Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New York Times Discovers Cyber Racism

There is a ton of ugly, nasty, racist stuff on the Internet, and it occasionally inspires somebody to tear himself away from his screen long enough to commit mass mayhem. And The Times is on it.

In light of the well-publicized eruption of Internet-addicted people who act out correlating with Trump's racist rhetoric, columnist Frank Bruni goes so far as to flatly predict that "the Internet will be the death of us."  

What a glittering dream of expanded knowledge and enhanced connection it was at the start. What a nightmare of manipulated biases and metastasized hate it has turned into....
The internet is the technology paradox writ more monstrous than ever. It's a nonpareil tool for learning, roving and constructive community-building. But it's unrivaled, too, in the spread of lies, narrowing of interests and erosion of common cause. It's a glorious buffet, but it pushes individual users toward only the red meat or just the kale. We're ridiculously overfed and ruinously undernourished.
It creates terrorists. But well shy of that, it sows enmity by jumbling together information and misinformation to a point where there's no discerning the real from the Russian.
Bruni fights disinformation not with truth, but with disinformation of his own. It seems that he either didn't hear, or chooses to ignore, those rumors of the premature death of RussiaGate - despite recent sheepish obits from some of its own proponents. We've all been ridiculously overfed on a red-baiting mystery meat diet of Clintonoid nothing-burgers from Bruni and his Times cohort for going on two years now. 

So now, they also want you to believe that it's not the past 40 years of Reagan/Clinton neoliberalism, aka government welfare for billionaires and corporations and austerity for everyone else, but the monolithic Internet which has been sowing all these divisions among people who otherwise would be feeling all warm and tolerant toward their fellow men and utterly satisfied with their own precarious lives. 

For all that liberals like Bruni decry the divisiveness sown by Donald Trump, they ignore the divisiveness sown by the most extreme wealth inequality in modern history, an inequality created deliberately by a political plutocracy that has since devolved into an oligarchy. 

Blaming "Russians" for all our ills is no better than Trump blaming Mexicans and Muslims for all our ills.

And since he has duly declared the Internet to be the root of all evil, Bruni has no solution other than to monitor/censor free speech and prevent people from talking to each other. Because "Democracy is at stake." And we're all gonna die.

Democracy, you see, has nothing to do with actual people. Democracy as defined by the Establishment is Capitalism. The truth that we are all more likely to die from climate-destroying neoliberal capitalism than we are from the Internet must be suppressed at all costs. Instead, we are urged to cling to our "common cause" without the necessity of such a thing even being defined for us.

My published comment:

About a year ago I Googled "Martin Luther King," and near the top of the list was a website called "Martin Luther King. org."
The site was/is run by a white nationalist organization devoted to sliming Dr. King.
This year, under pressure, Google finally adjusted its algorithm. The hate site isn't there any more, at least not among the first several pages of search results for MLK.
But it makes you wonder how many impressionable people, including kids researching MLK for school assignments, clicked on the site and had their minds poisoned.
Cyber racism has been around as long as the Internet. It's illegal in Australia, but not in any other country that I know of.
Meanwhile Google, in its newfound socially responsible zeal, has also started suppressing material from legitimate sites which it deems not to be "mainstream" enough.
This censorship is a double edged sword, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, to mangle a couple of metaphors. lt's like randomly installing spike strips on a freeway. Reckless drivers and careful drivers alike are indiscriminately stopped in their tracks. Many of the reckless drivers get away anyhow by finding detours, while many careful, responsible drivers become too leery even to venture out, lest driving "be the death of them."
Since (to use another cliche) you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, one solution would be to teach children, beginning at a very young age, how to think critically and to separate truth from lies.
Concentrating on Trump and such fringe-dwelling lowlife racists as Dylann Roof (who shot up an all-black South Carolina church in 2015) and most recently, Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers, also diverts public attention from the fact that police kill an average of three citizens a day, and that more black people are in prison today than were enslaved prior to the Civil War. The foreign victims of our state-sanctioned drone assassinations and undeclared wars are neither named nor cared about, not even on the Internet. Google and Facebook are helping see to that via their censorship policies.

The other side of cyber racism and cyber hate is the mass epidemic of media complicity and public apathy as it pertains to state-sanctioned violence. This attitude of complicity and apathy is beginning to change somewhat, but only because Donald Trump is president and he has dispensed with the dog-whistle racism and patriotic platitudes of "normal" presidents in favor of a bullhorn hybrid of Bull Connor and Benito Mussolini. Politicians and corporate media personalities are finally willing to call people like Sayoc and Bowers "domestic terrorists." Not because it is right, but because it makes Trump look bad and Democrats look good. 

You might remember that then-FBI Director James Comey heartily resisted calling Dylann Roof a terrorist back when the USA was so busily funding Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria and then entrapping/arresting American youths for "aspiring" to join ISIS.

Liberals in the Age of Trump are finally beginning to accept the fact that racist attitudes are not just limited to the "red state" South, but are as American as apple pie, and that the US is not, as Paul Krugman blithely posited during those epic Confederate flag tear-downs after the South Carolina church massacre, "a much less racist nation than it used to be."

Trump did not create neo-racism. He didn't invent American fascism. He just tapped into our pre-existing subterranean rivers, and sucked up the ancient polluted water, and spit it back out in words, actions, and more Trump-branded merchandise posing as political leadership.


Jay–Ottawa said...

Yeah, it takes many little Trumps to lift a Big Trump into the boss chair. Likewise with Brazil and Boss Bolsonaro or Hungary and Boss Orbán. Am I discouraged? You bet.

Of course there was a lot of misinformation making the rounds before Gates and Jobs invented tools to magnify the lies and nonsense, but they also eased the way to so much more truth and beauty. For everybody, not merely the rich, the talented and the lucky.

Instead of monitoring and censoring centrally, wouldn't it be wiser to allow everything, anything to be posted? Trash the algorithms. Let censoring be done locally by parents and individuals. The state, the religionists, the media and the corporations make a hash of it by their involvement. Their new Index of Forbidden Websites is worst than the Catholic Church's former Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

As has been mentioned again and again, there is a lot of good stuff within reach of so many more people, thanks to the internet. A university library at my fingertips is worth ten downtown or in the suburbs. We'll only go back to pre-internet days when the lights go out for good.

Whether discouraged by Trump/Bolsonaro/Orbán Derangement Syndromes or relentless Climate Change on the march, there's always the good stuff to check out to get through the days and the tomorrows that remain––maybe with more energy to counter the little Trumps in our own neighborhood.

Like this (put up with the one minute of introduction):

Karl Kolchak said...

Another problem with the call for censorship is that it makes martyrs out of these slime balls, which gives the right wing yet another weapon to help convince those who aren't hardcore bigots and racists that the liberals are coming after them as well.

The way to defeat the true racists is to create a political climate in which they gain little traction beyond the fringe, but of course the way to do that is to keep middle and working class people feeling as those the economy is working for them and not just the wealthy and the professionals. But water carriers like Bruni would never cross their corporate masters by making such an assertion.

Clueless It Seems said...

I was in the telecom biz for 20 years. I understand what makes your phone go and from whence the internet came. The kapitalists absolutely love these things since they can have their hands in one's wallet. We're all lemmings! This rabbi I know calls it The New York Slimes. For good reason.