An edited video of an encounter between Senator Diane Feinstein of California and a group of young campaigners for the Green New Deal is eliciting much outrage and indignation on Twitter. Senator Feinstein’s unpardonable offense is that she became impatient with being repeatedly interrupted and made a few sarcastic remarks having to do with her knowledge, experience and authority and their lack of those characteristics.
I don’t buy Feinstein’s rationale for her policy positions on climate change but that isn’t what this post is about. Just in the past month there have been three viral outrage epidemics: the Covington sneering kid standoff, the Jussie Smollett assault/hoax and now the Weinstein virtual stoning. Meanwhile there all these transient trending episodes involving billionaires, celebrities, politicians and pedophiles (not to mention “all of the above”). Then there was the Ilhan Omar trope crisis and the Governor Northam blackface controversy and on and on it goes. Are we having fun yet?
What all this nonsense reminds me of is the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004. In those days, I was in a dialogue group that met once a month and at our next session after the tsunami, we shared a common impression of some kind of global convergence. Something that had never happened before. People around the world brought together by the sheer magnitude of the tragedy. The universal sublime.
What happened next will make your jaw hit the floor. Nearly one year after the Indian Ocean tsunami, December 15, 2005 YouTube was officially launched. According to YouTube founder Jawed Karim one of the inspirations for YouTube was… the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The other inspiration was Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.” From the sublime to the ridiculous, indeed.
On July 15, 2006 Twitter was launched publicly and Facebook followed on September 26 of the same year. The “paranoid style” and conspiracy theories have been around for centuries and shock jock and outrage radio for about as long as there has been radio. But it seems as though social media has added a new dimension of dementia. Following up on Roger Stone’s posting of a menacing image of Judge Amy Berman Jackson led me to a rabbit hole blog and YouTube channel where some entrepreneur who claims to have invented Facebook spins a conspiracy matrix that makes the late, lamented Lyndon LaRouche sound like David S. Broder.
One may surmise that all of these cockroaches were there all along, we just didn’t see them until the social media apps tore off the drywall. On the other hand, before YouTube or Twitter, they didn’t have 65,000 “subscribers” or 58.5 million “followers.” What may fade into the background amidst the sound and fury of all the idiots’ tales is that these social media platforms are businesses. Their business models are founded on the hypothetically exponential growth of scandal-and-spectacle-as-vehicle-for-skip-ads when the actual growth curve is logistic. I suspect we’re in the Ponzi phase of the cycle and all this bullshit is about ready to hit the fan.