Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Poison of Silence

In a 1969 speech, Richard Nixon used the existence of a “silent majority” as evidence of support for his Vietnam policies. The silent majority was supposedly a group who were not protesting against the war in Vietnam or openly supporting the counter-culture movement.

History has called Nixon’s contention about these people into question, but that brilliant little piece of marketing propaganda has not been forgotten and the myth of the Silent Majority is still used today as validation by proponents of objectionable, unpopular and dangerous views.

Anyone brave or unlucky enough to venture into the uglier corners of the Internet will easily find assertions from extremists of every stripe that the majority of people agree with them, but are afraid to come forward for fear of their lives and livelihoods.  They consider a lack of open opposition to their positions as tacit approval.  This is, absurd, but you will never dissuade such minds of their logic.

This creates two major problems; the lack of support for these people, to them, translates to a huge underground nascent movement. They also take any expression of like attitudes as validation for, what are in many cases, violent beliefs.

We created this situation and we can resolve it.

At some point in the recent past we forgot how to debate. Not shouting and name calling, but civil discourse, reasoned disagreement and considered oration – they seem a rare and endangered form of communication. Even in the places they do exist, attempts are made to disrupt and destabilize this type of exchange as if attempted rationality was a dangerous thing to be prevented at all costs.

In 1969 and other times, it was not a simple matter for the majority to make themselves heard coherently on difficult subjects. We have no such excuse today. So why when a TV  panel talk show’s hosts make shallow statements about nurses does the Internet flare-up righteously, yet when presidential candidates say obviously misleading and untrue things does the net merely smolder? Simple – the Nursing community used its voice loudly, clearly, relentlessly and unflinchingly. 

The unfortunate time has come when we can no longer just shake our heads and click-away to someplace else. Thumbs down, star ratings and dislike buttons produce numbers, not views, rebuttal or outrage.  Digitally turning our backs is perceived as validation by desperately unsocialized or manipulative people of our world. Silence is food for the worst voices of our world and it is potentially poisonous for the rest of us.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Healing the Internet - Part 1

When you decide that the time has come for you to do something about the unacceptable, unprovoked or uncalled-for content on the Internet, you need to understand where you fit in the scheme of things in order to make a difference.

All Internet companies, websites and platforms exist because of users. Not blogs, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages, but the platforms, registrars and hosting companies themselves. They know this. Enough users can insure success. The loss of users means no advertising, no investing, no IPO, no stock value and defeat. This is the real power behind the Internet, the users. 

Most Internet users feel they have no power to correct the problems they see. They feel the companies do as they please and the users just need to live with it. There is no magic wand, but users are not powerless.  

Cyberhate, trolling and bad online culture has evolved and compounded over the past 20 years. The cyber-sages and forefathers of our current technology envisioned a system that would, through actions and voices of the people, self –correct for the cyber-yuck. There are good voices. Most people are not haters, but the technology and hate moved faster than the good. The good never quite caught up.

The Internet itself is the tools for making it change. 

First – If you see something awful online you can build a community around fighting it.  There is no need for anyone to be one voice, one email or one complaint about hate or bias online. 

Second – Once you understand the tactics of hate, the tactics for opposing it and the way to talk to the online companies, the effectiveness of good voices increases exponentially. 

Every single online company has matured over time. Not always because of the goodness in their hearts, but because of the voices of the users. Complaints do not always generate the desired result for the complainer, but enough of them, on the same subject will make companies stop and reconsider their policies. 

To win against hate we need to play the long game. 

More to follow.