It is a System.
I grant that the way I’m viewing it is perhaps different, and has deviated somewhat from those initial statements. I grant also the ever persistent problem that all these words we use mean different things to each of us.
Would it be accurate to say that what you are taking issue with in that statement is the idea that the “mob” has a conscious, clarified agenda, and is actively, intentionally out looking for people to ruin with the goal of weeding everyone out? That there is, to an extent, a “mastermind brain” to the mob? I think I’m losing you when you say “and let God sort them out?”.
The way I read it was saying for a mob (and I think perhaps the word mob is too loaded with connotation here - perhaps better to say the “movement”) (update: I mean here merely ‘a thing that moves’) there is a necessary pre-requisite that anyone who is punished is indeed guilty. The ‘movement’ cannot be viewed as a “reign of terror” if all those who have been tried and punished (and here we’re being generous in saying there even is a ‘trial’) were indeed guilty. So the “movement” cannot itself acknowledge that there is certain instances where it erred in judgement.
It must maintain itself to maintain itself.
Perhaps where we differ is I don’t view it as a “movement” or even a “mob”. I see it as a system. A system whereby when you introduce something into it, and encourage it, it has unintended consequences.
When social media was rising, there wasn’t any pernicious overlord (I could be wrong) hoping to entrap people and takes us to where we are today, getting everyone addicted, and infiltrating every aspect of our lives, but it becomes its own thing, against its creators designs. Like Frankenstein.
It’s looking at how an abstract system like that works out in reality, and how that reality feeds back into the system. It’s about how it is that the beautiful mathematical insights seem to recede further and further into the distance as the system trundles along and becomes its own thing—its own messy, unpleasant and inefficient human thing.
We know how politics work in these systems. Very often, if you’re not implementing the thought of the beloved chairman, your superiors will decide that there’s something wrong with you and you’re obviously a problematic political element who needs to be eliminated. So the categories you use are likely to reflect the ideas of your superiors, even if you know that they’re wrong.
Now saying that, I’m not suggesting that there is indeed a ‘chariman’, at least not in a physical embodiment. But the system cannot be controlled. That is what I worry about. That is why I wrote about the snowball slowly ascending the mountain. Perhaps no-one rolling the snowball means to hurt anyone on the other side of the mountain, but it doesn’t really matter. Once it reaches the crest, no moment of clarification can stop what is already in motion. It becomes harder to see where the lines are crossed, and it takes on a life of its own when it becomes the general, encouraged, only acceptable, way of being in society.
That’s maybe where we’re clashing. I’m not saying this an attack. I don’t think it is. I think there are people who genuinely think they are doing good. But the effects of this good must be considered. I’m certainly not smart enough to do the considering or ‘reckoning with’ myself. I’m trying to grasp hold of it just like anyone else. But it is troubling, and I think to pretend otherwise is playing fast and loose with a system that will not play prejudice. In the same way the virus does not care, soon, neither will the system. (System here meaning the inanimate glob).
Now where I maybe differ from @ayjay is I’m not attributing this necessarily to those lusting for social control—not in large. But I can see that a side effect of the system, this system in particular, will of course, in its evolved form, reflect something of the ideas of those that are right now doing the “cancelling”. So society then becomes the place where you don’t see the “mob” anymore, and that’s because there is no need for it; everyone is doing their diligent, scrutinising self-policing. There is no-one tweeting the research of a Black Professor that says “maybe violent protests aren’t blankedly a good thing” because they know if they do they’ll be fired from their job. So society sees no ‘mobs’ and everyone breathes easy, thinking all is good, but there are no mobs because no-one dare say anything that may waken the slumbering mob, even if they know the thing isn’t actually, or wasn’t once, an offence to lose one’s job over. This may seem hyperbolic but I’m really not sure it is.
If I were, today, to tweet out this particular research right now, and my employer could call me up and say they’re going to fire me for it… I don’t think it unreasaonable to be at least somewhat concerned with where this is heading.
Of course, this is by no means the bigest issue facing humanity right now. But I believe we brush it under the carpet and make excuses for it at our own peril.
To what you said about wishing “true and actual racist behaviour” were called out in the same manner, I would argue that it is, and has. That’s why there were protests. That’s why there there has been this awakening. That’s why the movement is moving.
The movement is not the snowball.
And lastly, to what you say about how “giving precious and plaintive column inches to the accused is out of proportion,” I would agree; but it goes both ways. It can’t be that we can print a piece that destroys someone’s life, then after the fact say “there are more important things we could be talking about than this, no-one should waste any more time and energy on it. Go do something proper about racism” “go print something that is actually about racism?” Have I missed your point there? It seems to me you’re saying that these pieces shouldn’t be printed in the first place (whether the initial ‘takedown’ or the pieces criticising the takedown?)
Because to say that everyday racism is getting “absolutely zero column inches” really doesn’t seem to be the case..?
To add to that; you cannot see the system from inside the system. Each time the “movement” metes out its punishment, whether it was justified or not, it reinforces in itself, in the system, it replicates, and convinces itself; it is just.
Do you, and this isn’t rhetorical, think that someone should get fired for tweeting a piece of research from a Black University professor of his findings regarding violent protests? Because I don’t. In the same way I don’t think that Priyamvada Gopal should have been fired for tweeting ‘white lives don’t matter’. And the thing is, this isn’t only just happening now. The snowball didn’t just start getting rolled two months ago. To say these are isoloated incidents doeesn’t seem true anymore.
I’m taking this out of context (it’s from Anna Wiener’s ‘Uncanny Valley’ and is referring to silicon valley, but I think it maybe explains in very few words what I feel I have failed to convey here:
They are half-accidentally creating an ecology with unexpected consequences and unanticipated evolutionary niches, occupied by strange new predator and prey relations.
Maybe, on second thought, a few more words would serve:
What happens is that people begin to turn the system to their own uses. She describes how the creepier elements of the alt-right and neo-Nazis begin to colonize GitHub as a means of first of all, organizing protests against the perceived dominance of the man-hating-women in the technology industry and then as a platform to organize support for Trump. This is not something that the designers of the system ever expected. But when they create these open systems, which have a minimal degree of human oversight, people are of course going to start finding unexpected ways to use them. Some of these unexpected uses can be wonderful and extraordinary and transformative, but given the way human beings are, some are going to be self-interested and some downright creepy and nasty.
Maybe it’s important to distinguish (note to self) that as much as it feels like Twitter is the nucleus of modernity, it actually only represents a small data set of the whole.
Maybe this guy wouldn’t have lost his job if instead of tweeting the research, the exchange was instead at a bar, or a bbq, or a friend of a friend’s wedding, and he merely said “Oh I read this thing”… I’m not sure.
Maybe I’m overstating how big a part of the ‘system’ the internet is. I don’t know.