Monday, August 20, 2018


The following should have been what caused me to think, for once and for all, “that’s enough.” The use of capitals confirms both who wrote it, and where it was posted:
“There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!”
Under the same lack of awareness, the same person later spent time moaning about how the platform he was using discriminated against right-wing voices, saying it cannot be allowed to happen: “Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!” I think he said this because there have been already many calls for him to be kicked off the platform.
Recent news from the United States often consists of news surrounding its President, which just caused his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani to blurt out that “truth isn’t truth,” in a ham-fisted attempt to make the idea of truth into a subjective, “he said, she said” thing; the usual backlashes to things said on Twitter and Facebook; the cavalcade of far-right people, alt-right people, racists, incels and so on; arguments over political correctness and free speech...

...and then there was the mayonnaise. In the magazine “Philadelphia,” an article published under the title “The White Stuff” was given a clickbait makeover: “How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise.” In it, a mother bemoans how her mother’s salad recipes are not eaten by her children anymore, and once globalisation is mentioned, along with salsa and kimchi, things went haywire: “It’s too basic for contemporary tastes — pale and insipid and not nearly exotic enough for our era of globalization. Good ol’ mayo has become the Taylor Swift of condiments.” I prefer salad cream, and that is the end of it.
The furore over mayonnaise, even more than what Donald Trump was saying that day, was what drove me over the edge: can we just put the United States on “mute” for a bit, just as I probably should be doing with its President? For a country whose issues are currently in a feedback loop, and whose technology, especially through social media, facilitates and relies on the continuation of that feedback loop, wouldn’t it be easier to leave them to sort themselves out elsewhere? Rather than the onus being on me to reduce my own access to information to avoid being overwhelmed, shouldn’t the system that does the overwhelming try dealing with itself in its own time?
The reason the answer is “no” is because I am from the UK, where our own feedback loop, Brexit, has caused its own set of problems, even if it feels more like a localised dispute than anything that ever comes out of the United States. When our information systems depend on the American-created internet, and American technology companies the size of countries, any issue from any other company could be rendered a localised dispute.
However, the UK has a Commonwealth, while the United States currently has “America First” – countries as people, versus countries as land, and dialogue versus boundaries-then-dialogue. Engaging with an opponent is easier than waiting for it to tire itself out, especially when it has its own feedback loop. I would rather have that hope when I see the words “fake news” in capitals on Twitter again.

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