The Ideological Purge
Social consciousness was not elevated, in fact, it seems the pandemic was the tipping point in hurtling humanity towards a new epoch of social unrest. With this unrest, we too, have all but abandoned the climate cause.
[Disclaimer: this piece was written in June 2020 as a response to Reddit's banwave, though its relevance remains]
It seems long ago now — especially in our fast evolving social and political landscape — but with the emergence of the pandemic (which many forget is still rampant) came a flurry of glimmering commentaries by optimists postulating that the pandemic would be the thing to finally elevate our consciousness — and save civilization from inevitable collapse. Naïvely, I hoped that these postulations would translate into reality (even in all their ambiguity), and that we would finally leave purity politics — and all of its divisive and censorious effects — behind.
But these optimistic proclamations quickly fizzled out. Social consciousness was not elevated, in fact, it seems the pandemic was the tipping point in hurtling humanity towards a new epoch of social unrest. With this unrest, we too, have all but abandoned the climate cause. Against our better judgement (and Nature’s best interest) we’ve chosen to ride the purity wave, wielding our wokeness as weapons, embracing its dogma, and tearing each other apart in the process, forgetting entirely about the greater threat of planetary collapse.
Big Tech & The Control of Content
As we know, one of the last frontiers for large scale connectivity has turned digital, courtesy of Big Tech. Initially, Big Tech’s primary role was to provide digital spaces for people to congregate, but in the past few years it has increasingly taken on the role of acting as judge, jury and executioner, with the aim of corporatizing and sterilizing digital spaces.
Twitter has subscribed to the Identity Politics Party by not only continuing its banning spree of censoring anyone who doesn’t agree with social justice ideology (i.e. Party objectors), but it has also changed the way it functions on the back-end. In a bid towards inclusivity, Twitter, Google, GitHub, among other companies are changing their programming language, replacing terms like “grandfathered” and “master/slave” to “legacy status” and “leader/follower,” respectively. With these inclusivity initiatives (and more of them to come), Twitter has paradoxically created an exclusive platform where only conformity of thought is permitted, and the price to participate is not just your data, but your freedom of expression, too.
YouTube has equally gone to great lengths to silence users who bring up “problematic” topics, burying them in the algorithm, while lukewarm, corporate content floats to the top of search results and recommendations. Unlike Twitter — YouTube doesn’t need to ban its content creators, they have viewers doing the dirty work for them — punishing creators for petty crimes. One long-term YouTuber went as far as to “cancel” herself before her viewers had the chance to do so, ultimately quitting her channel altogether.
Other user-generated sites like Reddit, initially founded on the principles of free speech, have also devolved into spaces where homogenized, corporate content is favoured over authenticity. Reddit’s banwave comprised of banning arbitrary spaces they deemed hateful, including feminist and conservative subreddits, respectively, as well as targeting support groups for women with reproductive and hormonal disorders, dubbing these groups “transphobic.” LGBT+ conservative voices were also on the chopping block. Meanwhile the site continues to host subreddits promoting sexual abuse, rape, incest, and pedophilia — these communities range in the dozens. Reddit’s updated policy is vague enough that it maintains full ideological control, but woke enough that it satisfies the political puritan (e.g. “Remember the human”) — and advertisers alike. Like Twitter, Reddit’s misogynist spaces have been left untouched — and continue to grow — proving once again that wokeness is a masquerade for continued oppression, and also happens to be a goldmine for commercial interests.
Big Tech is on an unprecedented crusade to sterilize online spaces — censoring entire communities and redefining language that doesn’t align with Critical Social Justice ideology. Anyone who dares question (or challenge the status quo) is shamed, censored, fired, cancelled, and their reputations burned for being on the “wrong side of history.”
The Sterilization of Media
Even the corporate media is not immune to the onslaught of ideological purity. TV personalities are resigning from their positions to “pass the mic” to more diverse voices, though the public nature of such announcements largely serve to elevate the status of the white saviour (they are also touted as being “brave”) and boost their reputation without actually having to do the leg work.
Many media outlets, including Bell Media, CBC, and the Washington Post, have taken steps to create dedicated Diversity & Inclusion teams, with the obvious goal of “increasing representation of diverse voices” though these diversity efforts have already shifted towards the sterilization of language, directly inhibiting the plurality of voices they seek to promote. The Washington Post is hiring a number of positions that centre race in their topics. One of their positions, the Climate & Environment writer, will focus on how “climate change. . . harms communities of colour and how communities of colour are finding ways to adapt to environmental threats.” Another position, the National Security writer role, has a focus on investigating “far-right groups and white nationalism” — putting a spotlight on these particular groups ahead of others.
Hiring reporters on a wide swath of topics through the lens of race (and identity politics in general) creates a political vacuum: it is the antithesis of journalism. Ideological uniformity in the media is incompatible with the media’s duty of acting as an independent watchdog. If there is no press to uphold democratic values, and by extension, freedom of speech, then we cannot reasonably expect to trust the media, nor should we. When trust erodes (as we have seen), people start relying on their own limited knowledge, and seek out unreliable content, resulting in, at best, ignorance, and at worst, increased alt-right sentiment and “Othering.” To add insult to injury, these publicized diversity hires can have the opposite effect: marginalized groups may question if they earned the position through their own merit, or if they were just another warm body hired to check off the diversity box.
Two Worlds, Collided
While hegemonic institutions navel gaze about diversity, scientists are raising the alarm, more frequently, and with more urgency about the effects of climate change — the latest statement declaring that we only have six months left to change the course of the climate crisis. It’s as if we are living on two different planets: the first one is shaped by post-modernist ideology, where decisions are based on personal anecdotes, identity, and the fragmented, immaterial takes precedence over the material. The second, parallel world is based on the material — and the material life is plummeting at historic levels. The former pushes us towards the construction of new, imagined realities, simply by way of changing our language. But if not for the latter, we wouldn’t have any version of reality to stand on.
Despite efforts to maintain an illusion of permanence, there is a delicate balance of fragility and resilience, where a single pull of the thread can topple even the most stable, long-established systems. When it comes to social systems, we are seeing the thread slowly being pulled, dividing communities and creating deep fissures of resentment and mistrust. Meanwhile, Natural life is plummeting in ways previously thought unimaginable: from the ecological to moral to intellectual — our ability to actively engage, learn, and educate ourselves has proved to be too large a feat for our post-modern, fragmented society.
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