“… Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few other large platforms unwittingly dissolved the mortar of trust, belief in institutions, and shared stories that had held a large and diverse secular democracy together. ” — Jonathan Haidt
Haidt pegs what he calls the fall of the Tower of Babel to be somewhere between 2011 and 2015… the year of the Trump. He is clear. Trump didn’t destroy the tower… “he merely exploited its fall.” While I was making fun of Trump thinking in a pre-Babel mindset, Trump was exploiting the post-Babel world. I had not caught up to how fast the change occurred. In the post-Babel era, outrage is the key to virality. It doesn’t matter if you have competence. You need stage performance.
Want to go viral? Be outraged. It doesn’t even need substance. Just be loud and angry.
“Social media has given voice to some people who had little previously, and it has made it easier to hold powerful people accountable for their misdeeds, not just in politics, but in business, the arts, academia, and elsewhere.”
All forms of media have upside. The #MeToo movement without Twitter would leave us with some nasty people still living in powerful spaces.
It also has a downside. Social media gives everyone a dart gun. Trolls and provocateurs are out in force while good folks are silenced. I will readily admit I am far more subdued now than 10 years ago. (If there is anyone left reading these posts, that may seem like a shock. It’s not. I had far more daring conversations with people one on one and in small groups ten years ago than I dare to have in a post online. You could have asked me ten years ago what I thought about a LOT of hot potato topics, such as gay marriage, and I would have been far more bold to state my thinking in a group I trusted.)
Dart guns wielded by trolls come out and work to bring down reasonable voices in the evangelical world like Beth Moore, Russell Moore, and in my own new tribe, Esau McCauley and Tish Warren Harrison. It should be embarrassing. It is not.
Power is wielded by the political extremes. Radical to the left and right. It comprises a whopping 6 percent of the American population.
I can remember several years ago when conservative Republican Eric Cantor (a ranking member in Congress) lost is primary election to someone running to the right of Cantor. Not an easy thing to do! The result in Congress was that a small group of Democrats and Republicans quietly working on serious immigration reform quit talking to each other. Republicans left the table. If a hard right member of Congress like Cantor could be “primaried,” the rest of them were going to shut up and toe the hard right line on immigration. A primary that involved 20,000 or so votes shut down the immigration debate for the entire country.
This is how it works now. A tiny group can control the narrative and shut down all possibility of the work of democracy and governing.
This is the MONEY PARAGRAPH in Haidt’s article. DO NOT MISS THIS:
“These two extreme groups (hard right and radical left, making up 6 percent of the nation’s population) are SIMILAR in surprising ways. (A case I made in 2015 and 2016 with Trump supporters and what I called “Bernie Bros.”) They are the WHITEST and richest of the seven (class) groups, which suggests that America is being torn apart by a battle between two subsets of the elite who are not representative of the broader society. what’s more, they are the two groups that show the greatest homogeneity in their moral and political attitudes.”
Please… PLEASE… read that paragraph again. And again.
Let me put it to you bluntly. (I’m reverting back to my ten year ago self.) These are all WHITE PEOPLE PROBLEMS.
The world has changed on us as whites and we simply don’t know what to do. So, we go extreme, throw our fits, and try to rage our way back into control.
These are extreme groups that use social media to administer their form of justice without due process. Twitter is the Wild West. Innocent people may lose jobs. Vulnerable people are shamed into suicide.
It’s a mess… a white people mess… and we don’t want to clean it up. We want to blame other groups.
I thought I could finish all of this up, but I’m going to give it a rest and move on to part 4 in a bit.