The Internet in 2018: TV 2 (Electric Boogaloo)
There’s nothing as funny as finding media that markets itself as anti-establishment yet gets played in theaters, broadcast on TVs, and is played on corporate owned radio stations. If it’s really anti-establishment why is it being funded and released by big corporations? Why are you seeing millionaires talking about “resisting” and telling easily influenced people to do the same, furthering their interests?
Here’s the thing. If something is truly anti-establishment, it won’t last long on “old media” like radio stations, TV channels, or movie theaters. It would cause so much shock and controversy that it would get pulled. For example Million Dollar Extreme was a cult YouTube channel that got a TV show for a short period of time. I still remember watching Million Dollar Extreme’s TV show World Peace and it was a total trip, yet even during its run it was attracting controversy from internet warriors to the point where even actors were being harassed IIRC (and this led to in one episode an actor being blurred out). After one season, the show was cancelled and websites ran hit pieces about the trio. It was one of those shows that 20-30 years ago would have drawn controversy, but wouldn’t have been canned as it took the piss out of a lot of “untouchable” topics, from the “toss it” project mocking slacktivism to other skits mocking everything from single trashy moms to dead end jobs to school bullying, with the last episode even satirizing the brainwashed youth for the final sequence. Nowadays besides struggles within the group thanks to the cancellation, their main channel has been shitcanned by YouTube and Sam Hyde’s mostly focusing on paywalled content, content that sadly (for him) is going to struggle online because most people on sites like YouTube prefer free content. Here’s a good video that goes more in depth on the rise and fall of MDE.
Social Media in general is going down the same path as TV has. See, TV (and radio before that) has been a mostly corporate controlled platform where companies have full control over it. You can’t broadcast your own TV or radio shows as regulations ensure that only companies can. Maybe the closest there is to that is public access TV, but that’s died off in favor of YouTube and Twitch streaming. Anything you watch on the TV is going to be produced and created by a major corporation, with commercials in between from your sponsors such as big banks, Apple, Coca Cola, McDonalds, car companies making cars that will look nice when they end up on the local CarMax lot, and some oil company saying how they’re saving the dolphins this time.
And well, advertisers and the media have an intertwined relationship. If they want something off the air, they’ll run a hit piece, ad support will be pulled, and the TV networks will cave because they gotta have ads even though you’re likely paying too much money for cable in the first place. While Million Dollar Extreme was able to gain a cult following via classic videos such as Ideas Man or Prodigal Stunna, on TV they never stood a chance for long unless they wanted to become the same old same old generic crap. If you wanted to turn on the TV, you gotta get in line and watch some comedian preach about specific political issues instead, along with all your favorite movies and TV shows.
For the media though, there was one problem, the internet was a wild west. While corporations were pushing agendas as topic driven blogs and news sites started to seemingly merge and produce the same one sided political garbage, the userbase wasn’t having it as tensions boiled. This was a major problem for the corporations when a lot of their userbase started to get fed up with them, leading to two events that I feel led to the current state of the corporate run internet. The first was #GamerGate; a hashtag campaign that revolved around corruption in video game journalism and that had been brewing for some time. For a good few months people online were digging up some evidence of corruption before slowly that train went off the rails and many people involved with it either got swallowed up by the remains of it, took a lower profile approach and avoided #GamerGate, or lost interest in gaming and moved onto other stuff. After all, Wikileaks did say to level up and reminded people that corruption runs deep.
#GamerGate’s biggest event IMHO and what led to it becoming so fucking big was the fact that websites were trying to censor discussion on it. Websites from mainstream gaming sites to even forums like 4chan were trying to put a stop to discussion of it and it really became a thorn in the side of the left leaning game industry.
2016 though was when the propaganda machine ramped up as Donald Trump ran for president and actually won.
There are a lot of smaller events here that have led to mass social media censorship, from sensitive topics such as specific religions and the rise of the trans lobby, to smaller now forgotten about events such as the August 12th 2017 protest in Charlottesville, Leslie Jones being trolled on Twitter with dead memes, people criticizing celebrities made out of that Florida mass shooting, and the soon to be forgotten about synagogue shooting. The Charlottesville incident and the synagogue shooting are interesting because it led to websites having domains seized, websites pulled, accounts banned from mainstream social media sites, and hit pieces run all in lockstep. So much for the “private company” excuse that useful idiots online will use to defend this and in fact let’s talk about that censorship now.
From Wild West to TV II
From the early days of the internet with BBSes and whatnot to a few years after the rise of the iPhone, the internet was seen as a “Wild West” of sorts. The structure of the internet consisted of numerous smaller websites ranging from personal websites to privately owned discussion boards on any topic you could imagine. The atmosphere wasn’t the most welcoming thing either, but it also wasn’t exactly the most hostile thing ever compared to social media. Doxing wasn’t so common and the worst that would happen if you were doxed was maybe unsolicited pizza deliveries and prank calls, as SWATting wasn’t common back then. It was common sense to not put your real name online unless you absolutely had to for reasons, such as if you were trying to maintain an image and identity for a professional site for say a company.
The online atmosphere was full of banter and if you were nuts, you were going to get shat on. It was expected and really, it was a risk you took by going online. Eventually this thing came along called social media and everything was now centralized and this happened around the same time the iPhone came out too.
As you can see by the 2014 graph, internet traffic in North America was centered around a few internet titans run by a few corporations. Half of the internet traffic was split around several thousand websites, and now it is split among a handful of big sites, including Google, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and more. If one wants control of the internet and what the masses see, there are only a few chokepoints that need to be held. 2014 also just happened to be around the time #GamerGate took place.
After those events that I had listed, social media and later internet censorship went up. This took various forms, from the shadowbans that sites like Reddit, Twitter, and (with restricted videos) YouTube loved which tried to hide people’s content without notifying them, to removing features like comment boxes on news sites or Twitter’s like/favorite button. YouTube’s dislike button has been a placebo for years and demonetization has become a common thing. With some extreme bans, people even completely lose their Google account like what happened to Jordan Peterson or what’s happening to Ethan Ralph’s friends. With the sad state of social media sites featuring broken features or stuff not working correctly, it’s hard to tell if all of this is just a pure accident (probably in the same way a bitter ex or pissed dad wrecking your belongings is) or if it’s intentional and all behind the scenes.
As of late, a new tactic has popped up as well. Numerous “independent” companies will all work in lockstep to ban people from platforms, right after hit pieces come out from the media conveniently. Alex Jones found himself banned from numerous social media platforms owned by different companies all at the same exact time. While he’s still around online on infowars.com, he has been shoved off social media for good.
But what about “running your own site”? After all they’re private companies you might say, and they can kick you off if they please. Well sadly even running your own sites can come with risks. Gab (a poorly run Twitter clone) also found themselves banned in a similar pattern with their payment processor dumping them along with their domain registrar and webhost. This tactic was tested (and failed) with the Daily Stormer (a far right Nazi news blog) at first and they ended up losing multiple domains. I don’t think it worked as planned though because all the websites that had censorship attempts pushed on them now use the censorship to their advantage because they can now talk about how this site has information that the big corporate internet overlords don’t want you to see…and they’re now right because they can just show you the proof with their banned accounts. Even Kiwi Farms, a website that exists to laugh at crazy people online like in the old days of the internet has had hosts cut them off for no reason and payment processing denied.
Essentially the endgame for the corporate internet is TV II. A controlled and curated platform where all your behavior is monitored and can be used to deny you jobs or business opportunities, and where you can only see what the corporate censors want you to see. This means that social media is an echo chamber of astroturfed opinions and you have to go to less popular sites that are under attack from censorship and useful idiots pushing for censorship. At least in a country like China or Russia it’s pretty clear cut what you’re not allowed to do. In the West they talk about how you have this thing called the freedom of speech, but when you actually use it you can find yourself being attacked by the media, by social media platforms colluding, by angry people with lawyers wanting to sue you into the poorhouse, and by random useful idiots with no future who get thrills out of destroying people’s lives for “the cause”.
Hell, there are plenty of useful idiots who will ruin people because they made them angry online, or for the “cause” because they’re “bigots” for some reason or another and that’s perhaps the biggest reason to stay away from social media. Do you want to end up with forced apologies or in the unemployment line because someone found a tweet you made 5 years ago or because you angered someone online by telling that person facts? At least with these blog posts I can use my brain a bit and put my words down on paper.
Either way, I’m not optimistic about the future of the internet. Either the structure of the internet needs to go back to its decentralized roots, or it’ll crash and burn in a mess that’ll affect a lot of people online. It won’t be pretty, but neither is the current extremely polarized state of the internet fueled by corporations trying to push discussion towards their favor. I’m not too optimistic about the future of tech either since it’s not getting faster rapidly like it was 15 years ago and it’s completely drained of innovation unless the innovation means “more ways to spy on you”, but that’s a post for another day.