Banning Trump won't Fix What's Wrong with Twitter and Facebook -  The Platforms Themselves are the Problem

After sucking up to Trump and pretending to be the “information wants to be free” guys the tech bros have suddenly turned a corner on dictatorial rule. Information actually doesn’t want to be free. Information must be curated to Newspeak. It must adhere to the strict guidelines of the newly anointed Democratic Party or else face the Purge.

Such was the idiotic decision by Twitter, Facebook and a fairly sad flail of Google Play (itself a fairly sad flail of an app delivery device) to try to purge Trump World from their spaces. They’re inciting violence! Trump has the nuclear codes!

What happened at the Capitol was unforgivable, terrifying and just plain stupid. After all, there were plenty of people making Trump’s case the legal way, IN the same building that was mobbed. How dumb do you have to be? It was straight out of Central Casting, by the way. If you wanted to find a group of people most explemporary of what the left thinks about Trump supporters? Those were the people caught on camera. One carried a Confederate Flag. Another wore some kind of horn helmet. All of them had the look of crazy in their eye. Missing in the reports, of course, was at least one Black Lives Matter protester who was black but that was never going to make the news. No, this was its own kind of Reichstag fire. Not orchestrated by the left, but will certainly scare people enough that they will allow for authoritarian measures to take place across the board.

Twitter made Trump and now they don’t like that their monster is roaming the quiet countryside. He boosted their profile, drove their traffic way up to coincide with their algorithm switch, making them worthy competitors to Facebook where they had been always lagging way behind.

Trump WAS Twitter. He was the focus of the left and the right day in and day out. On the right, they were split in how they viewed Trump, with a cabal of conservatives joining the Democrats in waging war against the guy they vowed “never” to support. And the others were all in on Trump, noticing that, despite the nonstop attacks by the left, a good majority of Americans not only still liked him but were COUNTING on him to fight the rising extremism on the left, since he was the only one who had the courage to do it.

On the left, losing power after eight years of Obama and to lose it to Trump was the worst thing to ever happen. Trump was a threat not because he was dangerous but because he was offensive in every way. Not just in how he looked, what he ate, how he dressed, his hair - but also that he mocked the disabled, called women “fat” and black citizen “thugs” and protesters “animals.” Trump was Archie Bunker entering the Brave New World. He was the Devil coming to Salem. It has been nonstop fear, panic and hysteria ever since.

It was not only easy to dehumanize Trump, it turned into a blood sport. Just how bad could it get on a given day. Nothing was off limits, including sex with his own daughter. Trump had mocked so many others so it was fair game. (Nevermind actual decency.)

I’m guessing that most Americans still view this as a free country and are not going to take this sudden shift towards authoritarianism lightly. I’m guessing this will play badly for the Democrats in the long game. Isn’t this what they do in China when they don’t like what people are saying?

But insurrection and violence is in the eye of the beholder. Even though many more died during the months long protests, even someone during the Autonomous zone disaster in Seattle, the Fascist dictator they warned about never showed up. Trump had every opportunity to break with the Constitution but he never did. He could have prosecuted threats to his life made on Twitter. He could have shut down the Autonomous Zone and sent in federal troops to all cities protesting. He followed the Constitution always. Trump’s biggest problem was that he played a Fascist on Twitter.

The Platforms Themselves Are Eroding Decency and Democracy

Trump had a Twitter addiction. It takes one needy narcissist to know one. I could see how there was a different Trump on Twitter than in real life, just as there was and is a different me on Twitter than in real life. We aren’t the only ones. I’ve noticed many people showing up differently on Twitter, their vicious sides coming out — their most cruel, their most dehumanizing and all the while sending you one dopamine hit after another after another. 

The more popular you become, the more followers you have, the more prominent you are the more likes you get, the more hooked you become. You can see those who are addicted to the virtue signaling engagement. They tweet out things they know people will love. You can see those who are addicted to cruelty. They’re the most common users. That was Trump. A troll through and through, drunk on power and able to send Twitter users into a frenzy with just one tweet. Trump was also a virtue signaler. He was clearly addicted to the instant feedback Twitter provided. For a guy who was not up to the job in the first place and in need of constant focus and attention, he could use Twitter to troll the libs but also to see if his hundreds of thousands of followers still loved him and supported him.

There is no doubt Trump’s rhetoric was leading to delusional thinking among his supporters. He was lying to them about the election. They believed him. Steve Bannon’s podcast is Ground Zero, or was, for the “Stop the Steal” movement. Bannon believes we are headed for some kind of war between the “little guys” and the “oligarchs.” They are adamant that the election was stolen. None of this, needless to say, has ever happened in American history.

But we never had Facebook or Twitter before either and they are just as responsible for what’s happening now as Trump is, maybe even more so. After all, Trump without Twitter might have been a half-way decent president.

They knew what they were doing when they built Twitter and Facebook. They could see how it eroded our empathy. They could see how it distorted the truth easily and moved so fast it couldn’t be fact-checked. They watched it all and did nothing. They left Trump alone while he was the President and could have maybe regulated them. On his way out, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, cosplaying actual caring adults, banned Trump and started kissing up to the Democrats, in hopes that they don’t regulate them. 

Twitter knew. Facebook knew. They KNEW.

“The core process that allows social media to make money and that also does the damage to society is behavior modification. Behavior modification entails methodical techniques that change behavioral patterns in animals and people. It can be used to treat addictions, but it can also be used to create them.

The damage to society comes because addiction makes people crazy. The addict gradually loses touch with the real world and real people. When many people are addicted to manipulative schemes, the world gets dark and crazy.

Addiction is a neurological process that we don’t understand completely. The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role in pleasure and is thought to be central to the mechanism of behavior change in response to getting rewards. That is why Parker brings it up.

Behavior modification, especially the modern kind implemented with gadgets like smartphones, is a statistical effect, meaning it’s real but not comprehensively reliable; over a population, the effect is more or less predictable, but for each individual it’s impossible to say. To a degree, you’re an animal in a behaviorist’s experimental cage. But the fact that something is fuzzy or approximate does not make it unreal.”

 — Jaron Lanier. “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.” 

And THEY DON’T CARE. They don’t care what they’re doing to our brains. They don’t care what they are doing to our country. They don’t care what they are doing to our kids. They don’t care about the power we’ve willingly handed over them. They don’t CARE because they are moving fast and breaking things. And look at them now. 

“People often get weird and nasty online. This bizarre phenomenon surprised everyone in the earliest days of networking, and it has had a profound effect on our world. While not every online experience is nasty, the familiar nastiness colors and bounds the overall online experience. Nastiness also turned out to be like crude oil for the social media companies and other behavior manipulation empires that quickly came to dominate the internet, because it fueled negative behavioral feedback.” 

Excerpt 

The day Floyd was killed, a picture was passed around on Twitter at a rapid fire pace. It depicted the cop who kneeled on Floyd’s neck wearing a red hat that said “Make America White Again.” The thing was, it was fake. It was put into circulation to whip people up into a frenzy and yes, to incite violence. It doesn’t matter who posted it. Banning them would not fix the problem because the problem is in the machine. It’s in the nature of Twitter and it will not stop. 

Removing Trump from Twitter doesn’t undo anything to erode his support because Americans can watch Fox News - in fact, many MORE will turn to outlets like Fox and who knows, maybe the new platform Parler. They can listen to podcasts. They can still read books — although you know books are next on the chopping block. Information wants to be free. This move makes the left look bad. It makes Democrats look bad. It makes them seem like the authoritarians Trump has been warning about. And the hard truth of it is, without Trump I’m not sure Twitter will even be that much of a draw for people whose entire days revolved around Trump. 

The daily purge on Twitter is a reminder of just how vulnerable we are to mob mentality and public stonings. Twitter gets hungry and Twitter must feed. They prefer to ruin someone’s life and “hold them accountable” or haul the out in the public square and shame them into oblivion. Twitter is Ground Zero for “cancel culture,” which would not exist without Twitter. It’s a game played by 15% of users who dominate 80% of the conversation and they will throw tantrum after tantrum until they get their way.

Twitter has destroyed objectivity in the press, forced journalists and mainstream media to suck at the teet nonstop for instant feedback. Who are they if Twitter doesn’t share their stuff? No journalist or website owner can survive unless they’re plugged into Twitter to share links. If you try to deactivate your Facebook account you will find that most websites have your Facebook login info, encouraging you to opt in. They’re tracking you all of the time. Instagram knows how you feel at a certain time of day so it can target you to buy stuff. It is distorting how young people define themselves, how they see themselves, what reality even means. 

Someday in the not too distant future, Twitter and Facebook are going to face massive class action lawsuits for the damage they’ve done to public health. Who knows where we’ll be by then, or where we’ll be if all of us don’t find a way out of the algorithm-driven platforms and back towards real life. 

Empathy, not Dehumanization is Always the Answer. Always.

Unlike my friends on the left I understand the frustration and anger of Trump supporters because I’ve spent time in their world. Long story short: I saw that the left had slipped all too easily into dehumanization mode and there no bottom for that. It sent a chill down my spine remembering other times in history when dehumanization gripped a large group of people. Nothing good ever comes from it. Add to that, the problem of a unprecedented bias in the media in the Trump era where they just simply decided to stop telling people any kind of truth and simply joined with the Democrats in pushing Trump out. From Day One.

The riot at the Capitol was a horrific thing to watch. There is no getting around it. There is a difference between an uprising about black lives dying at the hands of cops and an election they thought they lost. What the uprising or insurrection or riot was really about, though, wasn’t the election at all. For the most part, Trump’s supporters prided themselves in being nonviolent. You would never hear this from the media, of course, so how would you know that? Most people were sold on the idea that they were the White Supremacists or Proud Boys out to kill BIPOC. But the supporters who went to his rallies condemned riots and violence, believe it or not. That was likely why the police weren’t out in force. They were normally on the side of the cops. They were the ones defending and fighting against “defund the police” so it’s unusual and out of character that they would storm the Capitol the way they did.

All of the Americans who were terrified by what they saw the first night of the George Floyd protests, where it looked like people were trying to break into the White House and were smashing cars and breaking windows and burning buildings did not have the same outrage from the media establishment that we’re seeing now. The Tom Cotton op-ed at the New York Times was meant to address it and we all know how that went. It sent the media into full blown 1984 mode where editors were fired for daring to step out of line. That would go on for months with no one on the left saying one single word about it except to offer empathy and launch a massive wave of activism called “antiracism.” The Trump folks, frustrated in their misery of having no outlet and no politician to even see them at all, and when they did see them they compared them to rats or cockroaches to be purged, had few places to turn except Twitter.

There was never an ounce of empathy for their having watched for four years as the Democrats and the media that supports them attacked Trump on everything from what Melania wore to how she decorated the Christmas tree to whether or not she was a sociopath. Melania was the First Lady but no magazine would put her on the cover. Why, because no one could afford to alienate their paying audience by “normalizing” the Trumps who were deemed White Supremacists early on.

So it’s a bit shocking to all that Trump managed to gain support among Black and Hispanic voters. It’s only a shock to those who never bothered to ask why that might be. Now Trump’s supporters have no access to the candidate they supported and the only person in Washington who sees them at all.

Civil War or Domestic Terrorism?

Now it looks like we’re headed for something even bigger because the only way Trump had to communicate with his followers was Twitter and Facebook and email is gone - so it will all go underground and become much more extreme. As usual, the only response Democrats have is to throw them all away like human garbage or put them in re-education camps. He is still the President of the United States and the people who elected him have a RIGHT to be able to hear what he has to say.

If the President is using social media then it must somehow be regulated so that the people have fair access to their leaders. We can’t leave it in the hands of the tech bros who now rest on their billions without a care for the “little people” they’ve ruined, the country they’ve destroyed, and the minds they’ve wrecked for the foreseeable future. No, for the tech bros they moved fast and they broke things and they’re ready to take their place among the oligarchs.