Twitter is radicalizing people in the Western world faster than any other social network. The short but easily shared format allows fake news to travel faster than ever before. Out of context clips, quotes, and headlines result in the rapid deployment of information fragments which mislead and radicalize.
Activists use screenshots of clips, quotes, and headlines to make their claims harder to research. People fall for misleading narratives, and the record is hardly ever corrected.
Companies develop business models, and activists shape political agendas based on misinformation—lies driven by the likes of Twitter. Scottish comedians are Nazis. All cops are bastards who should die.
They control the narrative, and their loudspeakers are deafening.
Digital media empires are being built on the bones of civilization, radicalizing otherwise intelligent people with stories of police brutality and social justice content.
But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s third law holds true—the masses are rising up in opposition to radicalization.
Venture capital and big brand publications gave these narratives a veneer of credibility. After all, nothing is too far-fetched when it’s in the mainstream. The news couldn’t possibly be lying to you.
Consider the time when YouTuber Joey Salads was caught producing race-baiting viral videos as “social experiments.” They were clickbait, but that’s besides the point. It was exactly the kind of content “radicalized digital” needed to further a narrative—it was proof of racism. The two controversial videos, produced during the height of the 2016 elections, were swiftly condemned by the media and are often cited as examples of YouTube gone wrong. VICE called it “the worst kind of smug white racism.”
Ironically, the outrage media quite literally does the same thing: produce formulaic ragebait designed to go viral.
But who is there to call them out? Who watches the watchers? They operate within the mainstream to push lies, smears, and extreme content for money. Publications hire low-tier college grads at dirt wages to write opinionated trash and call it fact—and they have it all down to a formula.
They’re obsessed with “GamerGate” even though it hasn’t been a thing in years. “GamerGate” is a bogeyman—a villain and a target to center their hatred upon. Rage gets clicks, and clicks are lucrative.
Likewise, the media loves Trump, and everyone knows it. Trump has been a godsend to the mainstream media. We have even seen executives quoted saying “let’s get back to Trump.” The New York Times experienced a surge in readership ever since Trump was elected. It’s called the Trump Bump.
Get people mad, get paid. But how do you keep milking the same cow over and over? You need to radicalize, and the content needs to stay fresh. After all, stale news doesn’t sell.
“Is Trump a Racist?” get you a million views but you can’t write the same story twice.
Tomorrow you write “Trump IS Racist.”
Then “Trump IS THE MOST Racist.”
Then “Is Trump Like Hitler?”
“Trump IS LIKE Hitler.”
“Trump Is WORSE Than Hitler.”
On Twitter, progressives are passive and are radicalized by the VC-backed media. YouTubers, in contrast, try to resist this and have over time built strong followings by calling out extremism.
The formula may be more subtle, but this is how it works. And it’s not like YouTubers are immune from the same process. But unlike Twitter, YouTubers can’t click “share” and have the video appear in all of their followers’ video feeds.
While it is true that there are “grifters” on YouTube who capitalize on the outrage, it’s not as easy without a direct share function, though they still succeed—at least to an extent.
The mainstream media is threatened by this loose network of independent creators and make examples of them—weaponizing the content of anti-SJWs against their very creators to generate even more outrage, which in turn creates more clicks.
It’s why the media is so obsessed with a 3-year-old joke by Carl Benjamin. Every PewDiePie video is an opportunity to call out the content creator for the smallest sleight. It’s an ugly cycle, and it’s one that fuels the culture of outrage currently engulfing the social landscape.
Now they talk about the lie of YouTube radicalization, which is just not a thing. YouTube’s algorithm can’t tell the difference between political concepts and it doesn’t have a direct share function. You must choose to go down a rabbit hole.
Backed by a poorly-researched article by Rebecca Lewis, titled “Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube,” the media has launched an all-out offense on independent creators.
No one is free of sin, and everyone is guilty by association.
Unlike YouTubers, publications like Buzzfeed, Vox, VICE, Mic, and so on know the difference between political concepts and can use direct sharing and escalation to keep driving fast clicks for short-term gain. When people are inundated with over 2 billion views from an outlet like AJ+ pushing an intersectional race-baiting narrative they are radicalized and see mountains where there were only previously mole hills.
At one point in time, a website dedicated almost exclusively police brutality videos cracked the global top 500 websites. Outrage, after all, brings in numbers. It worked, they knew it worked, and the subsequent layoffs from Mic, Huffington Post, Vice and elsewhere are simply the result of Facebook’s changing algorithm to favor content from real people over clickbait farms.
Twitter is worse in many ways. Activists desperate for follows and misinformed clout chasers who aren’t intelligent enough to grasp complex ideas push out-of-context clips and quotes for clicks, retweets, and shares—growing their personal brands in the process.
Social media is an addiction. It’s a video game. When likes and retweets are points, how do you get the highest score?
Did you get fewer retweets this time? Well now you feel bad. Personal self-worth is now tied to impressions, shares, and interactions. If there is a national trend lowering views, the players take it personally. Did school just let out? Most college kids are visiting family and not online? Views drop by 20 per cent. The participants complain, “OMG why are my views down? YouTube is f*cking me!”
Social media is giving people a dopamine release for their nastiest hot takes. The hotter the take, the higher the score. The more extreme the more likes, the more retweets, the better you feel.
Worst of all, Twitter knows all of this. Why wouldn’t it? It’s the company’s job to keep people hooked on the drug they’re selling. It’s a release from the banalities of life. When you’ve 24 hours a day to spend doing nothing, what sounds better to you? Passively watching Netflix, or actively participating in the discourse and earning social credit online?
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has publicly discussed removing counters for likes, retweets, and even followers to try and “improve the quality of debate.” But deep down they know that this is what makes Twitter valuable.
It’s earning points, visible social approval points that make us feel good. Social media is a fucking drug that is polluting our minds.
It’s time to set some limits. But how do you stop the machine while respecting free will?
Tim Pool is an independent journalist who has covered some of the biggest and most dangerous stories in the world, including the Ferguson Riots, the Ukrainian Uprising, and the Egyptian Revolution.