In the age of new media it seems we are all given a voice. We can share our opinions, our fears, our dreams and just put it out in the ether, hoping that someone will listen. Hoping that someone will validate our beliefs. Give us a sense of purpose. Give us meaning. In many ways this sounds very vain and it is (as i write I think of the hypocrisy of what I am saying). But when you look at society and how we choose to consume information, this makes for some frightening scenarios. There are those who get large amount of followers and begin touting ideas and opinions, some of which they know very little about. They cause controversy and raise doubts about our society and our government. They position themselves sometimes as all knowing and the truly frightening thing is people listen, worse yet they believe.
Throughout history media changes. The consequences of these changes is well laid out through history, starting with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 up until now with the digital onslaught of the internet. Without the printing press many scientists would have been denied, “The Dialog” by Galileo which scientifically proved Copernicus’ theory that the earth revolved around the sun (the catholic church was none too happy with this). It would provide us access to great literature. It gave us newspapers and the concept of journalism, but even then it was perverted for nefarious purposes. The Dreyfus affair in France and the yellow journalism of the Spanish American War. As we moved into radio and film, what first was new and cool soon became the tool of propaganda and one of the best to use it was Nazi Germany, who used to to great effect in turning German suffering toward hatred of the Jews, it would be 6 million lives later that we would learn the true horror of what had been done. Progress has consequences when used for ill intent.
The internet has followed the arc of radio and TV. At first it was very cool and exciting allowing us to link across the globe, whenever and wherever. But as time has moved forward we now enter a new phase where people begin to magnify and promote extreme views, what is slightly different is how it is controlled. Where the Nazi Party of the past or today’s Chinese communist party, they were governments that control the flow of information to promote a narrow world view point, in the free market everyone and anyone has a opportunity to share their views, but its the intersection of the public and private that create the current climate of confusion. Governments with desires of power love to manipulate their citizens, but with the web we now have the opportunity to manipulate other peoples citizens, this clearly came to light in the US Presidential election of 2016 where Russia became very adept at using social media to misguide US Citizens.
Another area of concern is the rise of outlandish conspiracy theories. They seem to come out of nowhere and then create a huge following on the web. We have QANON, Pizzagate, Stop the Steal, and a whole host of others that gain momentum in popular culture, long on rhetoric, but short on substance. We create figures with massive influence like Alex Jones and Joe Rogan. To the point they are so large and influential no one dares challenge their credentials, but there are those who want to tap into that influence. Donald Trump wanted Alex Jones listeners for his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. This is a man who falsely claimed that the Sandy Hook school massacre, which left 20 children ages 6-7 dead and 6 educators dead, was actually staged by actors. A man who lusts for influence and power knows no limits to his cruelty. Yet as a society we continue to give him a platform. The free market reigns supreme, despite its inherent cruelty.
It’s an interesting time in US history where we know the key to our children’s success is STEM, yet we hate science when it threatens our way of life. No matter what the consequences. We seek to create a world based on a past that never existed and a future that never will be. We regulate our children’s lives with schedules that never allow themselves to be bored (there is value in boredom). Soccer mom is a mom who is overworked (by definition mothers are overworked). In light of all this our children are subject to the same indulgences, the same threats. About 20yrs ago cyber-bullying was not a thing, but is certainly is now. It also means children are subject to the threat and manipulation of foreign actors. Not easy being a parent in modern times.
We live an a very emotional world, where we live life almost by moments, we live a double life thanks to social media. Sometimes creating a virtual world where we share happy photos and happy moments, perhaps to shutter the darkness that lays beneath us. It is something that criminals and foreign governments have learned to prey on. To utilize that sensitive emotional state and turn citizens against one another. The US seems particularly vulnerable to this threat. In a society built on economic consumption and instant gratification our emotions run extremely high and we find ourselves being manipulated in new, creative and fundamentally evil ways. Turning on our citizens and our nation. A recent CBS News Poll has 54% of Americans believing the biggest threat to the US In internal, granted it is one poll but whether it was 40% or 70%, it is something to ponder and wonder out loud, “How did we get here”? The Platform we participate in are a means of social escape and are subject to social manipulation. America is a envied nation, still many dream of coming to our shores and living the American dream, but with success comes nations who loathe us, either out of envy or could be religiously driven or super powers battling for influence. However if this wedge in America continues to be driven deeper, the American dream may be nearing its end.
Good Night and Good Luck,
Hans Henrik Hoffmann February 18, 2022