Monday, 12 December 2016

A very unsocial media

There's no question the internet and social media in particular has transformed how we communicate with each other. Through the wonders of twitter fans of famous people can now communicate - and even argue - directly with celebrities, where previously time consuming letters would need to be written and posted (almost certainly going unread anyway). And via facebook people can accumulate vast numbers of 'friends'. Indeed i know people who can boast of thousands of 'facebook friends' - the fact they have never met 99 percent of these people and might only have half a dozen friends in real life seems not to trouble them. But while there can be no question of the extent to which social media has transformed how we communicate with one another this transformation it must be said also has its grim side.

Following the murder of the MP Jo Cox twenty five thousand people tweeted support for her deranged Nazi murderer Thomas Mair. The Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was the subject of rape and murder threats earlier this year The prominent Remain supporting MP Anna Soubry was the target of a recent tweet in which someone said she should be 'jo coxed' ie murdered, while Gina Miller and her family have been put under police protection as the result of online death threats from far right opponents of her legal action on whether the UK parliament should be consulted about the brexit agreement.

Only last week a British neo fascist received a two year jail sentence for an online campaign of racial harassment targeted at the Jewish MP Luciana Berger And in the last couple of days the growing and extremely disturbing trend by which people with extreme right wing views use social media to target those they disagree was made even more real for me when a good friend of mine - Martyn Shrewsbury - was the subject of online threats from another apparent graduate of the far right's school for keyboard warriors

There's certainly something about social media which brings out the worst in some people and there can be no doubt that it has emboldened the far right in Britain and further afield in recent times. Witness the statistics released by google this week showing one of the search engines most used online searches is by people querying if the holocaust took place?

While 'fake news' spread via social media has been credited with the Leave Europe campaign winning the EU referendum and the unexpected triumph of Donald Trump in the United States Indeed thanks to the disinformation and fake news being disseminated by far right groups on social media it's now being seriously speculated that we might not any longer recognise fascism if we saw it.
And if all of this wasn't alarming enough then there's the increase in the incidences of people broadcasting their own death via social media. In the latest sickening example Yahoo news last week carried a horrific report of a fatal car crash involving two American teenagers that went out live on facebook.

How long before we start seeing state executions in China or the United States broadcast live via facebook or gang rapes by drugs cartels going out on Skype? And if you think there wouldn't be an audience out there for such repulsive things you'd be mistaken - the profitable worldwide trade in images of bestiality, rape and child porn ought to tell you that. Maybe the sickening beheading videos carried out by the medieval homicides of daesh - and still freely available to view online - have just been softening us all up for live twitter feeds of lethal injections from the Huntsville Penitentiary in Texas? (The new tenant arriving in the White House would likely be an avid viewer).

Clearly you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to see that for all its popularity the internet and social media is changing people - and almost certainly not for the better. So much so that 'anti social' media would perhaps be a more fitting epithet. Indeed if i was seriously inclined to believe in such things i might begin to wonder if social media was the work of the devil?

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