People Like Me

Um… Are you sure about that?

Hold on. Let me check my grammar…

No. I’m sorry. What I actually meant the title to convey was “People demographically similar to myself”. Should I change it?

Can you be bothered?

Not really.

OK. So, what is this all about, then?

I have a terrible confession to make. I’m going to have to out myself here. You see, I’m 48. I’m a white[1], cisgender man. I have a middle class job, which I commute to, and which, of course, I hate[2]. I listen to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. I have The Guardian app on my phone. I ask questions like “Shall we watch Question Time?”[3] I harumph a lot and I think that our politicians are all idiots.

OMG! No! Don’t say it!

But it’s true! I’m demographic gammon! I even have the male pattern baldness to prove it!

I hope you didn’t drag me here just to listen to you having an existential crisis? What is this really about?

“Echo Chambers”

We hear a lot about “echo chambers”. We hear that we are trapped in them, only listening to people similar to ourselves. We hear that we need to break out of this. Oddly enough, we hear ourselves being told this even though the logical implication, were it actually true, is that we should be unable to hear such a message being broadcast from outside of our “echo chambers”. This makes me a little suspicious.

The dishonesty

I want to talk about a dishonesty in the way that this “break out of your echo chamber” talk is used. I also want to also to talk about how the social media platforms, who often pay lip-service to this idea (Dare I call it a meme?), are really not helping it to happen in a genuine or beneficial way.

We hear a lot from the right saying:

“You should get out of your liberal elite echo chamber and spend more time listening to conservatives”

 – Right wingers pretending to be “centerists” up for a “rational debate”

The dishonesty here is twofold:

  1. By “conservatives”, they do not mean normal Tories or Republicans. (And god knows we hear quite enough from them already!) They mean actual frickin’ Nazis who masquerade under the various banners of “conservative”, “classical liberal”, “Alt-Right”, “mens’ rights activist”, “ethno-nationalist”, “race-realist”, “gender critical”, “alt-lite, really not a Nazi honest, we just want a civil debate, please take our racist, misogynist bullshit seriously” or whatever other stupid euphemism they think will fool or confuse people.
  2. They have no intention of reciprocating in good faith. Apart from their ham-fisted attempts at grooming the young and gullible into the far-right by means of propaganda videos on YouTube, they mostly only venture outside of their “echo chambers” to fling abuse at people. “Rational debate” is just a catchphrase. They don’t actually do rational debate.

So the pitch really is:

“You should get out of your liberal elite echo chamber and listen to us Nazis. Of course, we won’t listen back because what part of Nazi do you not understand?”

 – Nazis, duh!

This is hypocrisy. Nazis are the masters of astroturfing and gaslighting. They demand that we engage with their century-old, thousand times discredited bullshit but they never engage with any ideas from outside of their own “echo chambers” in good faith. They relentlessly attack strawman positions like “SJWs” and “Postmodern Neo-Marxism[4] but they never actually engage with the reality of thought outside of their kampf.

I see what you did there.

I know… I am a bad gammon.

The element of truth buried under this dishonesty

Of course, an idea advanced hypocritically, or with a dishonest agenda, is not intrinsically or automatically invalid. If Hitler said that the sky was blue that doesn’t automatically mean that it wasn’t, although only an idiot would take it on trust without checking and also asking what he had to gain by making that point.

We do need to get out of our “echo chambers”. There are a lot of different voices that we really don’t hear enough from, and it ain’t “conservatives”. We just need to take care not to get corralled into somebody else’s echo chamber instead.

This is something I have been trying to do in a semi-deliberate way on Twitter and, to some extent, on YouTube.

The Twitter experience

On Twitter, I generally just follow people that I find interesting and/or amusing but I am also trying to get a broader range of input while doing so. I am also trying not to avert my eyes when somebody who I followed because they seemed like fun exposes me to something genuinely horrific in their life.

There are two unexpected things I am getting from Twitter:

1. Emotional Whiplash

It is hard to say how Twitter orders its feed, as it certainly isn’t chronological, but it guarantees a pretty random mix. A similar thing happens with radio stations which let the computer pick music at random. Every so often there is a change in tone so dramatic that no human curator would have considered it appropriate. With Twitter it is even more extreme:

Funny picture of a cat. Laws restricting abortion rights which will likely lead to thousands of deaths. Funny picture of an otter. Godawful “Men’s Rights Activists” spewing misogynistic bile. People LOLing at the MRA dipshits. Brexit. Transphobia. Funny medieval illustrations. The collapse of democracy in the UK. Roosh V thinks that women’s arses are making men gay somehow.[5] Brexit. Vintage erotica (better not show Roosh). Anti-Semitism, yes, that never goes away. Oh fuck no! Somebody’s friend has been murdered! Nazis giggling about which female politicians they would or would not rape. Funny picture of a dog. More Brexit, but its The Irish Border this time so at least it is funny this time. “Tommy Yakety Sax Robinson” pretending to be a victim again. Fun stuff about old 8 bit videogames. Islamophobia. White nationalist bullshit. Pictures of mineral samples. Violence against sex workers. The collapse of democracy in the USA. Some more murders. Can we get the funny cats back now? Please?

And, of course, this is Twitter so it never stops!

Now, of course I could just unfollow a lot of this stuff, and if I was actually following any of the 57 varieties of Nazi that Twitter has to offer then I certainly would, but I don’t. I follow decent people and their replies to abusive little shits and howls of anguish are real pain from real people, not some artificial artefact of the internet itself that one can just unfollow and ignore with a clear conscience. This is not mere “drama”, in the internet sense of the word.

2. Repeated Epiphanies

It is a mistake to think that you are ever so woke that you can’t get any woker. Sometimes Twitter slaps you with the same thing over and over again because it is impossible to fully comprehend the magnitude of some things in one go. It is like the size of the universe or the weirdness of Quantum Mechanics only for bad, bad, bad stuff:

Women put up with some shit. Black people put up with some shit. Trans people put up with some shit. Migrants put up with some shit. Gay people still put up with some shit. Muslims put up with some shit. Sex workers put up with some shit. Jews are still putting up with all the same shit as ever. Women put up with some more shit. Jeebus! They’ve really got it in for trans people, haven’t they?

And, of course, the World is just unrelentingly awful so it never stops!

Is it worth it?

Yes. If you can stand it. If you don’t let it consume you.

Now, I’m not saying that Twitter is the best way to get out of your echo chamber. In fact, Twitter does have some pretty dark stuff going on to promote the worst echo chambers and suppress other voices. You could get trapped in one of the far-right echo chambers or you could simply lose the will to live as the misery scrolls endlessly past.

We all know that the social media platforms suck

For all the lipservice paid to getting people out of their echo chambers, the social media platforms really do suck at it. Nazis are rarely thrown off Twitter[6] even after Facebook has had enough of them! The management of Twitter seems to be sympathetic to the far-right to at least some degree and certainly has no intention of reining in politicians who make racist or other discriminatory statements unless they get to the point of actually repeatedly screaming the N word. Meanwhile innocent people are getting kicked off simply because large numbers of false reports are submitted in bad faith by brigades organised on other platforms like Reddit and even Mumsnet.[7]

Oh, and don’t think I have forgotten about you, YouTube! This happens there too. Anti-Nazi content is likely to be deleted or demonetised for featuring Nazi imagery while actual far-right content is often treated with the most gentle touch so long as the Nazis are even half-way subtle about their presentation. It takes quite a lot for a far-right channel even to get demonetised on YouTube![8]

All algorithm based platforms have a common problem that they recommend content that matches what you already like. This is commercially very successful but it builds ever higher walls around the “echo chambers” as it locks people in and monetises them.

It needs to be acknowledged that the features that make social media such a perfect place for geographically separated minority communities to exist in are the exact same features that build the echo chambers that the Nazis hoot their vile nonsense in. This is why you really do need special rules for Nazis. They are not just another special interest group like a local bowls club. YouTube say that they get this now. But the probably don’t. [Update: They totally don’t!]

The hypocrisy

Talk of “echo chambers” also fails to acknowledge that not all groups are equal, either in terms of their status in society or the effects they have on others.

It is perfectly reasonable to put a boot up my white, cisgender male, middle class gammon arse and tell me to get out more. Even more so, for all the racist dipshits moaning about “white genocide” or similar bullshit. They urgently need a big dose of reality from outside of their “echo chamber” bullshit factories.

It is not the same for people in many genuinely marginalised and under-represented groups.[9] They need their own places where they can talk among friends, bond over their common experiences, support each-other even when they are thousands of miles away and also reach out to the wider community. In some cases, this is what keeps people alive. The people on the far right decrying “echo chambers” know this and this is precisely why they want those particular communities broken up while protecting their own citadels within their preferred platforms.

What can we do?

As demographic gammon, people such as myself have a degree of what is termed “privilege”[10]. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all swimming in gold like Scrooge McDuck but we are relatively privileged compared to other demographic groups. We are unlikely to ever be victims of sexual violence. We don’t have to justify our presence in the country. The police don’t “confiscate” our money. Nobody denies that we exist or expects us to justify our mere existence. I’ve only ever been searched by the police once, and even that under circumstances far more comical than intimidating.[11]

We lack the direct experiences that enable us to fully understand what is actually happening to other people and it is easy for us to live in a protected bubble of complacent unreality if we don’t listen to those other people.

We need to:

  • Listen to people from other ethnic groups.
  • Listen to people of other nationalities.
  • Listen to people of other genders.
  • Listen to people of other religions.
  • Listen to people with different political views. Even listen to genuine conservatives, to some extent, but not the extent that they dominate our mental input.
  • Listen to people who’s lives differ from our own for whatever reason.
  • Don’t listen to Nazis!

As the old saying goes:

“Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out.”

 – Attributed to so many different people that
I’m not going to try to attribute it here.

But I don’t want to watch every 3 hour livestream in which not particularly engaging people chew over the details of some worthy but abstruse topic that I don’t understand.

Sure. This doesn’t have to be a chore. You can still just follow people you find interesting and/or entertaining. Just try to select from a broader pool and avoid horrible people who seek to entertain by attacking the vulnerable.

And when it comes time to vote, vote for the best candidate. Even if they don’t look like you do. Even if they do not prioritise your own concerns over the other, more pressing, concerns of other people.

 


 

Oh god*! The footnotes. Too many footnotes! Why did I write so many footnotes? Nobody ever reads footnotes.

[1] – Although that is always subject to revision should some bunch of Nazis decide that people of Jewish descent are “not white” again.

[2] – Only joking! Please don’t fire me!

[3] – I do give answers like “No, I’d rather eat my own ears”, so maybe there is some hope for me?

[4] – If it is not immediately obvious why that phrase is dishonest and just intrinsically stupid then please watch an instructional video. (Seriously. Please watch it if you have not already seen it. It is both genuinely educational and absolutely hilarious. I love this video so much.)

[5] – He says he is a Christian now, so I guess I have to add “Jesus puts up with some shit” to the list of epiphanies.

[6] – To be fair, Twitter did get rid of the last account I reported for racially abusing someone. The problem is that they seem to focus on specific slur words, making it relatively easy for people to avoid a ban by using faux-civil euphemisms in their hate filled tirades. In this case, I doubt they would have done anything if the idiot had not used the racist P word repeatedly. Also they seem to hold politicians and celebrities to a far lower standard than normal users. (*cough*Trump*cough*) That seems, um… cowardly?

[7] – If you ever want to completely lose the will to live, just look up the well organised astroturf groups of fake feminist transphobes, funded by the American evangelical far-right. They (claim to) believe that they are the victims of hate speech, just because somebody called them out on their actual hate speech by describing them as TERFs. They mass flag accounts relentlessly in pursuit of their “freedom” to oppress others without criticism. (Content warning: It’s really grim stuff, some of it targeting vulnerable children. Don’t dig into this unless you have a very strong stomach. This upsets me enough and I’m cis. God* knows what it must feel like for the people in the actual line of fire.)

[8] – Yes, they did demonetise Sargon, eventually, but only after international press coverage made him such an embarrassment to YouTube itself. That’s not good enough! Yes, they did demonetise Crowder, eventually, but only after the public outcry became impossible to ignore. Up until then his racist and homophobic targeted harassment was reviewed and given a big old stamp of approval by the We Don’t Give A Shit team at YouTube. That’s still not good enough!

[9] – Remind me again what proportion of FTSE100 board members are women? What proportion of senior UK police officers are BAME? How many MPs are trans? Oh, yes. Not enough, not enough and exactly zero respectively.

[10] – I don’t like that term. It is not really a privilege to be less oppressed than other people. Nobody should be oppressed at all! Still, I’m not going to argue with the dictionary here. This is the term that everybody uses and I’m using it in the same sense that they do. If I tried to make up my own word then nobody would know what I meant and that would just be pointless.

[11] – My Mum and I were searched for “carrying a bag in an iconic location” by two river cops while waiting for a river bus at Greenwich Pier. They were probably just trying to make up their numbers. When we failed to have any drugs, guns, knives or even communism in our bags they jumped back in their little boat and sped off in the direction of some other crimes that probably were not happening either.

* – Sobek.

Hold on. Was that a footnote to the footnotes?

It might be. Hail Sobek!

I give up…

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June 8, 2019. Daniel, Media, Politics, Sensible, Social Media.

2 Comments

  1. serederf replied:

    Don’t worry, you’re not gammon – a real gammon would be reading the Daily Heil, not the Graun. Also, fuck Nazis.

  2. Rik replied:

    Don’t think you’re a gammon

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