Social JusticeArts

Never Wrong, Always Right

“Work, to compete, compete to work.” Those words are printed on the motivational poster above the window in Karl’s office. Karl is a math teacher. He and his coworkers are based out of an office building, connecting with their students solely online. Karl often looks towards that poster when he feels unmotivated. Those inspiring words came from the 27th President of  The Righteous Union of Voct. So far he has been the longest serving president of Voct; he began his leadership in 2252 A.D. and he is still serving today, in 2372 A.D. Eventually, Karl’s work day ends and his body, by rote, performs its end-of-day functions, logging off of his work computer, saying curt goodbyes to his coworkers, leaving the building, and taking the bus to retrace the 2-hour long commute he makes to work 6 days a week so that he can go back home.

The bus line goes directly from his office to his block of apartments. The bus ride is supposed to take 2 hours but it always takes 3. Usually, Karl sleeps but today he can’t stop thinking about the words of his nation’s president. “Work, to compete, compete to work.” Karl reflects upon these words. He KNOWS that he is working. Of course he is working, 13 hours a day 6 days a week, just like every other valuable citizen. There are many moments like this not only in Karl’s life but in the lives of every human on earth. Potentially pivotal moments, moments where one could reflect upon their life and ask hard questions. In Karl’s case and the case of the other 741 million Voct citizens, they could question many things. Why do I work most of my days? Why don’t I feel anything at all? Why do I have no real friends? Why is everything done online? Where are the public parks? Did they ever really exist? Why do most universities only offer 3 programs? Instead of asking these questions or any type of question that would require hard critical thinking, Karl simply resumes his previous train of thought. 

He knows he works hard, but the real question is, does he compete? Yes. Does he compete in society? That is the only question worthy of being pursued. While reflecting upon his self-imposed question, the bus passes a massive digital billboard, LEDs so bright they rip through the city’s smog, and for a moment he feels like a moth or another stupid creature drawn to something dangerous. 

On the billboard are two women. One woman is holding a phone and recording the other woman. Both are smiling and laughing. The screen goes black and words appear: “Sign up for Trapeze today to see what happens next! Trapeze is a new revolutionary video-based social media platform where shock is king! Sign up today, if you think you can handle it!”

The billboard resets and starts the ad all over again, and the bus continues on.

Karl scoffs internally at the ad. He thinks about all the other platforms that have come and gone, and the few that remain. He thinks about the damage they have done to society. He thinks about how fitting it was to feature two pretty women in the ad, as only pretty women benefit from social media. Well, that’s not entirely true. Karl does have to admit that there are many men who, throughout history, have used social media to launch their careers. He thinks of all the politicians, actors, public intellectuals, athletes, businessmen and other famous men who in some way or another used social media to elevate themselves in society, they used it to create themselves, to become “real people” whose thoughts and opinions mattered. They used it to compete amongst others. Karl froze for just a moment. Is that was he is missing in life? Has he not been putting himself out there enough? He has been working but has he been extreme in his efforts? He was making enough money to survive but, he was, in his own opinion, a nobody. He felt as though he meant nothing to the world. He wasn’t competing against others. Who was he within this society? Where did he rank, and where would he place? At the bottom. That is why his life is so shitty — because he was not a competitive member of society. 

Karl reflects on the teachings of Dr. Delilah Roy. She is now known as the “mother of self-help.” She is credited with inspiring millions, if not billions, with her writing on physical self-improvement and self-reliance. Her rise to fame can really only be attributed to the now-defunct social media platform EagleOak. It was a platform that was more text-based, in which users could write essays and publish them. It was eventually shut down because it came to light that people had started using the essays on the app as sources of information rather than as opinion pieces. The essays on the app were often cited more than peer-reviewed articles, which professionals in virtually every field deemed inappropriate. In Karl’s opinion and in the opinion of many others, the only reason why it got shut down was because rich, connected professionals were jealous that the average person was able to have their voice heard. Either way, Dr. Delilah Roy was extremely popular on the app. Her essays and think pieces got so popular that even after the app was shut down she had cemented herself in the psyche of Voct citizens. She had created a name for herself, a brand. The books she wrote became best sellers, and she made millions speaking at conventions around the country. She was able to do that through social media. Without it, she would still be an average person with no connections and no advantages, completely irrelevant. She used social media as a stepping stone to become a competitive, useful, productive and important member of society. 

At that moment he believed that he finally understood the words of his great nation’s president. One must not only work hard, but they must also, in some way, compete in society. Life is a hierarchy and somehow, no matter what, you have to get to the top. You must beat out your competitors by any means necessary. You must strive to be the best, obtain wealth and women, status and land, and overall as much power as one can get in their short lifetime because that is what’s best, not only for the individual but for all of society. Yes. That is man’s greatest purpose. To gain physical achievements. Millions of dollars, owning land, beautiful women who defer to their men, fame or power over the famous. There was so much that one could obtain. The president also used varying forms of social media back in the 2240s to connect with people and create a profitable identity to sell himself and his ideas. At that moment Karl realized that he too was going to try and use Trapeze to elevate himself by creating a brand or cultivating a following. He was going to use it to accumulate material wealth and status because that is man’s purpose. This social media platform was the most accessible way for him to begin his ascent in society. He wasn’t sure how, but all he knew was he wanted more and he’d seen others get in on a social media platform early, he’d seen how they were able to transform their lives, and that’s what he wanted. 

As soon as Karl returned home, he downloaded the app and created his account. He wanted to make sure that he would utilize this app to its full potential so he watched a couple of tutorial videos on Trapeze. The main thing Karl took away from the videos he watched is that the app allowed users to upload video content up to five minutes long, and there were built-in discussion forums. Followers can also choose to subscribe to individual content creators for set prices per month to gain access to special content.

  1. No video content over 5 minutes
  2. SHOCK = monetization
  3. No such thing as bad engagement in uploaded content 

That’s essentially what anyone needed to know if they wanted to make it big using this app. Now that Karl had an account and knew how it worked, he just needed to start posting content. He spent about 3 days trying to come up with what he should do for his first video. He truly wanted his first video to go viral. He wanted to get people talking about it everywhere. He wanted his video to gain as much traction as possible. Therefore in alignment with the MO and algorithm of this app, he knew it had to be wholly outrageous, insulting and provocative. 

He decided on prank-calling suicide hotlines. 

He decided on this for many reasons. Reasons like the fact that he did not like the sensitive culture surrounding mental illness. To Karl, “depression” was not a real thing — it was only cowardice. People too scared to face their own reality so they whine about it. In Karl’s mind, the idea of a suicide hotline was absurd. He knew that many people realized how stupid this whole culture surrounding “mental health” was. He knew that although this would upset many, lots of people would be on his side. 

He records his first video in one day. He calls 6 different suicide hotlines. He starts by pretending to need genuine help. Then he transitions to questioning the hotline worker, asking annoying to rude questions, such as,

“Did you fail at being a psychiatrist? Is that why you waste your time babying crazy people over the phone for less than $2 an hour?” 

He did this 5 more times to various hotlines. Some of his favourite questions were,

“How do you sleep at night knowing that you’ve never helped anyone because the suicide rate in our nation is at its highest ever?”

“How does it feel to be so useless? How do you feel getting paid by the government for your services when all you do all day is read from the same script?” 

“Do all of you mental health workers get together and talk about how meaningful your work is, even though all you do is waste taxpayer’s money on people so weak they’d be better off dead?”

He was purposely asking inflammatory questions to get a response, but a part of him genuinely meant what he asked. Karl truly did view any person who worked in the “mental health” field as a superfluous part of the healthcare business which siphoned funding from more important areas of the nation’s healthcare system. So far, he had made 5 calls to various hotlines. They all basically ended the conversation after about 15 minutes, sounding extremely frustrated. They told him what he was doing was very nasty and dangerous as he was misusing the hotline worker’s time, which was preventing other people from calling in. Blah blah blah — Karl couldn’t even care if he wanted to. His last call was a bit different though. Karl began his act of needing help and then started his rude line of questioning. He barely even began his abusive questions when the hotline worker cut him off. “Hey man, I know what you’re doing right now and I’m not going to entertain you” 

“What am I doing? I just want help,” Karl interrupted.

 “Listen,” the hotline worker continued. “There has been some guy calling various hotline workers and harassing them and it’s obviously you. Dude, I don’t know why you’re doing this. It’s clear that you’re just another asshole, but also maybe this is just a cry for help? I mean you’re lashing out at us and we’re just anonymous hotline workers. It seems like you have serious personal issues. If you actually want to have a conversation now’s your chance, otherwise I’m hanging up and your number will be blocked from all suicide hotlines in the city.”

Karl was pissed. Who the fuck is this guy? “I don’t need your help! Why would you say that? I’m trolling you, idiot, and also why—” Karl began. 

“Okay,” the hotline worker cut him off. “So we, the mental healthcare network for this city, are going to block your number and any new numbers you may make in the future. I’m also going to hang up now. But before I go, I think you clearly need serious help. You called the suicide hotline dude! No one does that, even as a joke, unless they need serious help. Help that I hope you’re one day able to accept.” 

With that closing sentence, Karl was hung up on. He quickly stopped recording the conversation and then shut off the camera that was recording him. He was enraged. He did not like the way that hotline worker talked down to him. 

In Karl’s mind, he was just talked down to by someone lesser. In his mind, Karl began using the only coping mechanism that he had for dealing with interpersonal problems — belittling them in his mind. Karl began running through all the ways he was better than this annoying fake virtuous hotline worker. The guy probably makes only $2 an hour at most, while Karl makes an above-average salary of $8 an hour. He was probably fat, Karl added. So this hotline worker is just some poor fat guy who likes to act holier than thou as if he knows better than everyone else. He probably hates himself too. 

That mental image placated Karl, so he refocused on reviewing the video content he had taken that day. After reviewing it he had to admit that it was good content. His questions/comments to the hotline workers were edgy, shocking and, in his opinion, hilarious. He loved making fun of self-righteous people like those workers, who he could tell thought they were actually doing life-saving work. HA! Karl had to laugh at that, they are such jokes. 

He continued to edit his video and made sure to highlight the worker who he made cry and the worker who kept stuttering at his questions. When it came to the last worker, the sad fat one, Karl was tense just watching the video. He noted how his smile disappeared once the guy started talking and how his face turned red. The part where Karl laughed at him and said he was trolling was good though. So he’d just have to cut up and rework that clip. Overall, he was proud of his work and knew that it would make a good video and perhaps would go viral. He stayed up all night editing it, then uploaded it with the caption “Exposing and trolling useless “MeNtAL HeALth” workers — they got MAD.” Then, he left to go to work.

Like all good citizens, when one goes to work they leave their cell phone at home. As there is no need for personal devices at work, they lead to distraction and trouble. So during Karl’s whole teaching shift, he had no idea that his video had gone viral. Like, really viral. By the time he finally got home and checked his phone, his video had 4.5 million views. Karl was shocked. In about 24 hours, 4.5 million people had watched his video, Karl had gained 639K followers and he gained his first balloon badge (the badge that Trapeze users get if they get over 500k followers). After checking his Trapeze account’s analytics, seeing his crazy growth and feeling a pride that he had never felt in his whole life, he decided it was time to look at his comments. 3 million people had commented. Wow. Karl began to read through the comments. 

>Chocofudge: “WTF. He literally could be responsible for someone’s death.”

>Darksun88: Not funny. Grow up.

>Vintagewitchsis: Honestly they should sue him.

>SweetBear: They 100% should sue him. You can’t just call the police if it’s not an emergency. If you do you’ll get sued.

>Thesuburbanerrorist666: What a shitty thing to do. anything for views ig🙄

>AGradeAbove: You do realize that you can just ignore this video right? Log off lol

At this comment, Karl began to notice a change. After hundreds of comments bitching at him about how he’s a bad person or whatever he started to see comments that were supporting him. Finally.

>Divisionix: He’s right tho, we as a society waste so much of our money on “mental health” resources that do nothing.

>Goddess6656: Right. At least they can do something by making us laugh in this video🤷🏼‍♀️

>InspireExcellence100: Bro how are you supposed to help the crazy people who want to kill themselves if you yourself can’t even answer basic questions.🤦🏾

>VenomStone: Facts. They should be fired. They never answered any of his questions.

>AlternativeJurists: The video was funny! The guy was trolling them and they fell for the bait. It’s just jokes.

>AlienBeingz687: It was funny, this guy doesn’t care what anybody thinks he is truly independent and i can’t wait to see what he does next.

>Badandyetblessed333: Same ngl💀

This is what Karl wanted to see. He wanted people to understand that his video was just comedy and what even is comedy if it doesn’t offend lots of people? It’s nothing. If comedy doesn’t hurt certain people then how is it even funny?

The rest of the week passed by so quickly. He was responding to some comments and his video was still giving him views and followers. He was trying to come up with another video and he didn’t want to lose the traction he had gained in such a short period of time. So he decided he’d do a quick live stream on the app. He set up his camera stand, set up the lighting and then sat back down on his couch. He slouched a bit. He didn’t want to look like he cared or like he was one of those internet newbies who tried to make everything look perfect and thought out. He then pressed start, and his livestream began.

“Hey, guys it’s me @ ctrl-alt-Karl. Uh, wow okay, I see a lot of people entering my livestream.” He practically had just started the live and already had 20k viewers.

“I just wanted to say I’m glad you liked the video and I’m impressed that so many of you understand my satire and like, the whole point of the video. I’m also glad it made y’all laugh.”

20k viewers.

“I really appreciate all of the people who commented and to be honest I didn’t want to like bully sad people who called those hotlines before and—”

 18.2k viewers.

“Well actually, I don’t really care. And people want me to apologize but I won’t.”

22k viewers.

“Why should I apologize? It was funny!”

22.3k viewers.

“There are too many sensitive people nowadays. Grow up. No one has to care about your feelings right?” 

24k viewers. 

“Okay, I see some of y’all are leaving. Which is good because I—” Karl paused. He didn’t want to do this but he also didn’t want them to leave. “I’m going to open up the comment section for this live. I want to hear your opinions. And talk to my followers.”

30k viewers.

He started reading the live comments. 

>AlternativeJurists: Your video was mad funny don’t apologize to anyone. That’s what they want.

“Thank you, AlternativeJurists, for the comment, and yeah. Nobody getting an apology from me.” Karl replied, trying to hide his nervousness.

>Fearswaggist: There are hundreds of other funny things you could’ve done. Your just an ass

“Well, Fear, I didn’t do those supposed hundred other things. I did this, take it or leave the live. You’re actually not needed here if you want to kill the mood.” Karl replied. That sounded harsh. He checked the viewer count. 

 33k viewers.

They wanted Karl to be an asshole. That’s when he gets more views. And so he did. He was on live for about another hour in which he showered his supporters with praise and belittled, mocked and attacked his critics. He ended his live by really going in on one of his critics, accusing them of being a bad parent and calling them weak and promising to release another video next week just to piss off more people. The whole exchange set his comment section on fire with anger, outrage and, most importantly for Karl, support for him and his upcoming video. Within 72 hours, the video he uploaded went viral and accumulated 1.1 million followers. His growth was beyond exponential and this was just the beginning. Karl had a purpose now. Get people to think. Get people to feel. Yeah, that was his purpose — wake people up through comedy.

Karl’s next video took a bit longer to film. He knew he had to up the ante. He tried to distill his first video down to what had made it so popular in the first place. He figured it was the fact that he got people upset. The workers he called got really upset and people like to watch other people get upset. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the more people he made upset with his “prank” videos, the more views he would get. 

He decided to prank people by tampering with the stop signs in his city.

Karl’s logic behind this is that it would cause even more outrage and drive more people to his Trapeze account, aiding him in his goal of gaining followers, making himself famous and just obtaining power in general.

One night Karl set up his recording equipment and packed a small duffel bag. In his bag was a hammer, crowbar, 2 bottles of spray paint, red reflective tape and, most importantly, several small wireless hunting cameras. He then set out. Karl was nervous. For his entire life, there has been a curfew. No standard day-working citizen was allowed out at night past 11:00 pm.

By then all standard day-working citizens would have finished work, shopping and other daily tasks; they should be home with their family. Karl wished he had a family. Anyone who was out that late was probably doing something immoral or suspicious, hence the curfew. 

Of course, exceptions were made for police officers, members of the local militia, city officials and obviously standard night working citizens. Karl had no legal reason to be out. He would just walk in the shadows and try his best to draw no attention to himself.

Once Karl had made it out of the residential area and into the commercial area he realized that it was quite vacant. Perfect. He instantly got to work. He pulled out his phone that listed the location of 11 stop signs located at various intersections. Intersections he chose either for how much traffic went by them early in the day, their perceived level of safety, good or bad, the foot traffic in that area, or anything else that would maximize the impact of his prank.

Karl would vandalize the stop signs in various ways. Some he would bend with the crowbar then cover in reflective tape, or he would hammer them till they bent over completely, then cover them in tape, he would bash them, paint them, tape them and maybe bash them again. A cycle he repeated 11 times. His sole purpose was to make them extremely hard to see, which in combination with the heavy smog of the city wasn’t very hard. At each stop sign he defaced, he left a small wireless hunting camera, somewhere hidden like a bush, or clipped onto a trash can, somewhere hidden that still had a close enough view to the stop sign. The camera was truly the most important part, he needed to see the damage this caused. Just thinking about the outrage he would get online made Karl’s heart beat faster. All that interaction and buzz would be all about him. That’s good eating for his hungry new ego. 

By 1:00 am, he was rushing home. He managed to deface the 11 stop signs he had planned to deface. Oddly enough without getting caught, not even one interaction with anyone. City officials or other civilians. He was practically invisible. He didn’t want to push his luck, so he hurried home anyways. On his way home his mind was wholly preoccupied with what the online outcome of this video would be. Would it be bigger than the last? Did he cross the line? Would his account get suspended? Would he lose or gain followers? How many followers could he gain off of this new upload? All of his thoughts were along those lines. What would happen to him online? He never thought about the impact this “prank” would have on him or others in real life. Perhaps to Karl, there was no difference. He certainly acted that way.

The next day he woke up like most days at 4:30am to go to work. For the first time in his whole working life, the day seemed to pass by quickly. As soon as he returned home he opened his laptop. Before he could open the application to monitor the hunting cameras he left at the intersections, he was bombarded by the news section on his laptop. 

“6 injured in crash at intersections 1212a and 1243a due to vandalized stop sign” —Voct Capital News

“3 injured at intersections 5456a and 9765a due to vandalized stop sign” —Manaborne City Times

“School girl killed at intersection 1238b and 3461b due to vandalized stop sign” —Borne News Broadcast

This was the obvious outcome of Karl’s actions. Perhaps even the most desired one, but regardless, Karl was still shocked. Reading through the headlines, he felt as though he couldn’t breathe. As though his ribcage had shrunk and was constricting around his lungs. 

After a moment Karl pushed through that feeling. He was going to make this work for him. The news articles must only be telling a partial truth. The damage couldn’t be that bad. The news always lies and exaggerates. And no one reads or watches it anymore. Most importantly, he didn’t sneak out at night and do all that he did just to cower out at the last moment. He was at least going to finish what he started. He wasn’t a quitter. He finally opened the application that would allow him to see what his hunting cameras had recorded. He watched through the various cameras and even he had to admit it was pretty bad. But it would get a reaction. So he began to edit. 

As soon as Karl returned home from work, he began editing, not stopping until sunrise when he’d have to return to work. He did that for 2 days. Although the video had to be short, he wanted to only include clips that would be entertaining and provocative. He did watch the news coverage about the crashes that occurred. He opened the news app on his phone and searched the “stop sign slaughters,” which in Karl’s opinion, was a load of BS. But what else could a “news” broadcaster do but exaggerate? He could barely begin to imagine what it must have been like in the 21st century where there were multiple news broadcasts all vying for attention. There’s only one news broadcast in the nation, Voct Citizens Connection. One source of news to aid in the unification of the nation. He tuned into the channel for his zone. 

“Good morning, I’m Mary Evans, and you’re watching the Voct Citizens Connection news channel for Manaborne City.” 

Mary replaced the previous news anchor, Beth, who had grown too old. No one wants to hear the ramblings of a 40-year-old woman. Karl thinks Mary is pretty. He doesn’t like thinking she’s pretty. She and the older anchor Walt Williams sit with perfect posture around their semi-circular table. The white lights of the studio make Mary’s blonde hair have an almost reflective sheen. And it almost makes Walt look like he is 60 years old again. Walt has on, as usual, a suit tailored by the gods with his grey hair coiffed in an “effortless” style that Karl just knew took too much time. Before they could begin the rest of their broadcast, the national anthem and the pledge to serve the country had to be played like always. Mary and Walt sat through it with an expressionless look on their face that somehow was both happy but neutral. As the anthem and pledge played Karl really looked at them. In his opinion, they were judging him. Not just him but anyone like him, who doesn’t come from a rich background, who doesn’t vacation outside of the country, who doesn’t get millions of people to kiss their ass. He just knew that they thought they were better than everyone else. He couldn’t stand them. And he knew he wasn’t alone in that sentiment. The anthem and pledge are done and they began talking. They probably don’t even understand the true meaning of our great nation’s pledge, nor do they honour it. Gross people. He was deep in thought and criticisms, but as soon as he heard his Trapeze username mentioned, his attention snapped back to Mary and Walt.

“So the biggest story today coming out of Manaborne City…” Walt begins, addressing the audience in a solemn yet authoritative voice,“…is the injury of 9 people and the death of a school-aged girl.”

“Absolutely heartbreaking,” added Mary.

 “Yes, such a tragedy,” continued Walt.

“And who is responsible? Well, that would be a math teacher by the name of Karl Kells who, just 24 hours ago, went around various intersections in his neighbourhood and defaced 11 stop signs, making them hard for oncoming traffic to see. Police have determined this to be the reason for the injuries. The preexisting smog issue in Manaborne City already makes it hard for drivers to see and, coupled with the battered stop signs, made it so that oncoming vehicles didn’t stop at the areas in which the stop signs have been defaced; leading to 9 people getting injured and 1 person dead.”

“The little girl that died was only 9 years old.” Mary began. “She was described as a caring girl who studied hard at school. She was hit by a car at the 1238b and 3461b intersection. She suffered severe trauma to the head and spine, and was pronounced dead at the scene.” 

Her picture was put on the screen. She was wearing her school uniform, meaning that she was one of the few students in Manaborne City who was academically gifted enough to go into a private school, where the classes are always held in person. She had dark skin and coily hair pulled up into a bun. She wasn’t smiling. Her photo came off the screen and attention was drawn back to Walt and Mary.

“What a pretty little girl,” Mary stated looking at Walt.

“Yes, and we’ve just received the list of the other 9 victims from police: Mark—” Walt began listing the other victims. Karl didn’t care. The biggest issue was the little girl. People wouldn’t be able to understand what Karl was doing if they were too busy getting emotional. Finally, Walt and Mary stopped talking about the victims and started talking about Karl.

Karl desperately wanted to know their opinion of him as it would shape the way he would present his video, which he was still going to upload. He just had to gauge the temperature surrounding his actions, find the flaw in their logic and turn it into an angle for him to weaponize against the mainstream media and use it to garner support for himself as well. Or even just ambivalence towards his actions.

“Now,” Walt started. “You’re probably wondering why Mr. Kells did this. Well, it seems that Mr. Kells is something of a rising social media star. Earlier this month he uploaded a controversial video to his Trapeze account, @ ctrl-alt-Karl. It garnered millions of views and he currently has over 739,000 followers. One can only assume that he defaced the stop signs and caused all this damage, simply for him to create content. I mean, we are practically certain that that is what he planned to do, as the police officers investigating the related intersections found hunting cameras hidden near each defaced stop sign.”

“How awful,” It was now Mary’s turn to speak. “Mr. Kells hurt all those people just for attention. That type of selfishness needs to be eradicated from our great nation, for it is selfish people such as Mr. Kells who hold the rest of us back. He broke the law. He is a criminal.”

“You are absolutely right, Mary,” Walt began. “Defacing those stop signs is a crime, and he is directly responsible for the injuries of those 9 people and the death of the little girl. As we speak there is an ongoing investigation. Mr. Kells will have to answer for what he did and we will—” 

Karl turned off the news broadcast. He had heard enough. They were going to paint him out to be the worst person ever, who just hurts people for his own amusement. All Karl took from that news broadcast was that they were going to lie about him. They didn’t understand, but how could they? They were just mindless puppets for the rich people that actually run the world. They don’t have the lived experience that Karl has, they just don’t understand. But he knew that regular people would understand. So he uploaded his video. 

The next day, Karl went to work, but mentally he was everywhere else. As soon as he got home, he logged into his account to see how his video was doing. It had been up for 16 hours and it had 8 million views, 3.5 million likes, 4.2 million dislikes and 3 million comments.

Looking at those numbers was startling. It was what he had wanted, attention, but to get so much of it so quickly was so shocking. He watched the video one last time before opening the comments. His video showed the confused drivers, he saw drivers almost hit pedestrians, then he saw the crashes that actually hit pedestrians. Karl had obviously left out the little girl getting hit. He had tried his best to edit the video in a comedic way using music, sound effects, lighting and text within the actual video. He thought it looked good, like one of those top fails videos or public freakout complications that used to be popular. He then opened the comments.

>elephantpoolcanefox: This is absolutely disgusting, You should just KYS!!!1!!

>nectarineshark: I’m deleting this app, this is so wicked

>batmanbeginsgravity: Is he going to jail?? 

>incendiessagittarius: I hope so. This is so wrong.

>papillonnixcat: Anything for clout🙄

>citizenkanelog: BRuh he might be responsible for that Lil girl’s death. 

>spiritedawaynova: he’s going to get in so much legal trouble. HE RECORDED HIMSELF COMMITTING A CRIME. 🤦🏼‍♀️

>scarfacemonkey: WHAT CRIME??

>eggplantbird: you can’t go and deface public property. That’s common sense.

>scarfacemonkey: YEah but he didn’t hurt anybody the drivers and dumb pedestrians hurt each other. 😂

At first, most comments Karl saw were against him. But as he scrolled down further he started seeing more support. He knew that people would understand him.

>Hurricanesheepcoke: People are so dumb they should’ve paid more attention 🤷🏼‍♂️

>FlashyPecan: People are taking this way too seriously, they weren’t paying attention when crossing the road, that’s on them!

>MimicStormz888: Exactly they have no one else but themselves to blame for THEIR injuries.🙄

>GorgeousChargerEyez: It’s not that hard to watch where you’re going omfg🤦🏽‍♂️

>ShortPecan444: I just know the media is going to make @ ctrl-alt-Karl seem like he is a bad guy, they love to manipulate 👀

>Smoothbrained: well at least no one died.

>TraveledSoul: A little girl died, at one of the intersections listed in this video.

>Froggyb: Source?

These critical comments were exactly the type of comments that Karl wanted to see. He’d had enough of the self-righteous outrage. He wanted people to see what he was doing and to truly understand it. It was a prank but it was also so much more than that. Karl wanted to highlight how stupid people would be if they can’t see the stop sign, they’ll forget how to cross the road. In Karl’s mind was a perfect metaphor for society. Nobody can think for themselves anymore. At least that is what he was telling himself.

Seeing how much traction his video got and how much debate there was in the comments, he knew he’d make a video to clarify his stance, and validate his supporters.

The next evening he went live. Immediately people were watching his live and commenting. Within minutes he already had 30k people watching him and thousands of people commenting. While all the people were commenting in the chat, yelling at him, supporting him or just voicing their opinions, Karl sat back with an unreadable face. Viewers could see the light of his computer screen reflecting not only on his glasses but on his face. The comments went by so fast that they created the effect of flickering light on his face. Quickly people in the chat started to wonder why he wasn’t talking. After 6 whole minutes, he decided to talk.

“Hello, people who hate me, and hello, critical thinkers. Right now you’ve all seen my latest video where I defaced 11 stop signs all over town to see what the results would be.”

The chat was going wild but Karl had decided earlier on that he wouldn’t address the comments until he had said his piece.

“Now we all know what the results were. First of all, a lot of people are upset because some people did get injured. That’s just not my fault no matter what anybody says. The point of this experiment was to demonstrate that as a society, many people have just become so numb to their surroundings, they don’t pay attention, they don’t think for themselves, I mean, come on, these are roads and sidewalks that people have walked probably for your whole working career and all of a sudden you take away one stop sign and there’s calamity! Why might you ask? Because they have been walking those roads, walking these streets, by rote, without paying attention, without thinking! That’s their fault, not mine. If you can’t see how dangerous this is for us as a society, then I can’t help you. We have become so placated and so zombie-like that we don’t even use our brains anymore. You need a stop sign to tell you to stop at an intersection!? Are you insane?! And let’s be honest, the news is trying to spin this story that I’m just some weird clout-chasing guy and that could not be farther from the truth. I am a respected math professor. I spend my days trying to teach people to think logically and sometimes certain people need to be made an example of for others to learn their lesson. The lesson to take away from what I did to the stop signs is that you need to pay more attention to every aspect of your life. You should be so aware of everything going on around you that if someone removes the proverbial stop signs from your road, you won’t just get hit by a car. You people are so dumb and they’re trying to blame me for people getting hurt, I mean, most of the people who got hurt were fully-grown adults. Yes there was one little girl who got hurt but that’s also… let’s be critical here. Where were her parents? And how are you going to say that this little black girl is in some gifted school? I mean, first of all, how many blacks are in gifted programs? And now we should all feel bad because she’s at a gifted school, blah blah blah. How gifted are you if you can’t cross the road without getting hit? Yes, I went there, and yes, I said it. No I’m not going to apologize. I said it. I just speak the truth. No matter which way the media wants to spin this, I did nothing wrong. The only law I broke was defacing public property. Other than that I broke no laws and I did nothing that anyone could say was immoral. I was just trying to prove a point, start an intellectual debate and provide a space to discuss controversial opinions, and I did, and I will continue to do that! Now let’s read some comments.” 

Karl finished his statement hoping that he sounded confident and not as nervous as he felt. He had said some really harsh things. His heart felt as though it was beating fast but then stopping completely only to continue beating against his chest in an almost painful way. But he ignored it and read out the first comment. 

>FrizzyAngel222: You’re so wicked you damn well know that those injuries are literally all your fault

“Well, actually you’re wrong. Those injuries are not my fault. I know you’re not a lawyer so I don’t know why you’re talking like you are one. Also, your opinion is completely irrelevant and in complete opposition to the 3.5 million people who liked the video.” Karl finished smugly, quickly glancing at the comments happily noting that many people are on his side, cheering him on through comments and emojis. 

31k viewers.


>3FantasyLeechez3: I genuinely support what you’re doing. The complacency and idiocy of people nowadays just need to be highlighted.

Before Karl could even begin to respond he noticed the brief message that appeared in the comment section. He finally had gotten his first donation.

@3FantasyLeechez3 just gifted you $50

“Thanks so much for the gift @ 3FantasyLeechez3,” Karl replied calmly but deep inside he was elated.  

“And yes” Karl continued, “people right now just get to be idiots and not pay attention and never get called out. That mentality needs to be called out and to be honest, it’s funny.”

37k viewers.


>You’re going to face so much legal trouble not only for defacing the signs but also for that little girl and also feel the comment about race was completely unnecessary

“Okay, so I knew I’d get one of these comments from someone who’s using the race card. It’s just a fact that black people in those elite private schools are only there for diversity, forced diversity. The point I was making that went over your head is that the media specifically mentioned the race and education of the little girl to make it seem like I’m taking down a special black person. They are trying to spin a narrative. Second of all, the most I could legally be charged with is defacing the stop signs which is just a fine. That’s it. You’re acting like I committed a huge crime. I didn’t. So you can go crying somewhere else. This comment section is not a place for you to be overly sensitive, or for you to promote your racial division. Statistics don’t lie. We’re talking about facts. If you want to run to the comments crying, go ahead. I don’t care. You’re really just helping my engagement numbers.” 

42k viewers.


>You’re awful you can’t just go around fucking with people for clout or entertainment.

“Okay, here’s another overly-sensitive person. I’m not actively going out and targeting people. I’m just laying the foundation for people to make either good decisions or bad decisions. In my previous video they could’ve hung up on me. In this car video they could’ve just paid more attention, but I am not making targeted attacks, okay? I’m just demonstrating human behaviour, it is a social experiment. If you can’t see what I’m trying to do now you’ll just never get it.”

48k viewers.


>You’re absolutely right to do what you did people nowadays are just so focused on things that don’t matter like and just the material world I guarantee that people in the 2020s wouldn’t have gotten hit. Simply because people back then were just so much more awake to the reality of the world.

“I agree, the past was so much better in almost every way.” 

>“I can’t wait to see what you come up with next and I really hope you don’t get beaten down or silenced because I really think that you’re one of the few people brave enough to use this platform to use comedy and shock value, to tell the truth about modern society.”


 “See that’s all I’m trying to do, thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate it, man.”

>You just gained a follower for life man! I will watch all the videos you post and trust me there’s a whole group of people who really support this type of content. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s shocking, but there is also so much truth in it like you hold up a mirror to our society.


“Thank you, that’s all I’m trying to do! Make funny content that’s shocking but also very true. It’s social commentary and social experiments. I want people to wake up and see the reality around them, and how society truly works. And guess what? I’m just getting started! Keep following me and your life will change for the better, you’ll gain a whole new perspective!” 

 51k viewers.


He kept talking to his supporters for 3 more hours. Drowning his supporters in love and praise, while ruthlessly mocking his critics even if they were not ruthless in their critique of him. By the end of his livestream, he had earned $11,594.  

He felt proud of himself. He had succeeded in his goal to make money, to stir debate but still be entertaining. As he sat at his desk with the camera and lighting set up off, he reflected on his work so far. He had only uploaded 2 videos and done 2 live streams, yet he had skyrocketed to online popularity and was mentioned in the national news. 

He clearly was offering content that people were hungry for, and he knew if he kept doing what he was doing, he’d achieve his goals. Karl wanted the fame, the money, the status and the success. He wanted to feel proud, yet his heart dropped every time he thought about what he’s been doing. He was responsible for the death of a little girl. A little girl who could’ve been one of his students, but she wasn’t because she was so smart that she was getting taught in person by teachers better than Karl. And now she’s dead. Karl really didn’t want to feel guilty, but he couldn’t help it. 

He had said some very disparaging things about the mentally ill. Clearly, he was not the only one who thought that, judging from the extreme popularity of that video. It was controversial but extremely liked. It was evident that video content disparaging the mentally ill was desired by millions of people. Many saw them as worthless, annoying and worthy of ridicule. 

Karl had felt that way too, even though he was 14 when he was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. He felt shame because of that. 

To Karl, the diagnosis essentially said that he was just nervous about everything all the time and that he was mentally weak. That he was not an ideal man, and he was a drag on society as it may affect his productivity. He had wholly rejected the diagnosis. He never acknowledged his problem, in fact, he actively chose to ignore it within himself and never address it while mocking those that do. “You need serious help. Help which I hope you’re one day able to accept.” Those were the words of the last hotline worker he had called. In that moment those words deeply angered Karl. Of course, Karl edited the final video to make it seem like he had won that interaction against the hotline worker, but now Karl could see he really hadn’t. His issues were perhaps so visible, and he was so transparent that anyone with an ounce of empathy could see how ill Karl was inside, and how ill he often felt. Yet he still chose to mock those who sought help. Karl tensed for a moment at the thought that, by mocking those who seek out help, he in turn became the weak one. The thought troubled him deeply.  

Throughout all of his life, the one thing that could make everything in his world seem okay was when he could make himself feel more important or more worthy than someone beneath him. He liked to frame what he knew deep inside to be bigotry as harsh truths or scientific facts rather than illogical assumptions based on extreme emotions, such as fear, hatred or jealousy. He moved through his life categorizing people, mostly in a conscious way, but often unconsciously as worthy or unworthy people. The unworthy generally being anyone to who he could not relate to. Someone who didn’t have several generations within his nation, who wasn’t straight, who didn’t hold the same traditional values as him, who didn’t have the same body or genitalia, who didn’t share the same patriotism for his nation, someone who “embraced” their mental illness, even someone who he could relate to in most aspects but who did not agree with all Karl’s opinions, would be looked at as worthless. 

Thinking and behaving in such a way made Karl feel adequate. At least he wasn’t born as inherently unworthy as “those” people. But as he grew older, as he had more moments of silent reflection, as he looked inward to understand his persistent feeling of emptiness. He had to admit that he was using his hatred of others to mask the deep void within him. He didn’t necessarily believe that there were people who were born unworthy, and he didn’t believe that people born different than him were worse off or alien in any way. He just wanted to feel better about how he was born and the choices he had made or refused to make.

By saying cruel things and behaving in abhorrent ways to those different from him, he was able to let out some of his anger. He’d pour his negative feelings onto others, and by making them feel inadequate, he felt better about himself. As if he was a vampire who, instead of blood, fed off of draining other people’s peace and joy. In person, Karl would make comments about someone’s race or sexuality. Online, he’d join groups and forums to spread hatred and lies about various groups and even individuals. He was a bastion of negativity, and he’d meet people on those forums, though they could never be real friends, the people he’d meet were too consumed by their own venom. He’s been participating in the spreading of hatred his whole life. The only difference was that he had now figured out a way to monetize it.  

Even though Karl should be happy about his sudden success, he isn’t. Karl wasn’t unique. He simply voiced people’s worst thoughts, thoughts that he mentally knew were wrong.

Fear and disgust towards things or people who are different is such a base human instinct. Anyone could get online and spout the rhetoric, which Karl had to admit was based purely on illogical thinking and emotion. But they didn’t. For a moment Karl tried to hold onto that, the fact he actually did those things and made the videos. He tried to use that as what made him special. But that didn’t improve his mood much.  

Karl sat in his chair at his desk with the lights off, trying to come to terms with his new career path. Because that’s what this was now. He, in no time, would be fired. By causing the death of that little girl he had essentially fired himself and made it so that no reputable company would ever hire him. Which he thought he would be okay with. But now he could never go back to a regular job. Maybe he didn’t even want to. 

He had always valued hard work, but is saying vile shit and hurting people hard work? It pays extremely well, so there must be some redeemable quality about it. Right? Karl couldn’t stand this endless barrage of thoughts, so he hastily got up from his desk and prepared to go to bed. No more dwelling on the days he had, and what he did. 

Naturally, he had vivid dreams, nightmares really. He dreamt of bones. Human bones being smashed and snapped. Skin being peeled off. Muscles, flesh and tendons wrap around each other and twist into unnatural shapes. Women scream until they vomit bright red blood that turns black as it pours through the streets. He dreams of the death of the little girl whose name he never cared to remember. With a jolt of fear he pulls himself out of sleep, the imagery almost causing him pain. 

No matter how he framed it, no matter what he did, he knew that if it weren’t for him, the girl would still be alive. He can no longer sleep. He can’t do that again. He can’t do something so extreme to prove his point that he kills somebody.

But what would he do instead? 

His audience is there for his edge, for the thrills, for the implications of violence and pain, inflicted on those deserving of it. And he gets paid well for it. Karl did not grow up wealthy. Why should he lose out on making money? If his next video was toned down he would certainly lose followers and money in the process. It was also certain that if he kept up with his extremities, he would end up hurting many people. Perhaps even causing death. 

Karl, knowing he wouldn’t sleep that night, got up, flicked on the room light and sat at his desk once again, staring into the darkness of his computer monitor. 

He wasn’t delusional. His content was popular because it was edgy. Not edgy in the cool, avant-garde, thought-provoking way, but in a way that deemed emotions, like sympathy, useless, and the desire to help others unlike oneself laughable. The infliction of pain and suffering onto innocents deemed admirable. Any mention of creating an egalitarian society would be deemed offensive and downright blasphemous. That kind of edgy.  

Karl sat practically frozen in the same spot, for what seemed like hours. He pondered the choices that have led up to this moment. He reflected on his behaviours so far. If he had to describe himself using one word, he’d use the word “pathetic”. In moments of simple disagreement, he would say deceitful and cruel things, though later he’d always come to regret it. It cost him jobs, it cost him romantic relationships but most importantly, it cost Karl his family. 

As Karl recalled all the incidents where he had hurt people, he began to feel pressure in his chest. A mix of disgust and sadness, but mainly anger. 

Unbeknownst to Karl, this was the most pivotal moment in his whole life. He was positioned at a moral crossroads so consequential, that the path he chose would affect millions, if not billions of lives. 

He only has two options.

Reject the notion that his bigoted opinions may be incorrect. Reject the idea that those lesser and weaker than him may have valuable insight into anything. Treat others without basic respect because no one is deserving. Never restrain from unleashing a negative comment or thought. To act in a way that brings more stress and misfortune into his personal life. Profit off of the prejudice of others, and continue making content that is harmful. Use stochastic terrorism to fan the flames of hatred in people’s hearts while making even more money and gaining even more clout, more “power.” All to constantly chase the fleeting high that comes with feeling mentally and physically superior. By taking this path, he could give into all of his base instincts and tribalism. He would never have to think critically about others, or even himself. He could live a life full of pure ignorance, which many said was bliss.  

The second path would require him to acknowledge his faults, and understand and dismantle his prejudices. Confront the thoughts and patterns of bigotry that not only have the possibility to hurt others, but have been proven to hurt himself and cost him important things in his life. This path would lead him to live life by the golden rule. Enabling him to treat others how he would like to be treated. To love how he would like to be loved. To see others as whole people, the way he wants to be seen as a whole person. To listen to others as he would like to be listened to. To protect others in times of need how he would like to be protected. He could begin to give his life its own meaning. In order to make life as enjoyable as it could be for himself and enable him to leave this earth knowing he evolved past basic human instinct. That he reached his full emotional and mental potential as a human.

Karl weighed the two options. He thought about his own values, he thought about which one would bring him happiness. He also thought about which path would bring him money, and which path would bring him notoriety or social clout. 

Karl, still sitting tensely at his desk, staring into the abyss of his computer’s monitor, closed his eyes and then abruptly stood up. 

He was going to walk down the first path. 

He was going to continue sparking outrage. He was never going to think deeply about any problem. He will never apologize and he will never empathize with those lesser than him. He was going to continue monetizing stochastic terrorism. He would continue to burn bridges and prevent anyone from caring about him as a human being. He would become an orifice that spouts the most inflammatory bigoted content about anyone and everything that he could not or did not want to relate to. He would harass and dehumanize anything other. He would disguise his vitriol in a cool, calm and logical way, in order to not scare away potential consumers of his rhetoric. He was going to obtain power, he was going to obtain the status, the money. That was the promise he made to himself. 

Karl walked over to the sole window in his room. It was small, square and always dirty.  He stared out of it. In his mind had finalized his life path. He knew that he would never turn back. He still felt anxious, but having a plan in place, and knowing his goals calmed him slightly. Karl leaned against the wall beside the window and smiled slightly. He even began to reframe his opinion about his actions. He was harsh but reality is always harsh. So really, is what he said and what he will say even that harmful? He was getting excited. He had solidified his path in life, now all he had to do was stay on it. He knew it would lead him to success. He returned to staring out the window, imagining what his next video would be.

The world would never know what Karl could’ve become had he chosen to contribute good into the world. How many people could he have inspired? How many people could he have helped? Could he have changed his nation for the better? He had the capacity to do so much yet chose not to. No matter how Karl had spun it, the only reason he chose to spread hatred, fear and division, was because it was easy. For all the years human society has existed, those who wish to elevate humanity, whether it be in terms of scientific understanding, compassion, logical reasoning, in terms of human equality or creating positive change in a way have been punished, silenced, or killed. Scientists have been locked away for daring to oppose religious institutions and suggest that the earth revolves around the sun. A computer scientist who invited techniques and machines that saved and improved millions of lives was euthanized for being in love with another man. Those who wished for slavery to end were beaten and hung from trees. Those who wanted equality between the sexes were killed, locked up or silenced. Women who possessed knowledge that was seen as above their mental capacity were drowned.

Violently and aggressively hating change, even change that one knows to be positive, is sadly human’s most long-lasting trait. Karl was not unique or revolutionary, he was just doing what billions had done before him. Block progress by playing on people’s fear, lack of understanding, bigotry or willful ignorance. 

At the age of 33, Karl was found dead in his luxury villa with his brains blown out all over the cream-coloured fur carpet in the master bedroom. Chunks of the organ and skull were scattered on the floor. His body was discovered after 3 days, and by the time the police came, birds had flown in through a window and were pecking and eating whatever was left of Karl’s remains. Police surveying the scene noted the birds, but also the blood stains that may have irreversibly damaged his one-of-a-kind loveseat with a real ivory frame. 

 His cause of death was ruled a suicide, and though many believed it was murder, no one cared enough to look further into it. He was cremated quickly. Trapeze, the company Karl had helped popularize, whose new network he was hosting a talk show on, released a simple statement confirming his death in one sentence and announcing his replacement in the next. His villa was bought, with the help of Trapeze, by Karl’s replacement, Mark. It was a perfect fit for Mark as it was close to the studio where their weekly show was filmed. Mark was also able to rid the one-of-a-kind loveseat with a real ivory frame of the blood stains. Karl was officially gone.

Mark used Karl’s talking points on his new show. And the audience loved him. He was spreading the same inflammatory venom but he spoke with a passion. A passion that Karl lacked. Mark was just perfect for the show as Karl’s ratings were getting worse and worse, with viewership dropping by thousands every week. The cool calm way in which Karl spoke was getting old. The show was even rumoured to be getting cancelled. Mark truly saved the show. Many people who previously liked Karl joked that Trapeze saved the show by “taking out the trash.” 

Karl’s death was celebrated by his critics and supporters alike. 

His words left no impact on anyone or anything. He had no family, he had no lovers, he had no friends, he inspired no one, he helped no one. He did, however, use words to spark and justify violent hatred that resulted in thousands of deaths. Within a week he was completely forgotten. He was never talked about again. 

His life up until his death was filled with fostering hate and resentment and encouraging others to think and hate the same way. He lived and died hated and alone, even when surrounded by people. His legacy, if you could call it that, was that he was a poison-spreading coward. Who never had an original thought, who hated questioning his own beliefs, who hated life, who hated empathy, who hated love, who hated happiness, who hated others and who above everything hated himself. He had so much potential. Yet he chose to live a life that was “easy”.

He hurt others and himself, he wasted all his potential and his life. He could’ve given his life meaning, he could have tried to enjoy his fleeting experience on earth, but he chose to live life as if its only meaning was to hurt as many people as possible, including himself. His life was one of constant emotional and mental pain. 

The worst part was, he had no one to blame but himself. 

Ignorance costs. It takes payment from you, mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually or in any way possible. It will always cost, sometimes severely.  

Sadly, Karl’s story is not, has not, and may never be, unique.


Never Wrong, Always Right