Sunday, June 26, 2016

To my shame, Brexit and the Idiot Platform

I spent a coach journey home in Radiotopia, listening to Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything and Love+Radio; specifically, The Future, Platform of the Real, and The Silver Dollar. In Platform of the Real, John Herrman refers to sites like Facebook as platforms, and, as the episode closes, says they're now the venue for culture - it's a nuanced point, detailing the changing relationship between creators, the media industry and audiences, but it was that simple statement that struck me, and, as the title of this post states, shamed me.

For the past two mornings, I'd been wallowing, laying in bed, scrolling through Facebook on my phone, sinking lower and lower. Where normally there'd be a stream of banality and babies, the algorithm was now full-on Brexit. But, disturbingly -- though, unsurprisingly -- it was populated by the more reserved of my 'friends', being anything but; the anguish, regrets, and pledges for the future were hard to read, reflecting much of what I'd been dealing with since Friday morning.

We were staying with friends in London this weekend, in close quarters, and the scenario of us all on phones, "Did you read this?" "Yes, did you see that?" between rooms, all on the platform, just exacerbated these feelings, from my point of view.

Then I cracked. Lamenting to those around me wasn't enough.

I too shouted at the void.

I had posted late Thursday, blandly, reliving the horror of that other recent election night, sick with it afresh, and, in retrospect, assured that tomorrow would see the sun rise on the status quo. Now, I attempted to redact that with fresh sentiments, in one of those posts of a few lines that takes an hour to write, such is glut of things to say, that no words can keep up with the inner diatribe.

And then I got called out. From another circle, outside the EU, importantly. Nothing awful; just a question: what's the matter with you?

I felt embarrassed. What was the matter with me? I needed to get a grip. I'd listened to BBC Radio 4's More or Less five-part program on the referendum on the coach trip to London. I knew it wouldn't be the end of the world. And yet I was one of those people. And others -- many others! -- had seen. And, worse still, as I tried to justify myself -- both the initial statement, and subsequent shout -- the enormity of my ignorance began to sink in. The frequency with which I consume traditional news sources has been dropping for years, but I looked upon the current state of my knowledge with fresh, ashamed eyes.

Loathe though I was to admit it, the platform was my culture. I was one of them. To be summed up by one hardly-insightful statement on a podcast. And, even more disturbing, many of the people I respect were doing the very same thing, from a more informed position, undoubtedly, but there just the same.

As I listened to the rest of Platform of the Real, this sense of dread, about the future of media in particular, started to take hold. It seemed to be a problem slipping beyond the control of any of the traditional checks and balances. Then my mind drifted back to The Future, and, referring to the mid 2000s, what they called the Rise of the Idiot. I could see post after post in a gallery someone had shared that morning: absolute vitriol, and in the real world as well, with people sharing their coming face-to-face with hate, just days after what many now clearly see as a mandate to hate.

And how can we safely oppose them? Daryl Davis, interviewed for The Silver Dollar, recounted unquestionably-great successes by, one on one, giving people a platform to be heard, and replying in measured tones, over time. But that was a long time ago, and this Rise of the Idiot seems a problem on an entirely different scale. What to do, in the face of this mob? I too want to stand beside my friends in a pledge to do more, but feel woefully ill-informed and awash in the hate.

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