"Bring home the bacon" debate is a case study in how stupid we've all become 6 months ago

"Bring home the bacon" debate is a case study in how stupid we've all become

Let's bring home the bacon.

Earlier this week, you might have heard that "they" are planning to "ban" phrases like "bring home the bacon" to "avoid offending vegans". Maybe it's been on your mind. Maybe you've even been mad about it. Maybe you posted an angry comment about it on Facebook.

The story has had many cycles. It began with an academic Shareena Hamzah, who posited that as the world tends further and further towards vegetarianism, that expressions and idioms about animals could become less popular.

"Given that fiction often reflects on real world events and societal issues,” she wrote, “it may very well be that down the line powerful meat metaphors are eschewed."

It was a pretty straightforward case of academia justifying its own existence, as it is wont to do. No big deal. I don't blame her. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about things that don't matter. And boy howdy, I'm not sure anything has ever mattered less than this. The story may have started with Hamzah, but the monster it mutated into is absolutely not her fault.

It all started to go wrong when media outlets misrepresented the details in such a way that would generate engagement and drive conversation. In digital media, there are few things you can bank on more than outrage. Modern social movements like veganism and the threat of banning free expression? Guaranteed to bring home the bacon.

These outlets used phrases like "set to be" banned, "could" be banned, "should" be banned — to avoid offending vegans. But what Hamzah said was that they might become less popular as more and more people eat less meat. Fake news 101.

You can read her article here. It does not feature the word 'offended' once. It does not feature the word 'ban' once. It does not say what you were told it says. She has been forced to start correcting people on Twitter.

But of course, the public — who seemingly can no longer be trusted with any information at all — jumped on it too. The big, stumbling, stupid, blind, shambling, public. And yes, my dear reader, that includes you.

The public was outraged that phrases such as bring home the bacon were "set to be" banned. Banned by whom? Unclear. What would the consequences of ignoring the ban be? Prison? Death? Again, answers were not forthcoming. Banned where? Globally? Ireland? Banned by what means? A constitutional referendum? Legislation? Who knows? Who cares.

The public at large appears to have lost the facility by which it can discern what is true, or what is important, or what even makes any sense.

You know who knows this? PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The controversial animal rights organisation saw an opportunity. They republished their list of nonsensical phrases people should use rather than "bring home the bacon" et al. and everyone on earth saw it for the nonsense it was. The problem is that half those people think that PETA represents all vegetarians, all vegans, and everything they don't like about modern society.

Ethical treatment of animals, sure, but they're well prepared to treat people like idiots. Which is increasingly fair enough. Because of course, PETA are the ones playing it masterfully. They know that they've got an unlimited audience of fish swimming around looking for bait.

Their suggestions, such as "Feeding a fed horse" to replace "beating a dead horse" — or "feeding two birds with one scone" — are so laughably bad that it should actually bring you to tears. Instead, people have been moved to fury, blaming vegans and snowflakes and millennials and the PC brigade, unaware that, for once, everyone is on the same side. At least 25,000 people on Twitter got a hook in their gums.

And now here I am, performing my own role in this sordid drama. Writing about how stupid and terrible everybody and everything is and doing my best to rationally explain why we all just need to calm down and think things through a little more clearly with the ultimate goal of understanding each other a little better. Thinking more critically so we're less easy to trick. Asking more questions not of the world but of ourselves. Why are we so angry? Why are we so gullible? How did news organisations fall into such casual dishonesty? Why are we so prepared to misunderstand reality? Why do we use the internet to behave ourselves in ways that we'd never dream of in real life?

The smart thing to do is ignore it all. But how can smart people ignore it when it begins to dominate popular discourse?

How are we supposed to focus on the things that matter when media organisations refuse to? Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper ran a segment on whether or not we've reached political correctness. Niall Boylan had a discussion about whether or not it's okay to ban phrases that nobody really wants to ban.

As a matter of pure coincidence, other reports from outlets like the Daily Mail and Today FM reported that the HSE was going to ban its employees from using phrases like "love," "pet" or "dear." That wasn't true either. Again, it was one line in a huge reporte that asked the question as to whether or not it was the best course of action to use such terms. It wasn't mentioned again.

Unlike phrases about meat, this actually matters. This is the kind of thing that could actually change how people are treated in hospital. But again, it wasn't true. The public – which has lost its capacity to verify what is true and what is not — was being lied to by the media. That's how it works now.

So what's the next stage of the cycle? Well, based on past experience, it's probably a horde of people in a comment section telling me to shut up, which is fine. I've gotten used to that.

Doesn't bother me, I still get paid. Still bring home the bacon.