Spotify once took a run at Joe Rogan. YouTube banned Dan Bongino. Twitter permanently suspended Marjorie Taylor Greene. Twitter also famously canceled Donald Trump, and for a while, me.
As with the suspension of Trump (and on a much, much lesser scale, me) progressives cheered the deplatformings the way public lynchings used to attract a picnicking crowd. The left controls social media (as well as most mainstream media) and so day by day their unreal world becomes ethically more cleansed, more free of things they do not like, and with all the bad news (Hunter Biden)...
As with the suspension of Trump (and on a much, much lesser scale, me) progressives cheered the deplatformings the way public lynchings used to attract a picnicking crowd. The left controls social media (as well as most mainstream media) and so day by day their unreal world becomes ethically more cleansed, more free of things they do not like, and with all the bad news (Hunter Biden) made to go away. The world online is the way they want it to be, with the real world held at bay behind the screen. Like living in The Villages in Florida, or maybe in the Matrix.
It is very much the same for what we’ll call social media 3D, things like renaming high schools and tearing down statues. Those acts are the equivalent of tweets. Nothing changes because of them, but everyone feels more righteous. Might as well send the 45 cents a day to one of those TV charities and think you are solving hunger in Africa. Or posting on Facebook that everyone should get vaccinated. Or, at least when gays were still performing as victims, changing your photo to a rainbow flag.
You see it also in the blurred lines between fiction and reality. A touchpoint for understanding Trump was the dismal novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Black empowerment? Wakanda. Economic equality is fictionalized by replacing every white person in a TV commercial with a black actor, and every other Hallmark romance with a same-sex couple. Same thing when our society over-celebrates the first transgender Jeopardy! winner or another children’s book where the cuddly caterpillar who does good deeds is nonbinary. NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park this year featured Richard III with the lead played by a black woman, no doubt as some imagine the Bard secretly intended.
But this detachment from reality, the appearance of action instead of action, is why progressives continue to have to “raise awareness” for the same old things over and over. In the end, nothing that happens online matters. Online is just propaganda of unknown real-world effectiveness. The left celebrates the deplatforming of Marjorie Taylor Greene, forgetting she is still a sitting congresswoman. Votes count, “likes” do not. Joe Rogan talks to 11 million people a week; Neil Young, his one-time media nemesis, not so many.
The danger of all this, as every purple-haired undergrad eventually realizes, is it creates learned helplessness at a time when America faces real problems. But I tweeted about that! I posted “I stand with ____” memes for a week! I liked Dr. Fauci’s Insta! And yet you still got the Covid, huh, bro? It’s why we regularly end up with only “cosmetically diverse” institutions, rather than anything real that leads to broad social progress.
How does learned helplessness manifest itself? We might ask why, with all the emphasis on change and democracy hanging by a thread, even the most contested elections are lucky to lure half the electorate away from their screens long enough to vote. Behind the smokescreen of claims that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise black voters lies the reality that the Democrats have never found a way to get their favored voters off the couch to do the one thing that might still matter.
I have voted in every election I was eligible for over the last 55 years. I even voted from inside an actual war, writing off for an absentee ballot. I show my ID (and, until recently, my vax card) to enter a bar; it’s not a big hurdle at the voting booth. If the whole voting thing is not yet clear, think on the difference between the purposeless extremism of pink pussy hat cosplay versus sending three judges to the Supreme Court.
Disreality and learned helplessness are at the heart of progressivism, an oddly self-defeating stance. If one accepts the teachings of the 1619 Project and its armed wing, BLM, then blacks have been the passive victims of white racism for more than 400 years, a racism that has successfully resisted the Civil War and the end of slavery, constitutional amendments, the Civil Rights Acts, and Barack Obama. The message is pretty clear: black people can’t win. That’s supposed to inspire something? What would happen with less virtue signaling inside a closed loop and more helping people who actually need help?
Same for the Democratic election strategy of pre-declaring all upcoming elections unfair if the other side wins. Pick your channel: the Repubs will miscount the votes, or America’s proportional representation system means one man’s vote does not count because Wyoming has two senators, or the Electoral College negates the make-believe victory standard of the popular vote. Why even bother to vote when some outside thing means your vote will not count anyway? It seems an odd way to drive a party.
We’re in a world now where being a survivor of something and telling strangers about your trauma is a way of life. I confess a naughty pleasure in reading Huffington Post Personal stories. Most are anecdotal tales of victimhood, the conclusion of which is usually that life is unfair and there is not much you can do about it besides make crap on Etsy to “honor” other victims.
One recent story was about how moving to Britain for free medical care turned out to be unfair because the writer’s trans partner could not get testosterone shots simply based on his declared identity. Lousy NHS! Another was about how Dry January was unfair to people in forever recovery. Lousy non-drinkers! One was about a progressive woman who infiltrates a right-wing mom’s group and manages to cover both personal victimhood (she felt unsafe there with her, natch, self-diagnosed special needs child) and the end of democracy. The scale changes but the endpoint remains the same: all victims of unfair systems. The best we can do is whine about it on our segregated social media. It is like getting stuck in an elevator with Greta Thunberg.
I’m not sure how you fix a country being distorted by learned helplessness, with victimhood as a virtue, and which is ever more convinced the real stuff of democracy, voting, doesn’t matter. If that described a football team, the game would be over before the other side even showed up.