Lindy West’s article on why she quit Twitter is worth a full read. I’ve seen some response to it about how we don’t all have the luxury of quitting various social media and there’s validity to that – certainly she is at a stage in her career where it’s no longer necessary, but it helped her get there. Nonetheless, a righteous takedown on the obscene indifference of these social media CEOs.
During the article, she mentions this:
Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency.
That’s certainly true. The conversation has changed, the trolls won this much ground – It is fully acceptable to participate in our culture now, as a writer, a pundit, a person with a television platform, and be an open white supremacist. Only the cartoon version remains taboo. You have to leave your supposedly ironic swastika armbands at home, only wear them at baby showers and whatnot. Other than that, you can openly say the motherfucking 14 words.
So in your view, how did this come to pass? My guess is that this flowed from the overwhelming cowardice of the media to ever call anything racist what it is, in the name of being objective, neutral, whatever. Might have even had more to do with this shift on a cultural level than the ku klux uncles of facebook and the anime nazis elsewhere.
Whatever the cause, I don’t feel optimistic about a solution. This stage of history feels like part of a cycle winding down to an utterly cartoonish cyber-dystopia. It’s a reiteration of the 80s, only hella worse. I remember what followed that. I first came to broader awareness of culture in the 90s. That was my high school days. On one hand, society was jingoistic and militarized as all hell. The movie PCU sounded the trumpet of making human decency uncool. Meanwhile, the other side of pop culture figures tried to push a relatively liberal agenda. TLC’s promotion of safe sex in Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, Kurt Cobain pushing the limits against our collective homophobia, things like that.
Whatever liberals wanted to do, the whole time they had this weird postmodern attitude of civility about it. No sense of the danger. Being conservative was just a different way of knowing, southern pride was totes not about racism. As En Vogue said, “Free your mind and the rest will follow. Be color-blind, don’t be so shallow.”
So if that’s what we have coming next, what will it look like? The Fourth Reich and its pets in the Fifth Estate will clink glasses at the galas. Liberal pop culture figures will tut tut knowingly at different galas. The rest of us will learn what it’s like for your whole country to be a futuristic slum. Everyone slaving to scrape by and failing to do so, selling your organs for cash, daydreaming through the media we drink in between 12 hour shifts at the flesh farm, forgetting how things used to be slightly better and therefore never registering just how much we’ve been ripped off, how far we’ve fallen, how fucked everyone except billionaires truly are.
So, like, more of the same, but worse. Always worse, until climate change and disease finish the job.
You’ll forgive my gloom, I work at a mega-retailer.