Monday, January 16, 2017

Vox Popoli: Social media and the threat to the status quo

Social media and the threat to the status quo
I don't think it is a coincidence that we're seeing a growing push against social media from the Left, as it has largely ceased to serve their social justice purposes and has now been transformed into a sword that cuts both ways:

We are learning that all of our thoughts aren’t welcome, especially by social media company investors. We are also learning that social media companies are a business. This means conversation is encouraged as long as it runs the gamut from mundane to vicious but stops at the overtly sexual or violent. Early in its life-cycle Pinterest made a big stink about actively banning porn while Instagram essentially allowed all sorts of exposition as long as it was monetizable and censored. Facebook still actively polices its photographs for even the hint of sexuality as an artist named Justyna Kiesielewicz recently discovered. She posted a staid nude and wanted to run it as an targeted advertisement. Facebook mistakenly ran the ad for a while, grabbing $50 before it banned the image. In short the latest incarnation of the expository impulse is truncated and sites like Facebook and Twitter welcome most hate groups but most draw the line at underboobs.

Further, social media is no longer protected. As careless CEOs quickly discover saying the wrong thing in a “private” chat or deleting an errant tweet does not mean someone won’t screencapture your rant. In fact social media has become an id and ego collector, a fly strip where all of our worst thoughts are captured permanently. We exhale in anger and chuff in frustration. We tell people to unfollow us if they don’t like what we’re saying and we turn neighborhood pages into political cesspools. Then, when we cross too many perceived boundaries, an army of trolls is ready to pounce and our private spaces become public very quickly.

In short social media is no longer a safe place. I don’t mean this in the politically correct sense but in the very mental and physical sense. Whereas the web was once a broadcast medium it is now a two-way or many-to-many medium. Our errant Twitter thoughts can make us targets and we often don’t know we’re being watched. Entire wars can break out online that have real-world consequences – see Pizzagate – and hoaxes flit through the memetic bloodstream like cancer, breaking down our defenses. A prominent writer and friend recently mused about what would happen if he posted some political rants. The first thing that leapt to his readers’ minds was the potential for SWATing and doxing and then an visit from the FBI. Then, as evidenced by the above CEO example, you get fired.

Social media has become a very real, very visceral, and very censorial force and it can now only worsen the human condition. It was once an experiment but that experiment is over.

That being said, this is a genie who won't be easily put back in the bottle, because it still serves too many powerful and vested interests. What we can expect is what we are starting to see; a one-sided crackdown that will ultimately fail because it necessarily sacrifices the moral level of war, and in its hypocrisy, gives up both the moral and intellectual high grounds.

The intrinsic problem that the Left faces is that in its constant attempts to destroy every Right-wing figure who surfaces, those who survive become impervious to their methods and become examples to others. Observers then learn what approaches work, such as the open antifragility pioneered by the likes of MILO and Stefan Molyneux, and which ones don't, such as the aggressive anonymity that is easily neutered by a simple doxxing.

The Left can't win on an equal playing field, so they have fought dirty for nearly a century. That was effective so long as the Right was the establishment and sensitive to accusations of fairness and violating its own standards. But now the Alt-Right is rising, and has demonstrated that it is capable of winning on an equal playing field or tilting the field, as needed. This is why their attempts to discredit, disqualify, and destroy will be more furious than ever, and why antifragility and reliable allies rather than anonymity are necessary for every Alt-Right and Alt-Lite figure, however minor.