Out front was, of course, the execrable Katie Hopkins who, for the sake of a higher profile and several hours as a trending topic, called for a "final solution" to Islamist-inspired terror. Yes, that's right, the language of genocide is fine and dandy for a few extra retweets. Paul Waugh of HuffPo got into the soulless spirit of things by using the occasion to imply Jeremy Corbyn was soft on terrorism. Not to be outdone, and in full knowledge of what had taken place, The Sun ran this front page penned by a former Special Branch plant in the IRA, while The Mail went to print with this cartoon. Then we have sundry trolls circulating fake news.
If this was a one off, we could put it down to individual turpitude. Unfortunately, it happens time and again. Any tragedy, any awfulness, there are commentators and "celebrities" eager to pile in. There are trolls looking to shock, poltroons sharing bullshit stories, and the vacuous scoring points no one's keeping track of. Unlocking what's going on requires something, and that would be understanding the political economy of the moral lobotomy.
Naturally, Hopkins is the queen of the scene, but she's harvesting what was long-cultivated by the likes of Melanie Phillips. Or, to be more accurate, benefiting from a media business model based entirely around trolling. As papers lose physical sales and have moved operations online, scraping profit revolves around selling ad space, and that demands large audiences. The Daily Mail, as a case in point, runs creepy celebrity stories because there's a huge international appetite for tittle-tattle and ogling celebrity bodies. Trolling with racism and the usual bigotry has the same effect - it cottoned on long before most that outraging left wing and liberal audiences who would never buy their paper could nevertheless drive page views. The Sun, was a late comer to running a free "news" website, now try and get the audience in to sell them services. Advertising, after all, is an unstable business - websites dependent on it for sole income are taking a risk.
The logical extension of trolling-for-business is adapting it as a strategy for personal media branding. It doesn't turn on advertising in this case, but the attracting of attention to remain relevant. Again, Hopkins is the master, even if it has led to occasional brushes with the law. And her notoriety gives her gigs. She'd be long forgotten as a former Apprentice contestant if it wasn't for a sustained and cynical outburst of calibrated bigotry. And what it required was a surgical removal of her moral centre and her continual parading of the fact. This logic then is abroad. And so Paul Waugh sacrificed what was appropriate for a smidgen of notoriety. The Sun and The Mail were banking on a surge of concern in terrorism for their hatchet jobs in their hope to reverse the slide toward Labour in the polls.
And the bottom feeders who do the same? The same attention-seeking logic is at work here, even though paid-for bigoted berths in the mainstream are already rammed. Retweets and shares means attention, and can flatter a mutilated sense of self-importance. What does someone else's suffering and pain mean as long as you're being seen to matter, that you are the centre of a storm you summoned? For people crippled by a sense of everyday irrelevance which, let's face it, is the lot of the overwhelming majority of us, it's a heady brew for some. Particularly as being and being seen to be a special individual is the pinnacle to which one can aspire in Western cultures. Having a moral lobotomy as a route of getting there as good as any other.
Why this happens then is because there's an economic logic underpinning callous hot takes. And, as night follows day, economic dynamics transmute into cultural dynamics, made all the easier by the quantitative character of social media. But there is only a market for hateful fare for as long people sustain it by serving it, and here responsibility lies squarely with the media operations of the right.