Friday, March 15, 2019

New Zealand attack seems deliberately contrived to attack individualized political and cultural expression online



The attacks on two mosques in southern New Zealand by someone who should not be named, possibly with two accomplices, apparently took place late Thursday PM EDT and the political repercussions blew up on Twitter this morning as I headed to Union Station and got on a train. I think users can find the “Manifesto” in the Document Cloud if they want to read it;  right now I won’t link to it (I did on Twitter).

Although loosely described as alt-right white racism with its focus on European ethno-states with some more obscure issues (was he referring to the Knights Templar) and “Christian” culture, it seemed to be all over the place, attacking individualism in a way that is more like Maoism than Nazism. 

He also claimed being influenced by Donald Trump, and by at least two other major Internet personalities whom for now I won’t rename.  I wondered, what would happen if my name or brand got mentioned, or that of any number of YouTube personalities I follow? 
  
Timcast this morning did an 18-minute video “We Are at the Gates of Civil War – and Nothing Can Stop It”.

Very early, he gets into the key point: the assault and provocative manifesto are intended to encourage governments, platforms, and other entities to force individual speakers to join teams and “take sides”.

   
There are some other op-eds that make this point, like the New York Times  and Vox/Recode (Peter Kafka). 
  
CNN, particularly, has talked about the livestreaming, and the impossibility of taking it down before it is in the dark web. A New Zealand cop said, if you share the content you are part of the problem (it may be against the law to even share a terror link there – which would make it illegal to share the manifesto link, too.)  CNN suggests that Facebook implement a 30-second delay on all live-streaming starting immediately to give its algorithms time to catch terrorist content. (Washington Post story on why it took so long to notice what had happened; Matt Christiansen weights in.)

For me, this has both a political and personal impact.

Since I became involved with posting my own personalized assembly of issue-oriented content online (it had started with “DADT” back in 1997) without gatekeepers, I have found that people will contact me and invite me to sell their causes as if they were mine or even join their fundraisers (their speech, often more partisan than mine) or even become involved with persons personally (even dating or personal mentoring) that I would not have wanted to be connected to and who reciprocally would not have wanted to connect me. I have usually declined, and sometimes that in turn leads to resentment! 

That is, if I am going to perturb the debate with free content of my own, I should earn the right social credit first. I do have my own personal theory about "assimilation", which means that if you don't want to compete in a capitalist and individualistic mainstream because you feel you are at a group disadvantage, you can certainly join a resistance or "mass movement" if you choose, but you will likely find yourself just taking orders from revolutionary governance of you, which may be much harder.  In the end, you will inherit the karma of the team you played for. 
       
That leads to the political consequence.  When you consider all the other dampers on Internet speech (FOSTA, EU’s Articles 11 and 13, to name a couple) it seems to me that the corporate infrastructure cannot be counted on to be willing to host my kind of individual speech (where it depends on wealth from another source and doesn’t pay for itself from operations) forever, so I’ve set my own sunset as the end of 2021 (when I will be 78). (I am looking at Blockchain activity as a limited continuation method.) That’s almost three more years, and that may sound “optimistic”.  I can imagine business models that could work with a simpler presence, more connected to manifest consumer needs (independent bookstore, or disco/performance stage/indie film space facility as another, or possibly paywall bundling to make quality news content more affordable for most people.  (I understand that I haven't answered the "clickbait"  incentive problem here; that has to be for another time.)
  
I must “warn” everyone, however, that if I “relinquish” my own issue-oriented speech, I won’t let someone else speak for me or join their fundraising (where frankly my presence wouldn’t have been so welcome in the pre-Internet past because even then I wouldn’t take sides or sell group victimization). I won’t be recruited to “take sides”;  I won’t (as one employer wanted to do in 2002) let someone else say to me “we give you the words.”  That’s personally insulting.  I could possibly focus on climate change or power grid vulnerability or Internet security, but it might be difficult to do this and stay away from “somebody else’s” politics.  It could mean a personal lifetime ban from any political activity at all (outside of voting).

It’s hard to put this into a clear syllogism in a small amount of space, but I need to do that.

Update: March 16, 2019

Elliot Harmon from Electronic Frontier Foundation has this article today. 

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