We Haven’t Arrived at the End of History
It’s easy to forget that right now only matters because we’re the ones noticing it. Relative to literally everything else, it’s not actually that important.
Believe it or not, we’re not at the start of history or the end of it — we’re not even the most important moment in it. This is just a brief moment, and it’ll pass.
It’s easy to forget that. Not least when we’re reading the increasingly shrill and strident warnings that are sounding all around us. And that’s not to say the klaxons shouldn’t be sounding! We have real problems, and we need to fix them. But we’ll come through this period of time. And once we do, we’ll still have a world to deal with on the other side. And that world is going to be shaped by our decisions on this side.
Facebook and Twitter are the Platforms of the World
I don’t like Alex Jones. In fact, I think it’s safe to say I hate him — an odious emotion if there ever was one. He’s a deceitful, harmful, profiteering, unethical hack and no one should listen to him — ever.
That said, I really don’t know how I feel about setting a precedent of muting him. Together, Facebook, Twitter and Google reach billions — which if you think about it on a global, historic scale is absolutely bonkers. Facebook, Twitter and Google control access to information for — probably — most of the globe and now they’re going to become the gatekeepers.
Do we feel good about them telling us who can and can’t participate on that stage?
I mean, I guess they already were, but there was an effort at objectivity driven by algorithms before. Now it’s as if they’re saying, “We’re a profit-driven corporation with no public representation or civic oversight, and we’re going to control who may and who may not speak to the world.”
That’s not great.
Haters Gonna Hate
Not only am I wary of a handful of corporations instructing me who will and will not be available to listen to, but Alex Jones and his followers will just go somewhere else. How are we going to engage with awful, hate-spewing liars? Do we just repress them and send them underground? Do we want the dark corners of the Internet to fill up more and more so that our brightly-lit sections appear cleaner?
Oh I Know: The Government Should Fix It
Maybe India has the answer. Could it be wisest to have the government write an instruction on what is and is not “fake”? When has it ever been problematic for a government to instruct its people on what they may know and what they can’t?
The death toll in India of journalists is horrifying. And it’s not particularly reassuring to read that corrupt, weak democracies are the worst places to be a journalist. Where are they needed most?
What are Journalists Going to Do?
Meanwhile, journalists and newspapers are struggling with modernity and structuring themselves to be resilient in the face of changing economics. What is trust when media is involved? Do self-reported stats about people’s lack of trust in news source matter when it’s clear they’re also consuming them?
Weeding out cause in the crisis of confidence in news media is crucial. If survey respondents say that transparency is a key issue for them, does that necessarily guarantee that being transparent will guarantee their trust? (That’s a rhetorical question: the answer is no.)
I don’t have a great transition, but take the 3:30 and watch this clip from the movie The American President. If you haven’t seen it, you’re going to miss some context, but the bottom line is that the President (Michael Douglas) is in political dire straits. The real reason for watching is the last dialogue.