A couple of month’s ago I suspended my Facebook account. I tended to be a compulsive Facebook user who would log in, scroll through the feed, then five seconds later completely forget that I had done it, so I would repeat. To some extent I enjoyed getting into debates or conversations with people based on a post but after a while everyone realizes this never results in any conversions, so it grows dull. Then, there was plenty of stuff I did not want to be exposed to anymore: references to “the drama,” self-righteous aggrandizement, and, what I liked the least, cringe-inducing posts from people that more than not share my same political and religious convictions. It’s not particularly good, beautiful and true to curse those with whom you disagree.
A side note: I listened to about a minute of the debate last night between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, it was just whiny nitpicking attacks on the opponent. I have a secret dream to run for office some day. If I ever find myself in a debate with a political opponent I want to take this approach: I’m going to have a list of things prepared of stuff I genuinely like about my opponent and only reference him with a complement.
Since my self-imposed Facebook ban have come news reports about the delisting of Alex Jones from various social media (and Paypal!) venues as well as the temporary Twitter suspensions of Daniel McAdams and Scott Horton. Alex Jones seems like a pretty weird guy with some fringe beliefs but McAdams and especially Horton promote peace, prosperity and military non-interventionism. They are not conspiracy theorists or anything close. These mainstream backed, corporate decisions has led to a growing fear of a movement by big technology to silence alternative viewpoints with prophecies of a dystopian future where big tech controls our information. It’s scary, but not really.
The reason I think the fear that big tech (Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) will merge with big government (U.S., E.U., etc.) to control the information stream is overblown is because it has always been that way. I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. Fox News, which is very much mainstream, just from a slightly right bent instead of a middle of the road or slightly left bent, didn’t begin until 1996. Before that it was NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR and CNN. One could find conservative talk on the radio and various organizations mailed newsletters to subscribers, but the big three along with NPR and CNN controlled the information flow. Local newspapers provided some alternative perspectives but that very much depended on where you lived. The internet has totally changed that.
Nightly news viewership has declined precipitously. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC competes with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. This article highlights Maddow’s recent ratings victory. She won the competition by averaging 3.5 million nightly viewers. That’s barely 1% of the US population. These centralized sources of information has been replaced by countless alternatives. I have a few Libertarian podcasts I tune into, along with Drudge Report, Zerohedge, rt.com, breitbart.com and more mainstream sources like foxnews.com and nbcnews.com.That’s me. Everyone has their own preferences and I am PARTICULARLY interested in how many people view no news whatsoever. I would like to compare that data with data from people who respond to public opinion surveys. “What, sir, is your opinion based on?”
The big guys are going to tie themselves to power and represent the entrenched interests of the ruling class; however, the internet has dramatically reduced their influence. There is a tremendous realignment going on based on the ability of people to so easily discover alternative views and I think it is contributing to the fracturing of society. Still, one sign that not much has changed yet in the U.S., is that Republicans and Democrats continue to win all of the elections. I won’t fear the possibility of any revolution until that stops being the case.