TL:DR and trigger warning. This post is for my own sanity and for people who are trying to pay attention to the collapsing everything. It asks more questions than it answers.
Since the recent spate of bannings on social media, I feel I should write a little more on the subject. Digital censorship is something I’ve written about at some length in the past and most of my conclusions about the issue remain the same as they were last time round. I don’t want to dwell on it too much now but ICYMI, the digital hammer is coming down again, repeatedly. All over the place. Like cyber whack-a-mole.
Simultaneously, the right wing, billionaire owned corporate media and their chums in parliament have inadvertently revealed the most problematic elephant in the room.
Palestine anti-semitism debate flame war has been fueled by the anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel lobby to epic proportions now. As absurd as it is, this #WreathGate mullarkey seems to have been a significant watershed moment. Corbyn’s graceful, powerful riposte to Netanyahu on twitter seems to have galvanised pro-Corbyn and pro-palestinian supporters, who have been speaking up louder than ever. The way people are thinking and talking about the world is finally, dramatically changing, on Israel/Palestine and an overwhelming number of other significant things that really matter, materially and ‘spiritually’ for want of a better word.
In this context, the social media crackdown looks like an inevitable overreaction by the status quo against the internet’s rising consciousness, which is once again threatening to disrupt business as usual. Whether it’s ‘top down’ collusion and censorship, co-ordinated campaigns by third parties to get certain channels suspended, or both is largely irrelevant at this point. (It looks like a bit of both to me).
Between all this and the chaos of Trump and Brexshit, most people’s attention has been diverted away from grappling with the painful reality of the actual apocalypse, the 6th Mass Extinction event which is escalating, rapidly. Here too, an awful lot more people are engaging with it than ever before though.
The ‘digital commons’ still represents one of our best hopes for developing, discovering, sharing and implementing positive global solutions to the greatest challenge in history: Survival.
Ironically, the carbon footprint of this digital activity now needs to be factored into our calculations too. We need to be more efficient than ever.
Like the 6th Mass Extinction, digital censorship is a tricky subject to discuss without causing some sort of consternation, if not panic. It’s a pernicious, time consuming rabbit hole, filled with all manner of paranoid traps and monstrous trolls to provoke our worst aspects and fuck with our deep psyche. Astro-turfed sock puppet guardians of the status quo at every turn, a creeping sense of despair the further into the warren you get. Neurotic, interminably depressing quicksand that paralyses you into self-censorship, cognitive dissonance and inaction.
These heinous caveats aside, things are finally changing and rapidly. There is a growing awareness of the extent to which the monopolistic social media platforms have been fucking with our behaviour and perception of objective reality. People are responding to it, or at the very least, people are reacting to it.
Those honest facebook ads are really getting around… pic.twitter.com/MI4zg7TmAH
— Protest Stencil (@protestencil) 15 August 2018
Those of us who are old enough to remember myspace (and the internet before myspace) recognise this cycle of fuckery. I’ve never seen it reach quite this pitch, or frequency before though.
Usually, this part of the cycle involves the question of whether Government should take responsibility for the ‘digital commons’. This time, James Corbett and others are warning (again) that the implications of the proposed legislation could be disastrous for the future of the free internet and by proxy, humanity. Given the Cambridge Analytica ‘revelations’ (and others) this too seems almost irrelevant at this point. It’s not just the alphabet agencies and the advertising industry. It’s widespread social conditioning and behavioural manipulation, as Jaron Lanier and various other insiders and whistleblowers have patiently explained, in great detail now.
Many people, like Jaron Lanier and James Corbett advocate going all the way and deleting our social media accounts altogether and/or embracing new alternative, emergent platforms, such as steemit and D-tube. Steemit’s business model is to remunerate it’s content creators and users for their content and activity, if I understand it correctly. I’m trying to get a steemit account set up but there’s a 1-3 week queue at the moment.
Many others have officially or unofficially ‘gone dark’ on the big social media platforms, leaving their pages up but rarely if ever posting publicly. Going dark might be a good tactic in terms of both limiting the carbon footprint of our digital activity and in terms of being efficient and effective with personal time and energy. Using the platforms, rather than them using us. Less aimless fucking about, flaming and shitposting. More focus.
I haven’t decided yet but am veering towards going dark myself. The arguments for not deleting my accounts yet are
- archival posterity
- ‘potential reach’ factor of the monopolies’ networks.
- positive personal interactions with friends, family, supporters and strangers.
- The nightmare of the monopoly platforms hosting no alternative views at all and the effect of this on society.
- The inclination to speak out now more than ever on the things that matter, to show solidarity and amplify unity consciousness.
There’s also the toxic allure of pointlessly jousting with challenging trolls, bots, spies and so on…which I am getting better at resisting.
Regardless whether you choose to delete your accounts or go dark, I’m personally inclined to start focusing more on the next wave of social media, some of which which promises remuneration in return for your participation. Cynically, I have no doubt that this promise is just the start of the same cycle beginning again though, and the ‘remuneration’ is quite likely to be illusory, as it has proved to be in the past.
Make Orwell Fiction Again
In George Orwell’s introduction to Animal Farm he noted that, “The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary”.
This is still true today. The worst thing about the modern algorithms, (as with pre-internet censorship techniques) is their psychological effect on the individual. Today, it feels like neo-neo-McCarthyism. On steroids. There is certainly some equivalency between those who are now ‘going dark’, or abandoning social media altogether and those who self-censored during the original McCarthyist witch hunts of the ‘second Red Scare’ in the 40s and 50s, when the term ‘McCarthyism’ was first coined. It’s a degenerate way of thinking that has it’s origins in actual witch hunts and trials. Probably goes even further back than that. The connection to the current state of play with social media is somewhat tenuous but certainly bears mentioning. There were equivalent mass hypnosis mechanisms before television, radio and the printing press.
The big question with social media now is whether or not we should really be fighting for a digital ‘commons’ which seemingly doesn’t give a fuck about us, beyond the value of our data? Might our time be better invested in exploring new digital infrastructure, which might better serve us? Will the quality of our discourse improve if we disperse to a plethora of niche channels, or might this exacerbate the ‘filter bubble’ phenomenon?
Is there still time for any of this to really matter anyway, bearing in mind that the 6th Mass Extinction event is proceeding apace without any where near enough response from humanity as a whole?
The one thing I can say with any degree of certainty is that it’s probably time for us to start dusting off and doublechecking our old school, off-grid communications systems, before the grids start to fail. And get back to small scale organic agriculture.
Besides steemit, I’m interested in setting up a patreon account but I still have bitter memories of being frozen out of that project because I didn’t have access to chip and pin banking for so long. #digitalapartheid. I would really like to crowdfund my own basic income though and others have managed to accomplish this using patreon. Despite the fact that patreon take a cut, I think?
Another site I’m interested in exploring (which doesn’t involve a remuneration incentive AFAIK), is kialo.com which seeks to “cut through the noise typically associated with social and online media, making it easy to engage in focused discussion”.
From a very quick search, it looks like there are dozens of new platforms emerging now, catering to all manner of niches. I plan to start investigating them and will doubtless report back once I’ve got a better idea of what the state of play is out there.
If you’ve got a digital platform that you think my stuff might be helpful on, feel free to share, reblog rip and mirror whatever you like.
Keep it lit, be excellent to each other.
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The Extinction Symbol represents extinction. It is quite important to raise awareness of the 6th Mass Extinction, particularly as corporate power invests so much pretending that it isn’t really happening…