Distract and Divert

“Have all the previous generations been so threatened by other people’s ideas that they’re driven to anonymously silence them?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but that’s an interesting question. It could be that we’re living through an era that enables that sort of thing.”

He hummed. It was a contemplative sound, the human equivalent of a cow chewing its cud. I kept tapping away at the keyboard; the code wasn’t going to write itself.

“I’d like to know,” he said, “if Victorian-age people fought as hard against perceived social injustices. If they persecuted others for wanting something as basic as equality and equity.”

“Probably. Where do you think that comes from, anyway?” Tap, tap, tap. My caffeine-fueled fingers moved with expert grace.

“Are you saying—”

I sighed and pushed the keyboard away. “Fear of ideology doesn’t spontaneous manifest itself. The ideology needs to gain hold first. This would require mass communication and freedom of expression. Lacking those you’re less likely to find suppression. Victorian era? Sure. Early Grecian? Unlikely. But people meeting in forums would still sling garbage at people who said things they didn’t agree with, and the greater the power imbalance, the larger amount of crap they’d hurl. Now, you’ve got anonymous mobs that could consist of a single person, or thousands. It’s that uncertainty that creates the sense of amplification.”

Again, he hummed. “I still think I’d need a time machine to decide for myself.”

“Then you’re never going to decide. Why do you care, anyway? If we’re talking about what I think we’re talking about, you do know that participation in those conflicts is voluntary, yes? Anyway, social justice is a lot like religion.”

“How so?”

“It’s better practiced than discussed. It’s a matter of deeds over words. I think our mass communication networks have just made us lazy and established an illusion in which we’re made to believe that we can affect change, but all that’s really happening is distraction and diversion. The only damage cyber-wars inflict is on people’s feelings. Oh, sure, the victims will act like the sky is falling, that there’s people preparing to come and take our freedom away, but really? At any point we can turn off our computers and go about our business because reality is still a place where people pack guns to protect their rights, and there’s a mad spaghetti-like system of checks and balances to overcome before anyone’s civil liberties are revoked.”

“In this country, at least,” he said.

“That’s what we live here, isn’t it?” I asked and leaned across the desk to give him a peck on the cheek. He managed to produce a smile, the first I’d seen that morning.

2015.03.22 – 2023.10.14

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