Other Battlegrounds

The censorship wrought by social media and other Silicon Valley tech giants has generated a huge amount of discussion, as well as people’s reactions to it. This humble writer is no exception. My recent posts about my decision to ditch social media have sparked some good conversations on this blog and on others, most recently on that of writer Jon Mollison.

In a post responding to my post “Get Off Social Media,” Jon writes (emphasis mine):

Amatopia makes a great case for abandoning social media altogether:

Remember: many of these big tech companies are in bed with politicians and act at their behest, or have the cash to influence these politicians to vote for stuff that benefits big tech.

So in addition to helping kill normal human social interaction and cognitive ability, social media and big tech literally want to control the country.

He has a point, but I’m not quite ready to completely cut the umbilical.  There’s a fair few communities out there that have backup contingency plans for when the big hammer falls, but for now these places are the de facto public square.  Conservatives tucked tail and slunk out of the meat space public square of entertainment, and I’m not quite ready to yield the field to the left just yet.  Not while there remain noses to tweak and real-time conversations to help me understand how to improve my writing and storycraft.

He goes on to make the same point I did about social media being an incredible time and energy sink (emphasis mine):

That said, I’ve stepped back away from it a bit to refocus here and on my writing.  It’s a lot easier to avoid the time sink when you feel the heavy hand of the muses pressing against your back.  Man are they pressing me these days – the writing of my latest book has rocketed up into the stratosphere – this one’s a blatant throwback to the pulp era with all sorts of the usual tricks stirred together with more contemporary world-building and the over-the-top fantasy stylings that make this novel as much a mystery as an action piece, and holy cats did Cirsova set me straight on how to produce a legitimate pulp love triangle.

Jon makes a valid argument, but I have to clarify a few things:

  • My decision to quit social media was pretty much personal; this other overt and blatant political stuff happened to occur at the same time.
  • I am not “yielding the field to the left,” as there is more to life and the culture wars, as it were, than Twitter.
  • Why on Earth would I want to make myself reliant on platforms that have proven they would ban me from using them if the mood struck, for non-violations of their vague and contradictory Terms of Use and other policies?

I am not turtling, nor do I advocate the limp-wristed so-called “Benedict Option” advocated by the perpetually fainthearted Rod Dreher. I just choose to do my thing and fight my battles on a ground of my choosing.

WordPress has not given any indication that it wants to censor and ban users who depart from the mainstream narrative. Yes, I’m always advocating to use alternative platforms, but sometimes alternative platforms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes the dominant service is pretty good, like WordPress, or like Amazon.

Of course, these things could turn on a dime and I could be eating my words. But again, WordPress has given me zero indication that it is involved in the censorship business.

I still say that, in the absence of government regulation of these so-called “public squares” as “public squares”–and if you’re going to call social media platforms “the public square,” you’re going to need to put away your instinctive distaste of government action–the best way to fight back against these platforms is to not use them. Deprive them of what they want: your time and attention, you information, your eyeballs to sell to advertisers, and your content that you give to them for free.

I also got into it a little bit with friend of the blog PC Bushi on my recent post “The Masters of the Universe Hate You. I reproduce part of our discussion just to illustrate the philosophical divide between many of us on the same side.

pcbushi
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 9:14 AM
I don’t see that as a solution right now. Your average internet denizen doesn’t know that this stuff is going on, and they’re not about to stop watching cat videos because some guy named Jones got kicked off YouTube.
If a majority of users or even a sizable chunk cared, sure. But until then, leaving just means the only voices left are the leftists and the non political.
For all this, I noticed guys like Jon and Brian still use Twitter. Because it’s a free communications and marketing tool, so why not?

Alex
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 9:36 AM
I understand the counterargument completely, and it does have merit. I just disagree.
I also wonder about the utility of Facebook, Twitter, etc. in selling stuff. Promotion, sure, but I’d like to see someone, maybe Brian or Jon, talk about how many books Twitter has actually helped them sell. I’m sure you can measure click-through rates and all that.
I want to clarify further that I quit for mostly personal reasons. This political stuff happened to occur at the same time. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough about this in my initial posts.

pcbushi
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 9:43 AM
I don’t mean to say that I completely disagree with “don’t give money to people who hate you.” But I also don’t think disengaging from the public forum and pop culture is going to be super effective. That’s effectively what we are talking about, no?
I mean you have a blog that people read, so that’s great. But what about someone who’s got nothing but a Twitter account? Not so easy to just start a website; you don’t get eyeballs out of nowhere.

pcbushi
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 9:46 AM
Also – to what end? Need we vet the politics and beliefs of anyone we want to engage in commerce with?

Alex
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 11:54 AM
Maybe. If you know a platform hates people like you, name them, and might deep six your whole operation without warning for any reason whatsoever, wouldn’t you want to know?

Alex
AUGUST 26, 2018 AT 11:31 AM
Nah. The likelihood of WordPress censoring people seems slim to none. Other companies have tipped their hands—they want to influence elections.
I don’t think it’s accurate to equate “not using Twitter/social media” with “disengaging from pop culture.” I mean, I might start an author account just to push to those who only use Twitter, for example. But I certainly don’t want to rely solely or primarily on it.

There are no easy answers. Like I said, if I could control my social media use better, I’d probably still be on the damn platforms. But they are a time-sink, take away time from writing, and seem far less utilitarian than this blog. Besides, if you want an alternative to a Twitter group discussion, you could always start an email chain with all relevant parties on it. It’s the exact same thing.

Long-form writing and meaningful commentary from intelligent people like Jon and Bushi seem far more useful than several dozen “likes” and snarky 280-word quips about really dank memes and motivational claptrap. But that’s just me.

9 comments

  1. I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of this, Alex. And I also laud you for stepping back from Twitter. I haven’t been able to make that leap yet, though someday…

    But I would argue that an email chain isn’t the same thing at all. The difference is reach. Sure, if you get banned or otherwise censored by Twitter, you’re super limited. But on Twitter I can start a thread talking to myself or tagging in one or two others, and wind up with a dozen followers (or even non-followers) jumping in. Whether or not that’d desirable is another issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I admit I have been drawn into Twitter because I realised I relied too much on the WordPress audience which can be very fickle and can suddenly drop off when a follower gets bored with blogging. This does trouble me slightly as I feel my relationship with Twitter is attempt to draw attention to my blog rather than producing any value. I take a serious dislike of wordpressers who are all take “the read my blog … oh BTW nice post” types, sometime feel I am doing the same.

    I do find it useful as a tool to inspire writing and also a tester to explore what topics could be popular, as well as some of the genuine people who really have something worthwhile to say. I have flirted slightly with my political interests as on Twitter it is hard to escape, but it is concerning that an individual could invest so much time on there and lose access to all the effort contributed out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Twitter and politics . . . if there’s an opposite of “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” that’s what that is. Some people have opinions that shouldn’t be given equal airing or serious consideration with others, full stop, end of story.

      I know what you mean about empty comments on posts just to comment. How different is that from Twitter though?

      Liked by 1 person

      • True, I think I have said before with Twitter politics, it implants issues that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of or care about if I wasn’t on Twitter.

        Interent is no different anywhere, always people expecting something for as little effort as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps its more fair to say that we all need to generate multiple platforms from which to speak to make it harder to be silenced. The coordinated attacks on Alex Jones and Metokur at least forced Big Social to reveal their hands, and showed us all that if we oppose the Narrative, we need to have multiple backup reboubts into which we can retreat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s a good idea. Be on everything at once, flood the zone . . .

      I recall Gab had a feature that would repost any Gab messages on Twitter. The bad thing is that it only posted an excerpt to Twitter so it required an extra click. Missed an opportunity there to really siphon users from the bird site.

      Like

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