Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

John Herrman, New York Times:

So what’s the joke, exactly? For The_Donald, one “joke” was that a bunch of self-described losers could help Donald Trump become “God Emperor.” (They were happy with “President.”) For WallStreetBets, the “joke” was that a group of self-described losers (their preferred real descriptors are unprintable) could rig the financial system in their own favor. The punchline was GameStop, and tens of billions of dollars in actual market activity.

The bigger joke, shared by these communities and plenty of others, is, well, everything. Everything is a farce and a fraud, and the surest, or at least most available, way to get ahead is to treat it as such. This is a profoundly nihilistic worldview, and one that in plenty of other contexts might meet hard limits, or come with terrible costs.

I had a bunch of tabs open to read tonight; this story and Daring Fireball were among those. Herrman’s piece runs along similar lines to Gruber’s piece from earlier today about the Republican party’s humouring in November of the former president’s ludicrous lies about voter fraud, and the poor moderation of Facebook Groups. The idea that online discussions that are allowed to fester with increasingly extremist views could result in real-world effects seems to be inconceivable every single time it happens.

That is not to say that the internet causes this behaviour, nor that anonymity does. There is a broader failing of social safety nets and good governance that can take sufficient blame for caustic nihilism. But this multiyear experiment in scant moderation of the discussion of hundreds of millions — or billions — of people is unworkable.