“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you,” Alexander Graham Bell shouted to his assistant. Watson didn’t hear him directly — but he did hear Bell over that newfangled telephone invention of his. “Screw you,” Watson replied. “You’re using social media to harass me!”
I’d rather avoid contradicting Marshall McLuhan. He said his piece to Woody Allen on-screen, but, damn, the medium is not the message. It only seems that way because we have a tradition of shooting the messenger. Social media has been made out to be a great evil, spreading fear and danger across the globe.
I have no overwhelming affinity for social media. You’re unlikely to find me gazing at my iPhone while blocking pedestrians at Grand Central Terminal. Social media can be a shit magnet, but it is one made of mirrors. Facebook did not invent White Supremacy, no more than D.W. Griffith did. Twitter didn’t invent body shaming; we’ve had teenage angst since the creation of acne vugaris. They provide the platform for anybody and everybody. We’re blaming these companies for delivering on their promises.
We also blame them for making a shitload of money, but that’s capitalism for you. I don’t think their business plans had a section about fostering hate, and any or all of them can completely ban whatever flavors hatred comes in at the moment. Some have started to do that. We still will be able to get our kitty-cat memes on Instagram. Hatred has been around since damn never forever; I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the primordial slime that oozed out of the oceans did so because they felt the big fish were ruining the neighborhood.
There are at least two ways to deal with online hatred, and neither involve government oversight. The first is to ignore it under the understandable belief that life is too short for this shit. The other is to engage, stick to your guns, stand up for your beliefs and accept the fact that you’re feeding cocaine to monsters.
Then again, there is a third alternative. You can do both. You can tell the right wing nuts that their emperor de jure is naked with a really small dick, and then you can run for the hills. That seems cowardly, but I must admit it’s a way to speak your piece without getting a stroke. As Muhammad Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…” but in the opposite order.
However, the worst option is to allow the government to step in. Yup; that would be unconstitutional, but since when has that pre-empted anybody? And I’m not just talking about President T-word. This goes back at least to our first President Adams.
People have the right to be heard no matter how full of shit they may be. We can’t have a law that compels people to be polite — that undermines the entire concept of freedom of expression. The First Amendment wasn’t written to offer protection only to nice people who only do nice things. It was written to protect minority opinions and views, and if the expressor shows some anger in the process, well, that’s part of the expression, isn’t it?
A half-century ago, Gil Scott-Heron said The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Whereas I appreciate the sentiment (and I greatly appreciate the song), Mr. Scott-Heron was wrong. Not only will the revolution be televised, but it is being televised every time strong people whip out their smartphones and record policemen beating up black kids.
That is the Internet as well, folks. Do you want the government to ban that because it’s too violent, too political, too offensive, or too on-target? I hope not, whatever your politics might be. What goes around comes around. That’s sociological gravity.
When we blame the Internet for the current evils being foisted upon the willing masses, we are completely missing the point. The method of conveyance is not the problem, it’s the person or the people who are sharing their offensive behavior. Of course, what is offensive to one likely is canon to another. If you think you know the difference between right and wrong, please realize that the other person does as well. The Internet is no more at fault than the previously targeted means of communication: video games, television, rock ’n’ roll, comic books, B-listed religions, political treatises, and so on. Remember, Galileo spent about 350 years smoking turds in hell for saying “Look! Up in the sky!”
Do you want the same people who have foisted the current round of prima facie unconstitutional anti-abortion bills in Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, and Missouri (to name but a few) to decide what is appropriate and legal to post online? If you do, why the hell are you still reading this? Aren’t there some stakes awaiting your witches?