There is something wrong in the world.
There is something wrong on the internet.
Not irreparably bad, not morally evil. Just a broken system, inevitably turning out botched machinery.
If you’ve got this far you’ve seen undercurrents of a very dark sensibility — gateways, already themselves highly unsavoury, to places I don’t want to go
Some part of me feels I should — brave my way down to the centre of discordant twitter — sidestep deeper and deeper into sub-communities of reddit and 4chan — open up Tor and peel away the layers of the .onion
But I’m not going to — at least not yet — for a simple reason.
These ideas are infectious. Engaging with them, even as much as you dear reader have in this article, alters slightly your view of reality.
Start going down an you will find grand mistruths and shared misconceptions. Richard Nixon did lie and Bill Clinton did cheat — we all know this.
But what’s the next layer? News websites often get things wrong, polticians are funded by unsavoury sources, the internet is filled with manipulative bots.
It doesn’t take too much digging to find news stories that cut against the grain, and seem to reveal worrying truths about the veracity of the information we receive and the reliability of the sources.
To give a personal anecdote: At one point I was shocked to seea facebook friend flag up two clips appear on two different stories on the BBC website, of a Syrian doctor being interviewed in the courtyard of a chaotic hospital. The speech was dubbed, and in the two videos the content was slightly, but crucially different.
The conclusion suggested to me, which I accepted, was that the video had been redubbed to tell a “better” more emotive story, closer in line with the common narrative in the press at that time.
This would sit with me for months, breaking away at my faith in institutions I once thought I could trust. Opening up the question of seriously doubting the veracity and motivation of any and all journalists and media sources.
Later, when relating this to a friend, we would look them up, and find that the background activity in the shot was different. The camera moved. The two scenes distinct and thus the change in language, at least within reasonable doubt, explained.
I’m not sure I ever fully recovered my faith in journalism from that point forwards, I’m not sure I want to.
But I am glad to have that hard edged cynicism, that had me for a while unwilling to believe my friends observations that the videos were different — stuck in the safe-space of pure mistrust — lessened.
I thought I was being rational and logical — and in some ways I was — just based on false, inherited and in some ways veiled assumptions.
The logical path is one of the best tools to decieve — to bait someone into accepting each step of a piece of logic — which in turn makes the next more palatable.
To lead them down the path — seperate them from the pack, or worse bring the pack with them.
The hard boundaries of logic are a tool which can be used to divorce people from their full capacity for reason. Logical conclusions stem from the assumptions, and thus the endeavour of coming to a rational conclusion relies on starting from a place of pure rationality.
Which we never are.
Our chaotic mix of memories, beliefs, assumptions and experiences can bias us in any one of a million directions — especially we take it as the blueprint and build our way of viewing the world in isolation.
Applying absolutism — the belief that anything can be one not the other — to a world where which contains the kind of structural nonsense that we see in these bots — it is a recipe for a disaster