Everybody's heard of the Salem Witch Trails of 1692-1693, right? If you haven't, you need to get your ass to a library right ASAP. Many history teachers use the Salem Witch Trials to teach their students about the dangers of what can happen when mass hysteria takes over communities. Most of us think when hearing these stories: "this is crazy, it could never happen in modern day." But, with social media keeping us more connected than ever and Americans getting offended at nearly everything they read -- it's almost as if we've forgotten the lessons our history teachers tried to instill in us as children because the Salem Witch Trails happen everyday on our computer, we just don't realize it.
This past weekend, my Facebook page was sent into a tailspin when someone in Alabama saw a t-shirt with an upside-down American flag on it for sale at a PacSun outlet store. Torch carrying Americans took to social media to express their outrage. With a thirst for blood not yet quenched, (it was a slow Memorial Day news weekend) people took to social media to all-but-destroy PacSun, anyone who wore their clothing and anyone associated with the brand. It was a witch trial of a different sort. I like to call it: "#tshirtgate2015." Let's take a look:
Salem 1692: Two girls begin rolling around on the floor, seemingly possessed. When a doctor can't figure out what's wrong with them (there is no physical evidence of illness) he jumps to the logical conclusion that witches have been f-ing their shit up. Because...what else could it possibly be?
Modern Day: Someone shopping in an outlet store in Alabama (I could make a joke, but that one just wrote itself), sees a t-shirt with an upside flag on it for sale at a PacSun. This outrages said shopper. They take a picture of it and post it on social media, expressing said outrage. Because there is literally nothing else horrible going on in the world today (black kids getting shot by cops for no reason, global warming, world hunger -- no time for that!) the image goes viral. PacSun is ruining America with their upside-down American flag shirt. [An upside down American flag is a signal for extreme danger of life or property.] How could PacSun do this on Memorial Day when we are supposed to be honoring our veterans by getting blackout drunk and having a BBQ? WTF PacSun? WTF, indeed.
Salem 1692: Word spreads that two girls have been overcome by the power of witchcraft and other girls in town begin to say that they have been having similar issues. Soon thereafter, several of the towns most undesirable women (beggars, non-churchgoers and women of rival families of the girls who were original possessed) are arrested for witchcraft.
Modern Day: Word spreads that PacSun is selling a t-shirt with an upside down flag on it via social media and others begin to say that they too are offended by said t-shirt. Soon thereafter, several of the worlds most prestigious media outlets begin covering the story because a t-shirt with an upside-down American flag on it is by far the most disgraceful thing that has ever happened (today) and someone must pay. Meanwhile, somewhere in California the creators of House of Cards are probably chilling being like: "Um, an upside-down American flag has been our shows logo for three years and no one has said word one about it. Way to pick and chose, guys."
Salem 1692: The women convicted of witchcraft are arrested and tried before a court of law. They really don't stand a chance because in 1692 America, you can be executed for witchcraft based on the hearsay of a group of teenager girls.
Modern Day: PacSun is put on the stand and the judge, jury and executioner is the general public. They really don't stand a chance because in 2015 America, you can have your life ruined or entire business crumble based on a biased group of people with loud mouths and nothing better to do.
Salem 1692: Many of the women convicted say they love the Lord, would never dance with the devil and have never practiced witchcraft. It doesn't matter as the court has little-to-no evidence to convict them, so being practical, they send them to their deaths. On the flip, several of the women convicted throw their hands in air, give up and say "fuck it, I'm a witch." Thinking they'll be exonerated if confessing to witchcraft, they lie and say they're witches. Well played ladies, but it doesn't work. They too, are executed.
Modern Day: PacSun is put in a difficult situation. Apparently everyone fighting this social media war is either a direct descendent of Betsy Ross, a veteran or American flag aficionado and will not relent. This upside-down flag situation is the worst thing that's happened in American history. Possibly worse than 9-11. If they don't apologize, they will look like assholes. But this is 2015 and you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Soon after #tshirtgate2015 starts, PacSun apologizes, basically saying, "we give up, we fucked up. Sorry, we'll pull the shirt from stores." But it's not enough. It's never enough. People are still pissed and call for an all-out boycott of PacSun. Why stop at accepting an apology when you can financially cripple a company and possibly put hundreds if not thousands of people who are just trying to make ends meet out of work? It's not like you've ever done something wrong or made a mistake in real life and asked for forgiveness. Meanwhile, forget trying to put this amount of effort into fighting for equal pay for women -- all affiliated with PacSun must pay.
Salem 1692: Mass hysteria reaches a fever pitch and the young girls begin claiming that everyone from infants to clergymen to the elderly are witches. Things have gotten out of hand then suddenly -- it all stops. People cease claiming accusations of witchcraft and the townspeople return to their everyday affairs as if nothing happened.
Modern Day: Mass hysteria reaches a fever pitch. People are pissed. Social media statuses such as: "How un-American of Pac Sun!" "They should close all of their stores!" "I will never shop there again!" clutter Facebook and Twitter. Then suddenly -- it all stops. People seemingly forget #tshirtgate2015 ever existed because the internet has made us all have the attention spans of five year-olds. However, instead of the good people of social media going back to their everyday affairs, they find something else "truly offensive" and begin complaining about that and the social media circle of life continues. Meanwhile, this is the most anyone has talked about PacSun since 1997, so hopefully their PR department can spin this to their benefit.
Guys, we simply cannot be outraged about inconsequential things on a day-to-day basis. It makes us no better than the two teenage girls who cried "witchcraft" because they wanted attention back in 1692. If everything we see and hear is deemed offensive, we are not only disrupting freedom of speech, we all also have some serious rage problems we need to deal with. Perhaps if we could channel that rage into something productive like fixing the environment, figuring out what to do with California before they run out of water or a better way to handle veteran affairs (everyone was crying "what about the vets?" when this whole t-shirt debacle was going down -- how about not treating them like shit when they return from defending our country? They would probably appreciate that more than crying over a t-shirt) we could be in better shape as a country. Or, we could just find something a celebrity said, take it out of context and completely ruin their career. Really, either works.
I apologize in advance for any witches who were offended in the creation of this article.