Tonight I happened to stumble upon an interview between Pierce Morgan and Billy Bob Thorton. Billy Bob has recently written a book that he was promoting. I didn’t really catch the subject of his book but what caught my ear were the cultural critiques he was dishing out about America and his perceived decline of communication. As he is immersed in Hollywood, he obviously comes from an odd view which would make him complain about people tweeting about petty things. These comments did not surprised me. What interested me was his attack on social media. He referred to twitter and other platforms like youtube and myspace as being an instigators for the decline of people being called to action to live fulfilled and inspired lives. He also reminisced about American history where strong leaders like Benjamin Franklin would stand up on a soap box to lead and inspire the masses.
While I get that a lot of noise and ridiculous information gets passed as news in social media, I think his views are misaligned. In our class discussion today on activism and social networks, Amanda so eloquently pointed out that it is not our communication tools that define society, but the social movements that occur outside the tools that do. Instead of targeting the tools, an examination of societal values should be assessed if one is to criticize culture. His statement about soapbox leaders also confused me, as look no further than TED talks to find the intellectual elite that are motivating the masses. Perhaps it is the decentralization of power and influence that is inherent in the networked structure of the internet that makes it so easy to generalize that we are in a cultural decline with no single representative to lead us to zion. If Occupy Wall Street showed us anything, our culture is yearning for a society of more equality and representative democracy. I certainly don’t think a single individual standing upon a soap box can serve these demands.