Concerted, livid, and vociferous online outrage campaigns hitting people and ideas, originating from and aimed at targets in western, democratic, capitalist societies, have struck many of us as extremely odd – when they first started appearing on the internet.
That sense of apprehension had nothing to do with any particular subject at hand – it was just the choice of words, the technique, the all-out, dedicated discreditation campaigns followed by the “canceling” (a euphemism like “liquidation,” maybe?) that was so strange to witness in a place we never expected to see it.
But these days, the “woke” outbursts often in concert with verbal extremism seems to be the accepted norm. So with that in mind, observers like Paul Graham no longer really challenge the method – but would like to predict where it will ultimately take their societies.
So the end result of online mobs will not be to suppress the ideas they want to suppress, but merely to weaken the organizations (e.g. publishers, universities, broadcast networks) that previously depended on people who had such ideas.
Graham – an entrepreneur and venture capitalist – first quotes star podcaster Joe Rogan as saying that, “when you have something that can’t get canceled, you can be free.”
(It seems to be a statement in the same ethical vein as Gandhi saying, “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”)
According to Graham, the achievement that “online mobs” may hope for is not to disappear those ideas they want gone, but instead to go after their sources like universities and various publishers, and “weaken” those organizations – whatever that may entail.
An interesting and by and large civil debate unfolded in the comments (yes, that still happens on Twitter). Sure it started with somebody bringing up “crazy feminists,” all the way to online mobs going after established organizations being “only as bad as they allow them to be” – in other words, the survival of the fittest concept is being brought up – that we know for sure our civilization has discarded.
Other commenters were more practical: how about listening to your aunt and not feeding the trolls for once? Ignore the professional online sh*t-stirrers, and they shall disappear.
Then there was my favorite: treating this as a technical problem that might somehow solve the human error.
Those of us intrinsically invested in tech solutions to every problem must love this comment: let’s build a “fully decentralized p2p censorship-proof service.”
Then there are the perennial optimists (no idea where they might be coming from).
But they also hope for a “more decentralized media presence” as the ultimate solution.
So good luck to us.