The Post-Truth Cyberscape

Arguing on the internet has always been an unrewarding pastime – less a matter of exchanging thoughts and more of butting heads – but the very potential for reasonable dialogue seems to be vanishing, coinciding with the proliferation of post-truth discourse; this is the corollary of normalizing suppression of facts in order to let fictions flourish.

The new paradigm of your average, politicized internet community is to rake in readers with glitzy memes and emotional appeals, then whip them into a frenzy of outrage for some cause with similar material. A sure way to get banned from these places (with all your messages deleted too) is by making reasoned arguments (especially with verifiable evidence) because the last thing the people running such circuses want to hear are infectious, independent thoughts. Agitated, credulous, unthinking masses are their ideal cultivated audience.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m embarking on a petty tirade about internet echo-chambers of no relevance to the real world, but just as a thermometer informs you of the temperature of a much larger organism, so online discussion serves both as an important indicator of a culture’s sociopolitical climate and as a means of disseminating ideas… or silencing ideas.

Of course, I expect hostile reactions when disputing someone’s cherished beliefs but in times past it was usually along the lines of “Fuck off Max, we don’t care LOL” rather than silently deleting things which might distract the community from their collective furore. Unfortunately, reflexive censorship and deliberate ignorance seem to have become engrained as a cultural norm and not simply part of the official moderation policy of social media giants like Twitter/Facebook/Reddit etc. on which this kind of muzzling was already well known. Online communities have turned into graveyards of reason.

Time for some personal anecdotes, yesterday I somehow bumbled into a channel of SJW types, – Left Hand News and Politics – whose users were raving about white supremacist terrorists with rocket launchers. This was actually regarding a drug bust of a criminal syndicate, no doubt those guys were heavily armed and the Aryan Brotherhood is indeed a whites only gang… but there’s no suggestion they had any terrorist act planned.

Besides which, I’m not seeing a rocket launcher, which terrorists – unlike insurgents – would be unlikely to want anyway. Terrorist attacks are directed at soft targets, rockets are used against armoured vehicles and aircraft (WN terrorists might well like a Stinger to shoot down Netanyahu’s jet on his next visit, but let’s not spin this into a thriller novel premise…).

no rocket launcher

Seized weapons: Four rifles (leftmost looks like an FN-FAL), one TEC-9 with barrel shroud, three other handguns, four things that might be bombs and ZERO ROCKET LAUNCHERS. You’d think that would be the centrepiece.

I should’ve already learnt my lesson about arguing with SJWs, but I couldn’t resist.

left hand news and politics1

left hand news and politics4

I didn’t expect to last long, but why delete this? Which rule did I break?

left hand news and politics2

The unspoken rule against not being an idiot, apparently.

Of course, in impartial fashion he lets other highbrow comments through:

left hand news and politics3

I don’t see what penises have to do with rocket launchers except perhaps in a Freudian analytic sense…

This dumbing down of discourse isn’t limited to the left, I experienced much the same on Mike Adams’s website, Natural News. He leans rightward like most “traditional” conspiracy theorists (the left have their own stupid conspiracy theories, but that’s another story). They once ran an article based on a millennial-bashing “scientific” study – pretty typical boomer fare – which turns out to be poorly sourced and poorly argued by an author with fantasy credentials.

left hand news and politics or might as well be5

left hand news and politics or might as well be6

The link to Patrick Fagan’s other study is here.

Deleted. Quelle surprise! Granted there are times when a mod needs to delete stuff; when illegal material is posted, if someone is spamming lorem ipsum like reams of text to make threads unreadable or using something like the Telugu symbols to crash viewer’s devices, but it says a lot when their response to a reasoned argument – made without insults or vulgarity – isn’t refutation or even ridicule, but to make your post disappear so other people can’t see it, even though they’ve seen it themselves and should know that it proves them wrong. Among other things, selectively publishing posts in this fashion creates the illusion that there’s far more consensus on a topic than there actually is, and that’s a powerful way to shape a narrative, because human minds are particularly prone to survivorship bias and misled by half-truths. This is the post-truth cyberscape.

Now you might say that websites being private property, the owners have the right to censor whatever they please, fine, but if they don’t admit up front that that’s their game then they need to be called out for such. Anyway, this post isn’t supposed to be a diary of my bans, that’s not the issue. Moderators aren’t the crux of the issue either. The real issue is a culture of arrogant, solipsistic anti-intellectualism – and by that I don’t mean skepticism toward experts and scientific authorities but rather blinkered eschewal of intellect and reason itself – in this digital age of self-assembling, self-assured cyber cliques.

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