by Shelton Bumgarner
That a racist, bigoted, misogynist demagogue such as Donald Trump would become president in the wake of traditional blogging’s demise is an interesting and telling occurence. It raises some powerful questions for no other reason than we’re now in something of a Cold Civil War as America’s civil society struggles to understand what the fuck is going on.
For instance, when the president tweets, what is it? Is it “just social media” or is it an official statement from the President of the United States that should be treated as such. I lean hard on the latter. If the president writes it and it’s meant to be seen in public, then it’s an official statement.
But what’s interesting is Trump and his vile ideology prospers in a very narrow subset of social media. Twitter is kind of an interactive discussion between people’s bumper stickers. What’s even more interesting is you can, if you wish, block someone’s messages to you on Twitter.
The result of this is powerful. We come to expect that if we don’t like what someone is communicating to us, that we can eliminate that communication for good. That leads to a warping of the traditional communication cycle because people suddenly feel entitled to “safe spaces” because they’re afraid they’re going to get “triggered.” If they didn’t have the option of eliminating communication they didn’t like, maybe they would develop tougher skin and we wouldn’t be in half of the trouble we’re in currently.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s face pace and pithy style of communication has led to a Darwinian struggle of ideas. Instead of a marketplace of ideas, we have a jungle. Now only the strongest, more virulent strains of memes manage to grow in the Twitter jungle. There is a reason why we say a meme has gone “viral.”
So what does all of this mean in the context of Trump’s rise and the demise of blogging. Well, I am suggesting that if we still were talking about the once-powerful “blogsophere” that Donald Trump would not be president right now. Way back only a few years ago, before the rise of Twitter, you had the option of long, well thought out blogs that forced not only the reader but the writer to engage in something more than a bumper sticker’s wroth of communication. Instead of 140 characters, you had to wade through 500 or more words to fully process what was going on.
Is there any solution to all of this? Well, in my opinion, yes. I feel as though if Silicon Valley stopped being so obsessed with AR and VR long enough to revisit the issue of social media, maybe we might be able to dig ourselves out of this Cold Civil War. Silicon Valley made this problem, I feel it’s at least partially their responsibility to solve it.
I have gone into great depth on my Instagram account about how I, personally, would fix this problem but because I have no money, can’t code and don’t won’t to learn, I’m really just shouting out into the void. But let me briefly recap my concept. It’s very timely now, to say the least.
It seems to me that if you gave Verified Account holders a sense of stakeholdership in platform, then maybe they would generate better content and it would be less likely that celebrity trolls like Donald Trump would rise to prominence. So, I would give them the ability to create “Groups” in a service. The “Groups” would be given names devoted to any subject that a Verified account holder might feel their followers might find interesting. These “Groups” would be sub-divided into “Discussions.” These “Discussions” would be thread discussions made up of full pages posts about the topic of the “Group.” So, in a sense, you would kind of update the Usenet concept of 20 years ago. There are any number of concepts from that era that we’ve lost weirdly enough over the last few decades.
All of this would be even cooler if you had a newspaper chain like, say, Tronc, fund such a startup in the first place in an effort to self-disrupt the newspaper business. It’s a really intriguing concept to say the least.
The point of all of this would be that not only would it encourage better content, but given that the medium is the message, maybe if you had a full webpage to discuss a subject in the context of a threaded discussion, maybe it would be less likely that stupid, hateful, and loaded concepts like “Make America Great Again” would go viral and infect the body politic.
But, of course, none of this would happen in a vacuum. You’d have to design such a service from the ground up as something of a “Twitter Killer.” And it’s possible that Twitter isn’t going anywhere and all of this is pointless. Yet it is, at least, interesting to talk about.
I guess what I hope is if we somehow killed Twitter, provided a better, similar product that forced us to write in more than 140 characters, then then next adept politician who was adept at using social media might be a little less crazy. Of course, maybe I’m missing the bigger picture. It could be that we’re just going to have to wait until VR and AR get to the proper penetration in society before we have another shot at fixing the problems caused by existing social media. Or maybe social media video like Facebook Live or Periscope might be what we’re all talking about in four years during the next election cycle.
If we can’t kill Twitter, then it seems as though Twitter as a company has a responsibility to better handle its abuse by Russian-paid trolls and bots in four years. The Russians learned a valuable lesson in 2016, and they’re only going to come back worse and more determined in four years.
I just hope there’s something left in four years. There are no assurances that the Good Guys will win the Cold Civil War and it may still be raging yet in four or six or eight years.
Shelton Bumgarner is the Editor and Publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He can be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com. He is always looking for people to write for him, though he can’t, at this point, pay.