Kevin Williamson’s new book, “The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics,” deals with individualism in an era of online, digital collectivism. One of the notable phenomena this age produces are “outrage mobs” that form quickly on social media platforms and mercilessly go after their targets.
After all, an online is the biggest mob that can form these days, with billions of people spending time on social networks every day, some of them looking for a sense of belonging and finding instead a means of ganging up and express aggression, seemingly with no impunity.
Williamson, an American conservative commentator, is no a stranger to being on the receiving end of an outrage mob, having lost his job at The Atlantic over online reactions to a column he wrote.
With the oversharing and overexposure of people’s opinions and stances on various issues, comes the rising potential for angry mob reactions – and the book wonders why there are so many angry people in the world today, given that we live in the most prosperous period in human history.
Williamson argues that the driving force behind this behavior lies in an attempt of those engaging in it to find “connection, not communication” – and that this results in a lack of dialogue and an “antidiscourse” whose goal is to demean the opponent, and where the result has “more in common with dogs barking at one another than it does with actual political discourse.”
The big picture result of these tendencies, that have now taken root as almost normalized and acceptable online behavior, is the suppression of free speech, he writes, warning at the same time about censorship that stems not from the government but from powerful and influential entities such as corporations and universities.
Inside these, dissenters and individuals are at danger as mobs form there as well, and enforce their points of view.
Williamson’s solution seems to be – rebellion against this new system, and faith in global capitalism as a means of promoting individualism.