December 8, 2018

Is it Facebook?

It has been a crazy time in the U.S. recently, and I suppose, across the globe where fascism truly appears to be rising like a bad fungal infection.

Is it Facebook?

Is it Facebook? Not Fox, not AM radio talking heads?

It has been a crazy time in the U.S. recently, and I suppose, across the globe where fascism truly appears to be rising like a bad fungal infection. In the US, I've always been inclined to blame sources like Fox News and AM radio where there's real Fear Capitalism.

It's like conservative media creators took the 'cliffhangers at every commercial break' ideas from modern television and dialed it up to eleven so it's just always. on. every. minute. of. every. day. But recently I came across an article ("Twilight of the Racist Uncles") describing how Facebook has enabled this right-wing anxiety megaphone.

"What has truly fueled the Boomers’ transition from “means well, but  sometimes frustrating” to Trumpian insanity is Facebook. There the fix  is constant. There all of their worst impulses are collectively  reinforced, constantly rewarded, and ceaselessly amplified."

This, in conjunction with the revelations of Facebook's mismanagement, or thorough lack of caring to near-levels of misandry, up to and including hiring a PR firm that uses the most base attacks (antisemitism, for example) in an attempt to discredit their critics, paints a pretty nasty picture.

Besides - Fox News and people like Rush Limbaugh have been around for ages, and things have infrequently ventured beyond the (publicly at least) mildly distasteful. So what's going on? Additionally, conservatives have had complete control over the entirety of the government for two years, but the ones I shared a table with for Thanksgiving were just as foul - possibly even more so - than they were while the much-hated Obama was in the White House.

I'd really like to see some sociological data - things like number of Christmas lights up in neighborhoods with an average household income of $20-40k, and $80-100k, during the first two years of the last 4 presidential terms. Probably would be good to include some figures regarding how festive - 2-3 strings low-festive, anything above high-festive.

The lights up in my neighborhood seem to have gotten more and more sparse over the last few years. Is it because of how warm it is? Growing anxiety? It almost seems like the plot of a bad Christmas movie, where friends and neighbors no longer care about each other but the "Spirit of Christmas" saves the day in the end - but, where's our "Spirit of Christmas"? People are just pissy at each other, and hurling racial epithets, and kicking each other on public transportation.

I don't know, something is cranking things up, and the normal sources being blamed (I'm guilty of this, too) haven't changed enough to have moved the needle like this. How much of this is outside influence, like Russian Facebook ad buys, and how much of it is just angry, scared echo-chamber?

Spend a full hour reading right-wing Facebook. It is like a funhouse mirror; you’ll feel the what-was-in-those-cookies sense of having entered a fantasy world of grievance and rage—a Lewis Carroll version of  The Turner Diaries, a John Birch Society children’s book for sundowning grandpas. It is a barrage of propaganda crafted around the  biases of old white people to exploit their deepest racial fears and authoritarian-follower personality traits. Much of it makes Fox News look tame and responsible by comparison. Toy commercials could only  dream of reaching kids as effectively as the right-wing noise machine hooks our elders.

Democrats have taken back the House, and there were some stunning wins there including a never before seen number of women, women of color and even scientists grabbing some seats - and I agree with the pundits that say that the midterms were a "clear repudiation" of Trump's (and the GOP's) latest contributions to the country. However, it's still not clear what that's going to look like in the coming months. Brakes are being applied, but will it help mellow things out, or will things just get more out of hand?