Seth MacFarlane’s new show, The Orville (a derivative of Star Trek) is enjoying a ratings success. The show’s excellence was showcased on one episode in particular, “Majority Rules,” which I’ve described as Brave New World’s marriage to Star Trek.
The crew of the Starship Orville came across a fictitious society, mirroring 21st century Earth, which operates on a system of upvotes and downvotes. If someone accidentally bumps into you, you can respond in anger by giving them a downvote. Individuals with too many downvotes were banned from certain bars or restaurants.
The worst thing someone could do in this society was to say or do something offensive – once this happened onlookers would take a picture or video then upload the post to social media where others can view it, become offended, then downvote the offensive person.
Rather than a trial, a person would go on an apology tour. Rather than a lawyer, the offender received a public relations advisor. If after the apology tour 10 million downvotes were received, the offender was painfully electro-shocked until their free will was taken from them and they were left as a mental vegetable.
Two striking illustrations of the show appeared. The first was that of one Orville’s crew wound up in serious jeopardy when she accidentally “culturally-appropriated” clothing, via wearing the incorrect hat.
The second came when one of the officers was concerned with whether or not anyone would bother to truthfully verify whether or not the posts were accurate – and it was quickly dismissed by a local who laughed claiming no one would investigate.
The vacuous nature of our own society was highlighted. There are those who care about cultural appropriation when it comes to cornrow hairstyles while remaining shockingly silent on the subject of genocide in Myanmar – the ethics of genocide are far worse than the ethics of hairstyles, but alas, it’s the upvotes that count.
Popular figures’ careers can be over in an instant if the people dictate that it ought to be so. An unethical practice can be permitted to continue if it’s upvoted.
This is a hyper-version of Mill’s criticism of democracy, the tyranny of the majority, with their capacity to tread upon the freedom of others – mob rules are the worst rules.
His parody is our reality. Reason is replaced by emotion. Freedom of expression is replaced with aggression. Judges are replaced by mobs. The will to power, to cultivate ourselves, is replaced with conformity. Moral reform is replaced with an apology. Ethics are replaced by inoffensiveness. Concern over cultural annihilation is replaced with concern over cultural appropriation. Research is replaced with assumption. Something is replaced with nothing.
This vacuous nothing mentality has encompassed our religion, our politics, and our ethics.
One might ask why concern for cornrows in Caucasian hair is offensive and concern for genocide is non-existent? Why is no one concerned? Because there is no one there to be concerned; what was once a soul has been hollowed out and downvoted.
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