Slate obliquely criticizes the Harper’s letter, blames Twitter for everything

I used to think of Slate and Salon as brother sites, with Salon being the slightly unhinged and woker younger brother and Slate being the more serious elder.  Well, Salon has gone down the drain of wokeness, and Slate is no longer nearly as interesting as it used to be, full as it is now with advice columns and celebrity gossip. I mourn the days when Hitchens, for instance, used to write great pieces at Slate.  I was even impressed enough to pitch and publish two pieces there (here and here).

When I looked at the latest version of Slate, I was a bit distressed to see that the site, along with others on the Left, had taken a stand against the letter in Harper’s that’s excited so much discussion. Or rather, without engaging in (or even mentioning) the letter, the author, Lili Loofbourow, argues that the thesis of the Harper’s letter—the existence of a chilled climate for expressing your opinions because of fear of mob destruction of your reputation or of your job—is incomplete. (I just discovered another more explicit attack on the Harper’s letter in Slate, which you can see here, though it says very little).

Loofbourow’s thesis is the the Harper’s letter missed a critical element in why the climate of chilled discourse is so ubiquitous. It’s Twitter, Jake!

Loofbourow:

But there’s something crucial missing in these analyses, which grow vague and blame “the present climate” when they draw their comparisons to Orwell’s 1984. To hear them say it, it’s this climate that is responsible for unjust firings, even more than the actual employers. This climate is angry. This climate won’t be reasoned with. But what I think is largely responsible for this phenomenon they’re observing—without understanding—is Twitter. And the internet at large. And how years of arguing on social platforms, mixed with the incentives that they supply, has distorted not just the way most of us talk about things but also the way we manage ideological dissent. In short: Political discourse has been warped less because of “cancel culture” or “illiberalism” than by the way social media platforms have been poisoned, like wells, that poison us in turn.

Loofborouow goes on at length to parse the dynamics of Twitter: how the same argument arises again and again, always with predictable consequences, a feature that puts “a lot of people at the end of their rope.” This leads people to “presume bad faith”, and “meta-argue,” talking past each other.

The flaw in Loofbourow’s argument is that she doesn’t connect the dots between this dynamic and the problem raised by the Harper’s letter: a mob mentality that simply wants to punish people for their ideas. Note that the Harper’s letter just describes the phenomenon without diagnosing its causes, a step that would have caused the letter to be overly long, producing unproductive disagreements among the authors:

The the letter in Harper’s just diagnoses the problem:

But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

Well, I don’t want to go into the Slate piece in detail. It sloppily written, full of jargon, and not worthy of a full rebuttal. Just let me say a few things.

First of all, Twitter may be a proximate cause of many of the acts of social-media mobs that have poisoned the climate for free discussion, but behind that is a lot of human psychology that goes undiscussed. There’s the anonymity of using social media, the lack of the face-to-face contact that inhibits more vile statements, the ubiquity of confirmation bias, the inability of many people to focus attention on longer arguments,  a fault not of Twitter, but of the Internet), a political tribalism increased in the U.S. by the election of Trump and in England by Brexit, Boris Johnson, and so on. I’m sure readers can think of other reasons, and by all means proffer them below.

Further, a great deal of the real damage to free discourse has little to do with Twitter, although the Internet makes that damage occur faster. The deplatformings of speakers at colleges (mostly deriving from the Left), the walkout by Hachette employees that led to that firm’s reneging on its agreement to publish Woody Allen’s memoirs, the pushback against the NYT’s publication of Tom Cotton’s editorial by Times staffers who claimed they felt “unsafe”—this has little to do with Twitter, or at least not with any mindset produced by Twitter. There’s a whole psychology behind Twitter, one effectively described by Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in The Coddling of the American Mind.

Yes, Twitter makes it easier to bully people, organize mobs, and threaten themselves and their livelihoods, but Twitter by itself is not an explanation for such bullyings, firings, and so on. There are deeper reasons. I’ve advanced a few here, but the Harper’s letter wisely refrained. Before we can fix the problem, we have to agree that the problem exists. Loofbourow seems to think it does, but her diagnosis is like a doctor saying that the problem is an itch when the ultimate cause is infection with parasitic flukes (“swimmer’s itch“, which I got a case of then I went into the pond to rescue an orphaned duckling.) Many others on the Left deny that there is a problem of “cancel culture.”

And I’m not sure that we need to understand exactly why people act as bullies and harassers to curb that behavior. Perhaps it would be useful, but perhaps as well it’s easier to cure the bullying than, say, repair the split between Democrats and Republicans in America that underlies tribalism. We could start by not firing people for exercising their freedom of speech, and being more charitable towards our fellow humans, flawed just as we are.

 

50 thoughts on “Slate obliquely criticizes the Harper’s letter, blames Twitter for everything

  1. It would be like saying twitter is the reason Trump is a psychopath. No, he was already a psychopath long before there was a twitter. The platform just informs a lot of people that he is one. Maybe being woke or nuts leads you to twitter. It is part of the herd mentality.

  2. The money quote: “The rational move has become to presume bad faith.” I thought the essay was sensible and well documented. Its failing was that it did not explain why the understandable effects of assuming bad-faith argument have now extended to efforts to get opponents fired from their jobs. All the twitter toxicity in the world doesn’t account for that progression from name-calling online to loss of job IRL.

  3. There’s the anonymity of using social media, the lack of the face-to-face contact that inhibits more vile statements…

    I think this hits the nail on the head.

    Consider for example an “in person” job firing decision. I (I’ll use myself as the example firee) might not know who complained about me, but the corporate counsel does. They take statements from known people, evaluate their complaints for credibility, evaluate whether I did what is claimed I did plus other factors, and give their considered decision to the CEO or other boss. It seems very reasonable to me to demand the same level of non-anonymity for firing or editing decisions based on internet data. The corporate counsel or another trusted third party should know who is doing the complaining. Should know if the accuser has had reasonable social contact with the accused. Base their recommendation to the CEO or other boss on that data.

    1. I certainly agree that anonymity allows more people to be nastier online but many performing Cancel Culture do not hide their identities. How would virtue signalling work if people don’t know who they are?

      The corporate cases you mention are tricky. There are many times when maintaining the anonymity of accusers is reasonable. I think the problem is that employers, or their HR departments, find it easier to just get rid of someone than investigate or run the risk of the corporate reputation being damaged by Cancel Culture. Many times cases are impossible to investigate.

  4. Surely, Twitter is just an enabler of Cancel Culture and not an explanation of it. Twitter allows information about the latest “outrage” to spread quickly and is an instant and free means of bombarding the “offender” and their employer with complaints.

    In the old days, finding out about the latest “outrage” would take longer and the action required to complain would necessitate writing a letter, finding the postal address, paying for postage, and making a trip to the post box.

  5. “We could start by not firing people for exercising their freedom of speech…”

    I think this statement is too broad. Employers set policies, which employees are bound to respect. Thus, if an organization has a policy that employees cannot espouse racist ideas, in or out of the office setting, then employees who violate this policy can be fired. The organization would be abridging the employee’s free speech, but it is perfectly legal and perfectly correct. The problem arises when an employee makes remarks that are not intended to be racist and most would think they are not, yet a group of the easily offended pressure the employer to fire or discipline the employee. Often, it seems, employers will accede to the demands of the mob out of laziness to investigate what is really being attacked or out of fear that failing to act against the employee could damage the business.

    So, yes, an employee should be disciplined for making racist, sexist, homophobic remarks, etc. But, it is incumbent upon the employer to determine if, in fact, the employee made such remarks. Once again, I go back to what I consider the key sentence in the Harper’s letter: “More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.” Unwarranted attacks on employees will not go away. This is a fact of life. The way some employers react to the attacks is where the problem lies.

    1. “The problem arises when an employee makes remarks that are not intended to be racist and most would think they are not…”

      This view overlooks the vast underground of microaggressions, implicit bias, and white fragility, which are only detectable by trained Diversity Consultants. Specialists in this field are already at work in various public agencies. In Seattle, for example, such experts decree that “individualism,” “perfectionism,” “intellectualization,” and “objectivity” are all signs of internalized racial oppression and must be eliminated from
      the minds of (white) city employees. See:
      https://www.city-journal.org/seattle-interrupting-whiteness-training

      1. Scary stuff. Makes me glad to be retired. I don’t think I could have sat through “Interrupting Whiteness” training. We should send this link to Woke deniers like Sean Carroll and see if he has any comment.

    2. “Unwarranted attacks on employees will not go away. This is a fact of life. The way some employers react to the attacks is where the problem lies.”

      Thanks for pointing this out again. I agree and had not really thought about it. The cancel culture is only part of the problem — the cancel response is just as important.

    3. Employers set policies, which employees are bound to respect.

      The problem is exacerbated, particularly in right-to-work states, where the company has no written policy, the employees are “at-will,” and can be fired for any reason, or for no reason at all.

    4. How about having rules of conduct while at work, and while not at the workplace but still representing the employer.

      Beyond that, anything not illegal that the employee does on their own time is their own business.
      I can already think of reasonable exceptions to that rule, but it still seems basically sound to me.

      I just really cannot see how the various legal things my employees do while not at work are any of my business at all. It sort of goes with what they choose to spend their paycheck on.

      1. That’s my initial reaction too but I suspect things aren’t so simple. Employers seek out any and all information about a candidate when they are hiring someone, including their presence on social media. Should that be out of bounds for similar reasons? If not, then why should good behavior only be available to the employer before hiring but no longer a condition of continued employment? A company’s performance and reputation comes down to the actions of its employees. Why should that not include their time outside the office? Obviously, they should receive some level of privacy but I don’t see that what they do after they leave the office is completely off limits. The world would certainly not ignore the employees’ private lives if it tarnished the company image. On the other hand, what its employees do outside of the office can reflect positively on the company. In short, employees should have some privacy but not absolute.

  6. What a waste of time and space.

    This is yet another prime example of insular navel gazing by public intellectuals, whose livelihood depends (in their mind) on having people who think less deeply consume the waste heat of their excessive mental activity.

    It’s amazing that the people who both wrote/signed the Harpers letter, as well as those that have decided that it is so important to rebut (both in excruciatingly obtuse manners), don’t appreciate how much of their relatively short time on Earth they are wasting with this drivel.

    1. Aren’t we lucky that you are here to tell us that both sides are wrong and your opinion is right? Thank Ceiling Cat that a REAL thinker has come here to set us straight!

      Well, you had your chance to say your piece, and you’ll have to go to another website to say another.

  7. The illiberalism we are seeing (wokeness) is caused by good hearted people who aren’t that bright, or are not well educated. Most of us can instinctively feel that racism is wrong but if that’s all you have is your feelings, if you can’t intellectualize why racism occurs, and what would be the best course of action to deal with it, then all you have is your certainty that it is wrong, and without the mental ability to use words to combat it you resort to the only thing you do have which is bullying and authoritarianism. When you can not contextualize speech you need to ban certain words, and now even ban people, outright.

    The internet amplifies the voices of those who, prior to the internet, and particularly internet 2.0, did not have the mental capacities or the education to warrant a public platform to voice their ignorance. So yes, the internet and social media are involved here, but the real problem is ignorance whether it be self caused or though no fault of their own. I feel sorry for the “woke” who we call that, but who are clearly not that. But as much sympathy as I have for them, unfortunately the only way to deal with them is tough love, not coddling.

    Probably the biggest contributor to this problem was, and still is, universities and their faculty for caving and cowering before these ignorant petulant crybabies. Universities and their faculty had the chance to nip this in the bud but they blinked, they caved and they cowered and now here we are.

    If you ask me why racism is wrong I can make that case and I can go into hours of detail outlining why the problem occurs in the first place and the various ways we can curb it or get rid of it altogether. If you ask a “woke” person why racism is wrong the only answer they can muster is “Because don’t be a douchebag, that’s why!” Then all of the other wokesters laugh and applaud them and they all feel superior when in fact they have just displayed their utter ignorance on the matter. We are going to need a thousand more “Haprer’s letters” before we even make a dent in this thing. We have already let the authoritarianism go beyond the point of manageability and I honestly fear the problem is a runaway train at this point.

    1. I don’t think the Woke can be dismissed as easily as this. There is some logic behind their position. They are saying, among other things, that attempts to dissect racism intellectually are often intended to maintain the status quo and often those who participate aren’t even aware they are sustaining racism. I don’t believe that happens as much as they seem to but it is a discussion worth having. As many have pointed out, their position contains a circularity. They don’t want to discuss their position as that would be participating in racism. The existence of this circularity makes their position unassailable in their eyes. They have constructed a false conceptual structure. We need to take them on rather than dismiss them.

      1. I agree. At least for me it is from the Woke / Ctrl -left / regressive left, what-have-you that I have been taught about deep structural racism, and about the patriarchy (which does exist, after a fashion). They have been very very useful for teaching me many lessons.
        The proooblemmm is that some over- reach. They go way too far to the point of being just dumb and silly, and what is telling is that they never ever ever correct each other, but rather engage in a pattern of one-uppery in order to prove to one another how Woke they are. “I’m Woker than thou.”

        So we get nutty things like forcing a library to stop letting patrons wear a Japanese Kimono for fun, which was donated from kind people in Japan just for that purpose. Or accosting white people for wearing dreadlocks. Or screaming obscenities at a university employee because their wife simply questioned whether a university should police Halloween costumes. And on and on and on.

        1. I think we’re just seeing the tendency of any position to move to its extreme. We’ve seen it with conservatism, and how Reagan would no doubt be labeled a RINO now.

          Dealing with systemic racism is a laudable goal, but as Woke ideas bounce around the echo chamber they get increasingly intolerant.

  8. OMG (so to speak), the headline.
    I know (having been a journalist) that journalists don’t write their own headlines, but still.
    Says.
    It.
    All.

  9. I think it might be analogous to asking whether the pond gave you swimmer’s itch or the flukes did… they’re intertwined factors. If your neighbor screaming into a microphone keeps you awake and you ask which is keeping you awake – the neighbor or the microphone – then I think social media would be the microphone.

    What I think will shift is that those with some amount of actual power will not jump when the Twitter mob snaps its fingers forever (as they are at the moment – people on Twitter may call for people to be fired, but the people actually doing the firing are those at various companies.) It’s been interesting, for example, to see how the recent attempted cancellation of Goya has played out. The owner took an “I do not negotiate with terrorists” stance on the whole issue and didn’t back down, and it looks as if this has actually been a boon to the company’s sales.

    Twitter tends to look like ‘public opinion’ because it’s loud and easily visible. If companies start to see that their consumers actually have fairly different opinions, then the atmosphere could change quickly.

    I think ultimately most online space will have to be moderated, however. At first, any troll online could come in and say despicable things for kicks. Then people got fed up and decided they were going to enforce standards by mob rule. This helped with the handful of troublemaker trolls, but quickly became its own problem. Ultimately, I think there will just be much more moderation of online content, and some of it will be infuriating the way that HOAs and middle management are archetype-ally infuriating, but it will be the lesser of a few evils. Free speech can and should have a space on things like private websites and blogs, of course, but I think that troll-types who use that as a platform will increasingly become lone voices shouting on the internet street corner.

    1. It’s been interesting, for example, to see how the recent attempted cancellation of Goya has played out.

      Since when does a boycott qualify as “cancellation”? It’s the consumers’ traditional tool of free expression.

      I suppose you consider the Boston Tea Party the Patriots’ attempt to “cancel” the East India Company and George III?

      1. I think cancellations are a negative thing when they are leveled at innocent people who voice an opinion that is labeled not sufficiently Leftist. In the context of a war (or the immediate lead-up to a war), however, they would be almost comically polite, so I don’t have any issue thinking of the Boston Tea Party as cancellation-like. Actual battles with bayonets and cannons and guns were used during the Revolutionary War, after all, so it’s hard to compare it to our normal discourse.

        Of course I support the right of people to boycott. My point is that there seems to be a disconnect between the Twitter crowd and the average person. I was saying that companies fire people at the behest of Twitter mobs because, I think, they assume Twitter represents public opinion. So far this ‘boycott’ is visible on Twitter, but has not materialized in the real world. I predict that events such as this will, over time, make companies realize that the average person isn’t actually happy about them participating in witch hunts.

        1. I can see where a boycott is analogous to cancellation but I think we should keep these concepts separate. When we come out against cancellation, I think we’re talking about where an individual is attacked as punishment for some perceived transgression. I suppose that the only real difference between that and a boycott is that it is an individual who is cancelled.

          On the other hand, there are certainly unfair boycotts. One was documented in these very pages some time ago. Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio was falsely accused of being racist and lot’s of people told the community to boycott them.

          I suppose each case, boycott or cancellation, must be taken one at a time and examined on its merits.

        2. I will never support a boycott against someone or a business for doing what it has a right to do. The boycott against Goya is because he supports tRump. I detest tRump, but I will fight for someone’s right to support him. The boycotters are fools, not Patriots.

          1. Certainly a CEO has the right to vote for and support whatever political candidate they want. On the other hand, a line can be crossed at which point a boycott seems reasonable. I just don’t see it in this case though. The Goya CEO’s “praise for Trump” was fairly anodyne:

            “We’re all truly blessed…to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder. And that’s what my grandfather did, he came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper … and we pray, we pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country.”

            I’m guessing this boycott is going to quickly run out of gas and have little long-term effect on the business. In fact, it has sparked an offsetting buy-cott. A least it’s safer to argue over this than the wearing of masks.

          2. I take it then that you opposed the boycott in support of Caesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers against Gallo wines and iceberg lettuce?

            The freedom of expression that protects people’s right to call for a boycott is the exact same freedom of expression as protects Goya CEO Robert Unanue’s right to make an ass of himself by fawning over Donald Trump in the Rose Garden.

            They go together like a horse and carriage; you can’t have one without the other.

            Expression being “free” doesn’t guarantee it comes without cost. Therein lies the difference “free speech” and “free beer.”

            1. I didn’t say people do not have the right to boycott. I said I will not support a boycott when someone is performing a Constitutional right, which includes their free speech and who they vote for.

              1. To clarify my position, I would not boycott or support a boycott on the basis of speech. But I might on the basis of actions. For example, if a company CEO said something that could be construed as racist, no. But if his/her company engaged in racist actions, like not hiring black employees, I probably would.

              2. I DID support the UFW boycott, though I gotta concede it was no great sacrifice: Gallo wine sucks and iceberg is the worst of all lettuces (though tolerable when cut in a wedge and topped with Roquefort dressing).

                And your assertion about “not support[ing] a boycott when someone is performing a Constitutional right” makes no sense at all to me. I would fight to the death for Nazis’ right to march through Skokie, but I’d be damned before buying any frijoles negros or guava paste from them (were the bigots ever to market any) as I did until recently from Goya Foods.

        3. The Boston Tea Party took place in 1773, a year and a half before the first shots were fired at Lexington & Concord, so I think your historical timing is off a smidge.

          Be that as it may, I can hardly think of anything more American than consumers’ banding together to express their political preferences through an economic boycott. That’s not “cancellation”; that’s the essence of free expression.

          The efficacy of such boycotts is a different matter entirely. Perhaps consumers who approve of Robert Unanue’s kissing Trump’s ass will double their Goya purchases. That’s their freedom of expression at work, too — where the marketplace of ideas meets the marketplace itself.

          People who confuse countervailing fee speech with “cancellation” indulge precisely the same over-hyped error as those who confuse speech they abhor with threats to their “safety.”

          1. I know, that’s why I specifically said events leading up to war. I would count a year and a half as well within that timeframe, but I guess it’s subjective. By way of modern example, if before actually deploying troops in Afghanistan we had, a year and a half prior, said “Oh that’s it! You are CANCELLED al-Qaeda,” I wouldn’t have gone “Oh my gosh! Now you’ve gone too far! Cancel culture is out of control!”. Same for Germany prior to that. The type of relationship that precedes a war is contextually very different. That’s why I’m not big on moral imperatives in general.

            As for what does and doesn’t qualify as ‘cancellation’ – I think that’s really too subjective to parse in a meaningful way, as it’s more a pop culture term. It’s kind of like saying “I think these people are being a d*ck about this.” People’s opinions will vary. If you think someone deserved what they got, then by pop culture standards, that is not ‘cancelling’ them; if you think they didn’t, then, (again, by pop culture standards,) it’s ‘cancel culture’. In this case, I don’t think a CEO saying he supports a politician is reason to boycott a company. Having a bipartisan country literally wouldn’t work if we applied that standard uniformly. If you boycotted everyone who showed support for the opposing party, you’d functionally be saying that the only acceptable situation is some sort of one-party rule.

            1. What you see as a recipe for a one-party totalitarian hellscape, I see as simply enlightened capitalism.

              Which candidate a corporate CEO supports personally isn’t top on my list of priorities, but when it comes to my hard-earned consumer dollar, I prefer to spend it on companies that pursue sound environmental policies, sustainable farming, and pay their employees a living wage under safe working conditions.

              But then, one man’s meat is another man’s humanely raised farm animal.

              And given my choice between supporting a company with a Trump-humping CEO and one without — between, say, a Goya Foods and a Badia Spices — well, I’m voting with my pocketbook by seasoning my arroz con pollo with the sazon con azafran from Badia.

              I don’t see that as “cancel culture,” but if you and Robert Unanue see it otherwise, if the two of you consider it tantamount to a demand (in your words) “to negotiate with terrorists,” well I reckon we’ll all just have to learn to live with that, won’t we?

              1. Well I have parted with people over Brexit and supporting the British Conservative Party after the Windrush betrayal which they pretended was unimportant, and my sister unfriended an ardent Brexiteer on Facebook who was not only pro-Brexit but virulently racist on Facebook(‘England for the English’, ‘kick immigrants out’, etc); and I should feel no qualms, were in the States, about not buying Goya products when its CEO heaps fawning praise on that thoroughly evil person, Trump.

                I also feel no sympathy whatsoever for the British historian David Starkey (another maverick) who lost two positions at universities after saying in an interview regarding slavery:”Slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there? An awful lot of them survived.”

                Nor do I disagree in any way with the Bosnian American writer Aleksandar Hemon’s fury over the Nobel Prize for Literature being awarded to Peter Handke after the latter supported the Serbians and denied the massacres of Bosnian Muslims, and his refusal to read Handke’s books any more.

                Regarding ‘free speech’ and absolutism about it, the army of Myanmar created fake Facebook accounts to denigrate and defame the Rohingya and so precipitated massacre, rape & ‘ethnic cleansing’. It may be that the writer of the offending piece in SLATE exaggerated a bit, but the fact is that platforms like Facebook & Twitter have created an extraordinary weapon for the rapid dissemination of fake news and bullying.

              2. We totally agree on enlightened capitalism. Remember, my original point was that I think the consumer will have the final say here. We just have different predictions about how people are going to vote with their pocketbooks.

  10. the inability of many people to focus attention on longer arguments, a fault not of Twitter, but of the Internet)

    Since I can’t focus on the longer argument, I note that this was said when television came, and I guess when radio and newspapers came before them, presumably going all the way back to clay tablets.

    Seems the research is that it is a global trend, but in everything and a century old:

    “Global attention span is narrowing and trends don’t last as long, study reveals
    Research combed from everything from movie tickets to social media finds more to focus on but less time to do so”

    “It’s just as you suspected; the information age has changed the general attention span. A recently published study from researchers at the Technical University of Denmark suggests the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public. Released on Monday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study shows people now have more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time.”

    ““This trend had started at least [a] hundred years ago,” explained the researchers. The findings mostly correlate to the greater public, not the individuals who are seeing and creating the consumed media, like journalists who must compete in the accelerated news cycle. But Lorenz-Spreen and Hövel argue quality journalism will always have a place in the public sphere, just likely not on social media. “Visionary or well-investigated stories (quality journalism) will always have [their] space, but the distribution via social media alone is probably not the most efficient way of distribution for a longer, more detailed story.””

    [ https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/16/got-a-minute-global-attention-span-is-narrowing-study-reveals ]

  11. Would “cancel culture” and “wokeness” exist without Twitter? Probably not.

    Cancel culture/wokeness = far left + Twitter

    1. “Would “cancel culture” and “wokeness” exist without Twitter? Probably not.”

      I can’t disagree more. If it wasn’t Twitter, it would be somewhere else. Besides, even with Twitter, a lot of these things happen elsewhere. It’s like saying “Would organized crime exist without the telephone?” Of course it would.

      1. Would Trump retain his hold over so many without Twitter? Why concentrate only on ‘wokeness’ and ‘cancel culture’?

        1. I doubt if the lack of Twitter would affect Donald Trump that much. He would find some other way to communicate. Perhaps he would start up FDR-style fireside chats. Most of his followers probably only learn of his tweets on TV anyway. Finally, if Twitter didn’t exist, entrepreneurs would create something like it, calling it Growler perhaps.

          1. Well, his daily ‘press-conferences’ on the corona virus rapidly descended into something like ‘fireside chats’ (though wholly unlike FDR’S) and he certainly employs other press-conferences, not to mention not so mega-MAGA meetings, to fan the flames.

      2. Some tweets can reach more people than a Super Bowl ad can.

        Which of these ads have you seen on Twiter recently?
        A) Woke Culture
        B) Coca Cola
        C) McDonald’s

        Skip the survey.

  12. I don’t think the dynamics of the mob mentality and the bullying are, in any sense, new. When I was at college in the 1980’s the same dynamics were in evidence amongst the students. There were regular calls for people with unacceptable opinions to be no-platformed. The student Conservative group (i.e. the club that supposed the mainstream Conservative party) got banned from union general meetings once.

    The reason why nobody ever heard about the activities of the left wing students at York University is because they had no means of broadcasting their thoughts to the wider world. You could write an op-ed in Nouse – the Student newspaper – but not even most of the students read that.

    It’s social media that brings these people the prominence that they now have. It also brings them power. Back in the 80’s our left wing students were often campaigning to get people fired but nobody was listening to them.

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