Over the past couple weeks ABC News has given in to the latest internet-crazed debate. This time, toenail polish – specifically pink toenail polish – has acted as the accelerant, spreading its flames across digital media landscape.
The April 13th piece, “J. Crew Ad With Boy’s Pink Toenails Creates Stir,” contributes to the latest “controversy” that’s “swirling around the internet,” where a recent J. Crew advertisement featured the company’s president painting her young son’s toe nails pink, supposedly his favorite color. However, this piece didn’t become a story until pundits at Fox News, the Media Research Center (MRC), and now ABC News, made it one. The MRC’s Erin Brown called it, “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”
First, the logic that must be used in order to go from a boy who likes pink to “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children” is innately and utterly paranoid and illogical. The fact that a largely heteronormative media is now trying to rein-in what it considers to be the transgender and queer communities stepping out of line is not only laughable but insulting.
Second, why is this a story at all? This is an advertisement that was emailed to people on the J. Crew mailing list. It only developed wider attention because a couple of commentators decided to pass up more pertinent or newsworthy events such as the uprisings in Syria. Even the upcoming royal wedding would have been more relevant for a new site. Just because a topic can be discussed does not mean that it should be discussed.
Although ABC News followed up this article with a somewhat thoughtful opinion piece by Larry Woodard, it fails to pose the million-dollar question of why everyone’s talking about this “issue” in the first place. This trend of nothing-new news that grabs hold of the popular imagination every month or so appears to be something uniquely fitted to the internet. The digital revolution has done amazing things to lower the threshold for people to become involved in media and a larger dialogue. But does that mean that the conversation should become undirected, paranoid, and obsession-driven? Should media giants like ABC and Fox News just be considered bigger, more organized bloggers?
I think that internet-based news has a responsibility to derail and not entice the distracting hysteria that so prevalent in today’s discourse. In the coming years, ensuring this will protect their integrity and give way for a more thoughtful and self-reflective conversation.