July 9, 2017
The real threat to democracy is memes.
So sayeth Salon.com. And not just any random Salon.com contributor – Sophia A. McClennen (@mcclennen65), a Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University.
And not just any Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University – a Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University who has written a book entitled “Is Satire Saving Our Nation?: Mockery and American Politics,” which is about how great it is that satire is helping our democracy.
Here’s the book’s description:
The book studies the intersections between satirical comedy and national politics in order to show that one of the strongest supports for our democracy today comes from those of us who are seriously joking. This book shows how we got to this place and why satire may be the only way we can save our democracy and strengthen our nation.
So yes. Just to spell this out here for you: a woman who wrote a book about how satire is good for democracy has penned an article claiming that right-wing satire will destroy democracy.
“The real threat to democracy is free speech.”
That is a thing which has happened in real life.
Let’s look at her article.
This week saw President Trump cross yet another line in his use of his Twitter account. Trump tweeted a meme of himself symbolically beating up CNN. While to some it might have appeared to be a funny way to epitomize Trump’s feud with CNN, to many the meme was aggressive, immature and inflammatory. CNN took the attacks seriously and released a statement stating, “It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”
There are lots of questions to be asked about the tweet, not the least of which is what it tells us about the judgment of the president and those who work with him. But the real story here is not about Trump; it’s about the increasing power and presence of alt-right communication on various social media platforms, from Twitter to YouTube to Reddit to Facebook.
What is interesting is the way that rants and memes and other alt-right tirades have major success in shaping public opinion. And while there is a through line between these outbursts and fake news, it is important to point out that the rants are likely far more influential than fake news in shaping political perception.
This means that the real lesson for CNN and other mainstream news outlets is not that the president is immature enough to share a stupid meme attacking the news but rather that their focus on fake news has distracted them from the real story: the rise of emotional, aggressive, inflammatory, bigoted communication on social media and the power these posts have had in shaping the ideas of the Trump-supporting alt-right.
This article could alternately be titled “The Vindication of Andrew Anglin.”
Because this has been my precise contention for 4 years.
I was attacked by people on the right for this position. Repeatedly, I was attacked by people who you would expect would support me. Mostly baby boomers. And yet I pressed forward. Now, the mainstream left is acknowledging that this method is fundamentally altering culture.
Well beyond the problem of fake news, which at least tried to pose as news, these posts are pure opinion, outburst and excess. There is nothing about these posts that even remotely compares to news reporting — and that’s why they are popular. At a moment in U.S. history where trust in the news is at a record low, we are seeing the growing power of individuals outside of traditional media circuits who have built a following by suggesting that their voices are more authentic and more accurate than those of the so-called liberal, elitist, majority-silencing news.
The key to the story is the connection between Trump’s tweet and its original source. As Vox reported, the source “was discovered to be a Reddit forum known for Islamophobia, racism, and frequently violent hate speech.” It was originally posted on Reddit’s largest pro-Trump community.
The Reddit user HanAssholeSolo released the original GIF version of the clip used in the president’s tweet, posting it to Reddit’s r/The_Donald.
Just as the distinction between National Enquirer-type fake news and actual news has blurred for many citizens, there is increasing evidence that social media rants are playing a larger and larger role in creating the “information” that shapes public perceptions. As Vox puts it, “there’s a reason to take Trump’s tweet seriously, and that is its direct connection to the violence the alt-right routinely espouses.”
It isn’t just the violence espoused by these sites that is the problem; it is the increasing power of the alt-right across these platforms and the way that these rants become mainstreamed as sources of public information that should cause us to worry. While attention has focused on the way that Trump and his team have demonized the free press, it is time to pay more attention to the encroaching power of the alt-right on social media to influence national dialogues.
The story of the Trump tweet, the alt-right and Reddit is only one among many across social media platforms. For instance, a recent study by Zack Exley, Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University, shows that political channels on YouTube are currently dominated by the alt-right.
Although often overlooked by mainstream media as too fringe to matter, Exley’s research shows that these YouTube channels receive millions of views, espousing recycled National Socialist and white nationalist ideologies with a modern twist. His study explains how the alt-right uses these channels to build influence and spread its ideas among its audience, much in the same way that right-wing talk radio shaped public perceptions for decades.
Exley points out that just as the left missed the growing role of right-wing talk radio, it is now missing the power of the alt-right on social media.
Exley claims that political rants on YouTube are dominated by right-wing personalities. It is a claim echoed by Vice News too. The New York Times calls YouTube “almost a kind of internet nation-state” given the fact that it has more than a billion users. About 400 hours of video uploaded every minute and 1 billion hours of video consumed every day.
The focus of Exley’s study is a demonetized YouTube channel that has more than 180,000 subscribers and 18 million views that he suggests epitomizes the sort of alt-right rants that gain traction on YouTube.
That would be Black Pigeon Speaks.
Exley suggests that it isn’t just that the alt-right dominates the YouTube political rant; it is that they are cornering the market on the format, creating a new form of communicative style that is gaining increasing traction among viewers.
Even more important, these rants and other forms of aggressive communication aren’t just being picked up by our president and sent out to the public; they are also affecting public behavior, moving from an online, virtual space into real action.
As BuzzFeed notes, there is “a sprawling new universe of far-right internet personalities who have aligned themselves with a ‘new right’ or ‘alt-right’ or ‘new far-right’ political youth movement in the US.” This group is interested in moving their trolling into the real world.
Whether on Reddit or YouTube or another form of social media these alt-right rants share a few key beliefs. As Malia Rolt explains in a piece on YouTube and the alt-right, those posting right-wing hate speech “all believe that the media is untrustworthy and political correctness has gone too far, and see advocacy for equality for all as a threat to freedom of speech.”
The issue of freedom of speech and social media, of course, is a tricky issue since all of the platforms have rules and restrictions over the sort of content they allow. And yet, there is some evidence to suggest that the application of those rules may indeed favor aggressive speech by the right more than from other quarters.
No there isn’t evidence of that.
Black people post death threats against the President every day and they don’t get deleted, even when mass-reported.
For instance, a report from ProPublica suggests that Facebook’s internal rules for censoring hate speech is biased to favor both the right and celebrity users. In contrast, “Facebook users who don’t mince words in criticizing racism and police killings of racial minorities say that their posts are often taken down.”
Yeah. That’s what we like to call “fake news,” or as I call it “very fake news.”
The fact of reality is that right-wing material is more popular because people like it better. Not because the Jews who own these platforms are giving us some kind of edge. That is an insane, deranged type assertion that could only come from the likes of ProPublica. Not even CNN would have the nerve to make that claim.
They compare two posts. One by a U.S. congressman who wrote a post after a terrorist attack in London that called for the slaughter of “radicalized” Muslims. “Hunt them, identify them, and kill them,” declared U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican. “Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.” And one by Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist DiDi Delgado: “All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed.”
Delgado’s post was removed and her Facebook account was disabled for seven days. Higgins’ post was untouched. Such practices certainly suggest deep political biases in the ways that Facebook censors users.
The argument that Jew Facebook is part of a right-wing conspiracy suggests deep derangement and physical insanity.
We have done these tests ourselves with “kill all white people” vs “kill all black people,” and the former is allowed while the latter isn’t on both Facebook and Twitter. There are endless examples of this. It is simply a known and plain fact that right-wingers are subjected to censorship in the extreme while left-wingers are protected.
It is accepted in the mainstream to attack whites all the time, while blacks and others are protected classes. Suggesting otherwise is just goofy.
The reason we are winning is because our content is more appealing, period.
Yes, Congressmen are protected because they are public figures, which makes ProPublica’s example pointless and manipulative.
All of this combines to suggest that, while each social media platform has a different identity and different content rules, there is increasing evidence that right-wing hate speech is growing in power and force across the major social media platforms and into everyday life.
What this week’s Trump Twitter war against the mainstream news media teaches us is that CNN should be worried — but not about Trump’s attacks, rather about the fact that an increasing number of U.S. citizens are forming their political ideas based on alt-right rants, and not on anything that even remotely resembles information.
Rather than fight Trump, outlets like CNN have to take seriously the fact that a major portion of the population simply doesn’t trust them. Even worse, they don’t find CNN interesting or compelling. And, as Carlos Maza has pointed out, the fact that CNN treats politics like sports isn’t helping. By covering politics as if it were a game, CNN hypes controversy more than it reports the truth.
The challenge facing CNN isn’t a president who will tweet an immature and aggressive video of himself tackling them; it is the reality that a significant subset of Americans, including ones who work in the White House, are more likely to be influenced by a Reddit user who goes by the ID HanAssholeSolo than they are by a commentator for CNN.
Well, that I certainly agree with.
And that is a very, very serious problem for these people.
Though it was in the title, I never did catch where it was explained how this “threatens democracy.” Unless of course we are following the Ezra Pound definition of democracy.
In which case, the way our memes threaten democracy is self-evident.
The ultimate takeaway here is that CNN ability to control the narrative is not collapsing because they are being made fun of by Donald Trump. It is not even because they are a bunch of liars. It is because they are not presenting a narrative that is moving to the people.
Conversely, we in the Alt-Right are not rising because we are particularly well-organized, and certainly not because we are being aided by social media outlets, as Madam McClennen has somehow gathered up the nerve to suggest. We are winning by pure force of our ideas and message, which is fundamentally appealing to the masses.
Sadly – or perhaps not – the agenda of the Jewish mainstream, whether it be globalism, mass immigration, feminism, homosexuality, or whatever else – cannot be packaged in a way that makes people interested in buying it.
I am by all accounts a rather talented marketer. But if I was asked by CNN to sell the Democrat agenda of invasion, black riots, endless war in the Middle East, World War with Russia, trannies and tranny bathrooms, anal sex being taught to children, communism, Islam, women’s rights, etc., I would have a very difficult time figuring out how to do it.
My best advice would be to deal first with the humorlessness. But in fact, the agenda itself is so devoid of humor, I’m not sure how possible that even is.
They are in a rough spot.
We, on the other hand, despite our lack of money and the entire monied establishment pushing us down, are sitting very pretty.