The Internet is the new Wheel of Fortune

tags: Internet, Trump, political polarization

Niall Ferguson’s new book is “The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power from the Freemasons to Facebook.”

... A central theme of my book is that the Internet, especially since the advent of social media, has exacerbated political polarization. This is partly because of human nature: Even in quite small social networks, we human beings tend to self-segregate into like-minded clusters (the phenomenon known as homophily). But it is also because the algorithms that drive the network platforms incentivize the posting of fake news and extreme views. On Twitter, for example, political tweets are 20 percent more likely to be retweeted for each moral or emotive word they use.

Having written about all this, I am now living it. And the effect is best described as frazzling. You become involuntarily addicted to the accursed apps on your phone and laptop not because you seek the validation of popular approval, but because you live in mortal dread of public humiliation. One faux pas — one off-the-cuff comment deemed by some group of militant victims to be “offensive”— and the digital mob is on your case, moral and emotive words at the ready.

The second reason my nerves are in shreds is that I have been on the book publicity circuit at a time when the reputations of a succession of eminent men have been destroyed with stunning speed. I am not thinking only of the celebrities brought low by accusations of sexual harassment— more than 70 in the United States alone. I’m referring to a more general tendency. The average British chief executive now spends just 4.8 years in the top job; the average soccer manager just 1.2 years. 

There’s also something unnerving about the remarkable brevity of political careers these days. The Trump administration is just 15 months old, but there have already been more than 40 resignations and firings.

In the immortal words of Aussie rockers AC/DC, “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” But it’s now a very short way to the bottom.

You may say that these are all signs of a greater accountability. Yet justice has not been done in at least some cases I can think of. Some careers have been terminated for transgressions that were committed long ago and violated no law. Other cases seem to be investigated according to the principle of “guilty until proven innocent.” ...

Read entire article at The Boston Globe

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