is something dark going on internally—what that is, I cannot say. But it can’t be pleasant; and therefore, I do feel compassion for them. Everyone is suffering in some way—everyone. That is why we are here; we are here to suffer so that we can figure out what it means to love. Nothing else matters, in the grand scheme of things.
The Capitalism of Narcissism (or The Narcissism of Capitalism)
Someone mentioned that I should bring up capitalism and how it is inextricably tied to climate change. I’m going to go one step forward and connect both of these things to media manipulation. For those of you who are not familiar with my December 2015 research paper, posted to WordPress in early 2016, titled “Media Manipulation and Its Adverse Effects on Society,” here it is: Media Manipulation
Before I go into all of this, I want you to consider the poppies: The poppy posts on Instagram that involved tens of thousands of influencers trampling protected natural habitats to get a good photo and promote their brands. Those poppies.
If you’re not already familiar with the poppies, please look the issue up. Basically, a bunch of people who have made names for themselves via Instagram decided to break the law and destroy natural habitats around Lake Elsinore and Walker Canyon in the Los Angeles area to get orange-tinted photos during the super bloom last week. The city of Lake Elsinore was overrun with tourists, people got hurt, and a lot of protected habitat got destroyed from people ignoring signs and laws to go lie in the poppies in their sundresses and birthday suits. Examples of these influencers could basically be summed up as brands whose relevance originated and is maintained via a constant feedback loop of likes and approval from strangers on Instagram.
I’ve heard a lot of people throw out the term “relevant” to bash on others, including myself, recently. I’m unsure if this was a concept originated by troll farms who were purposefully visiting social media pages with the intent of “demotivating” https://www.businessinsider.com/russian-troll-slayer-went-undercover-at-a-troll-factory-2019-3 or where exactly it started, but if one wants to connect social media to a person’s desire to be perceived as relevant, they should begin with looking at where the person’s perceived relevance started in the first place. Did it start with social media? If so, they are certainly using social media to “stay relevant.” While every single person on this planet is relevant by the mere fact of their existence, brands are only relevant if they are selling something. And it is brands that are contributing to capitalism, and capitalism in its constant need for cashflow that is contributing to the worldwide crises of global warming, economic downturn, and misinformation. I am a huge fan of the Green New Deal and agree that the only way out of certain looming doom at this point is to promote free post-secondary education and let go of capitalism and its inherent greed. For it is the greed of capitalism that drives the economy these days, whether on a larger policy level or on a microlevel that includes the feeding of influencers’ egos and fanbases. It all comes down to feedback loops and a fear of grinding the machine of capitalism to a halt.
Maybe I feel like my experience on Naked and Afraid and the way I was portrayed to half a billion households around the world has put me in a position where I now owe it to the planet to correct the record and call out all the bullshit that has since ensued. Really, I just care about the planet. I have nothing to sell you, nor would I want to sell you anything because that would be to become the thing that I am fighting.
So, what happened with the poppies is, thousands of people took to social media to call out the influencers who were using their platforms to showcase illegal natural habitat destruction. The point was primarily that influencers were influencing other people to do the same thing. But while a few accounts listened and apologized, took down the photos and made public statements about it, most did the opposite. Accounts actually refused to remove their photos and, instead, maintained an air of perseverance throughout the upheaval, each stating in their own ways that they did not care. One account issued a brief notice on a second poppy photo that she was not aware that it was illegal and then continued to post more and more poppy photos. Another made countless videos speaking to how acknowledging the criticism basically makes you weak, and that one should never, ever change. Her take on it was that critics were inherently hateful—not that they were pointing out the negative influence and repercussions of the habitat destruction for a single photo. The dialogue on both of their accounts repeatedly stated that people who disagree with either of them are hateful, when in actuality most of the hate came from devout followers of the two brands.
These accounts are using the narrative of authenticity to make up for never being open to criticism, and this is being reiterated and backed by their followers who make it their constant jobs to interject on both of their behalves. Any person who dares speak out for mother earth or question these influencers gets jumped on by a hoard of angry teens and women in their younger twenties, seething with comments such as “you’re just jealous!” and “get out of here with your negativity!” The brands consistently go through and delete hundreds if not thousands of comments from their pages, no matter how they are worded, if they touch on topics that would reveal to the average onlooker that they have critics.
It’s kind of frightening how much power and influence a person can have on society, even if they don’t have a college education and never talk about sociological issues on a deeper level than how people look physically.
This brings me full circle here. You either manipulate the media, or you are manipulated. Social media influencers make a living off of manipulating their own media. My experience on Naked and Afraid involved being manipulated by producers, withholding of a medical prescription, specific and pointed questions, and heavy, heavy editing that was in no way in my control.
Media manipulation is relevant because now many of the influencers who have been called out for trampling the poppies are claiming “media manipulation.” Suddenly, they all have the same excuse; all of their hands are clean. Not a single person who posted a photo of smashed poppies under their asses is responsible. No, in fact, they all used photoshop. It was all an “illusion.” One influencer admitted to trampling the poppies, kept posting photos, and then her photographer claimed that she used photoshop. Awesome, except one of them is lying and I suspect it is the photographer. Why? Because each flower carries a hefty fine with its destruction, so photographers and influencers alike are pissing their pants right now.
One would think that the easiest way out of all of this drama and bad press would be to simply remove the photos. But instead, all these accounts with hundreds of thousands of fangirls are doubling down and refusing to acknowledge the public dissent and social commentary. They are holding onto the fact that they are “leaders,” and that leaders can’t be wrong, can’t make mistakes, and would be perceived as weak if they gave in to the pressure to conform to what ecologists and protestors alike are asking them to do: set a good example. And they are being applauded for this. So, the new standard that is being set by influencers is not only to disrespect mother earth, but to never listen to people with different opinions, even if those people are scientists or otherwise respectfully pointing out that their actions are harming the earth. Each influencer that reaches, say, 100,000 fans, has the potential to influence that many more people to copy them. Even if only 1% of a 100,000 person fan base did so, that is still 1,000 more people. Yikes.
Authenticity is a myth, when you really get to the bottom of it all. People are always changing—in fact, are meant to be fluid and change—and if they didn’t we wouldn’t have evolution. The only true authentic self is a being of light that exists on a plane that is normally invisible to the naked eye. To use the excuse of authenticity to proclaim that one’s image is permanently fixed and righteous no matter what, is actually to allow one’s ego to be in complete control. And really, how authentic can any a brand on Instagram be? That’s inherently false by the nature of how Instagram works. Brands are built on carefully matched images and words, together, not too different from a TV show or movie…but completely in the control of the brand itself. A persona on Instagram is the clearest manifestation not of one’s authentic self, but of their ego, especially if they are claiming that they exist solely in authenticity, because that is a lie.
So, where is all of this going to stop? We have come to an age where we have a sitting president who most likely got his position because of the Kremlin (scary), continuously cries “media manipulation!” when the truth comes out, uses social media to brainwash people (scary), and, I am sorry to say, has influenced influencers to do the same. Trump has never admitted fault, ever. He has never apologized, ever. How very different are the beautiful blonde yogis on Instagram who are carelessly promoting their brands via breaking state laws to destroy protected lands for photo ops? They haven’t apologized or admitted fault either. They are claiming “media manipulation” now. They are all martyrs because people are pissed at them for crushing the poppies, despite the fact that they “used photoshop”—and like I said, that is bullshit. You can’t be a martyr in the face of your own media manipulation.
And people are pissed because the entire planet is endangered. The most recent UN climate report has stated that we have less than twelve years to get 100% off of carbon emissions. This has been described as “an all hands on deck moment.” We don’t have any room for selfish influencers. Whether it’s about poppies, agriculture, oil reserves, it doesn’t matter. Accountability starts with each and every individual on the planet. It starts with you and me. It starts with the people spreading influence onto others.