Saturday, November 5, 2016

Social Media Enables Prejudice to Slip Back Into the Mainstream

Blah, blah, blah.

Everybody's prejudiced about something. It's human nature.

I mean, Hillary Clinton slammed Bernie Sanders' supporters as a "basket of losers," and I don't see leftists getting all uptight about that.

See? Prejudices.

But check Edward Luce, at FT, "The age of vitriol: Edward Luce on US politics and social media":

I was first alerted to Richard B Spencer by a horrific Twitter post. The tweet in question showed the ubiquitous photo of a Syrian boy, face covered in blood and dust, with the tagline: “Hey, let’s start WWIII for this f***king kid!” Like most people who saw it, I was offended. That, of course, was the point. Unlike many of his peers, Spencer tweets under his real name. He then revels in the outrage.

Provocation is the goal of the so-called alt-right — the amorphous world of rightwing extremist groups that have thrived in the age of Donald Trump. Memes, such as the one of the Syrian boy, are their weapon. Notoriety is their oxygen. The past year or two have been a field day. “No matter what happens, I will be profoundly grateful to Trump for the rest of my life,” says Spencer.

After what seems like the worst-tempered US election ever, America will at last make its decision on Tuesday. History may look back on 2016 as the year when the US finally chose a woman to lead it, or when the postwar US-global order started to break up. Others will remember it as the election when a rank outsider — a reality-TV star, no less — stormed the citadel and changed the way the game was played.

For my part, having lived in America on and off since the end of the past century, this is the year when democracy’s sense of restraint seemed to vanish. The glue of mutual respect that is so vital to any free society came unstuck. People no longer bother trying to persuade each other. They simply shove their views — or the mere fact of their identity — in your face. Or else they just insult you. The more retweets the better.

For all its pluses, social media has drowned politics in vitriol. New technology has opened up a galaxy of thought once confined to libraries, but it has also enabled ancient prejudices to seep back into the mainstream — anti-Semitism, for example, and hatred of women. In the past few months, the Twitter hashtags #whitegenocide (the view that whites are endangered by multiculturalism) and #repealthe19th (the US constitution’s 19th amendment gave women the right to vote) have trended heavily.

Obnoxiousness has infected all sides of the spectrum but the right has learnt how to play the game better. Partly because it is rebelling against political correctness, it works with fewer boundaries, or none at all. The level of trust between electors and elected has been falling for years. In 2016 the electorate has begun to turn viciously on itself. Is this a blip or a permanent shift? The future of free society may depend on the answer. Democracy cannot prosper for long in a swamp of mutual dislike...
Dramatic much Mr. Luce?

There's more to life than social media. My solution to ugliness and rancor is the be nice. I say hello to everyone, especially at my school. I catch my students off guard when I remember their names and say hello to them outside on the walkways. They really like that, although most don't tell you because they're shy and often don't have many social skills, partially because they spend so much time staring down at an electronic screen.

A solution of course is to get people to interact with each, and to double-down and decency and respect. It's as simple as holding a door for someone, or letting someone pass in front of you (without cutting them off, which is something that happens to me a lot, and that's before social media came along; society's been coarsening for some time).

More at the link.