January 08, 2016

Social Media and Terrorism and Ourselves: The Post I Didn't Want to Write Tonight

I had not planned to post this item this evening. I actually started on it earlier today, but put it aside for another time. It's Friday, I'm tired, and the topic is just too depressing.

But when I flicked on the television a few minutes ago, I saw CNN covering the live spectacle of a Muslim woman in a hijab, who stood silently wearing a yellow star labeled Muslim, being evicted from a Donald Trump rally by a boisterous crowd of Trump supporters who would have fit right in during 1930s Germany.

And so I've pulled my depressing text back up in Google Docs, and I'll finish it here and now.

How many billions of words have been written about terrorism since 9/11? I wouldn't want to wager a guess, even while I'll admit that likely some tens of thousands or more of them -- a drop in the proverbial bucket -- have been written by yours truly.

Over the years since there has been a marked change in the perceived terrorist threats against Western countries -- a transition from mass, directed attacks to "self-radicalized, lone-wolf" attacks, and an alarming attempt to cast the Internet in general -- and social media in particular -- as being especially complicit in the rise of the latter terrorist type.

So Western governments (and other governments too, using the West's reactions as an excuse for their own tyranny), have increasingly argued that if somehow Internet social media could be "controlled" -- if there were no way for the mentally ill, criminals, and the simply disenfranchised members of society to not view radical videos, not see radical websites, these problems could be massively lessened or even perhaps eliminated.

Even ignoring for the moment that much radicalization takes place inside prisons themselves, the view that choking off the more violent, angry, or even more subtly propagandistic aspects of terrorist-related social media would even make a dent in the rise of lone-wolf, self-radicalized terrorist attacks is a horrifically and dangerously incorrect idea.

And that quiet Muslim woman with the yellow star, being thrown out of a Trump rally this evening to the delight of Trump's screaming fans, is all the proof we need.

For self-radicalization -- lone-wolf terrorism -- does not require sophisticated technology. It does not require strong encryption systems that governments around the world would subvert to the detriment of their own law-abiding citizens.

The kind of terrorism on the lips of politicos and law enforcement these days requires but two basic elements -- weapons, and not necessarily elaborate ones at all -- trivially obtained in a country awash in gun shops and hardware stores -- and the second element, simple anger of sufficient intensity.

I believe I'd be accurate in asserting that the images and sounds recorded of the eviction of that Muslim woman from Trump's fascist lovefest this evening -- already winging their way around the world's news media -- will provide more inspiration to more lone-wolf terrorists than any 100 terrorist-produced videos or terrorist propaganda websites.

It's not just Trump, of course, though at the moment he is clearly the leader of the fascist pack. It's the messages of hate that now pervade conventional media -- including mainstream news organizations. FOX News revels in it. CNN is only relatively better. And it's much the same on other outlets both in the USA and around the world.

The message to marginalized persons is that we hate them. They don't belong. They're inferior. They should carry special identification. They should be rounded-up, evicted, blocked, spied upon, and spit on.

And ironically, these messages don't simply fire up radical Islamic domestic terrorism, they energize the far more prevalent racist, white supremacist, fascist domestic terrorists who view killing a Muslim with the same joy they traditionally reserved for lynching blacks.

This is why attempts by our governments to lay false blame for terrorists upon the Internet -- the government's all too obvious iron fists only casually covered with velvet gloves -- alternately cajoling and threatening the social media firms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others -- are virtually all bogus accusations doomed to failure.

You could shut down every Internet social media site on the planet, and terrorism would continue because hate and anger would continue -- in fact, they would likely accelerate faster as a result.

Even in countries where the news media is tightly controlled -- like China and Russia -- it's impossible to prevent the people from ultimately learning what's actually going on.

And what's going on is mindless hatred, racism, bigotry, and fascism -- and so the resulting terrorism as well -- being energized by many of the men and women who would have us anoint them as leaders of our nations.

It's worse than madness, it's suicidal. The problem isn't the Internet, it's ourselves. We're all to blame, one way or another.

I feel ill.

Try to have a good weekend, fellow monsters.

Be seeing you.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so -- my opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Posted by Lauren at January 8, 2016 08:38 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
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