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Friday, July 31, 2020

 

The First Stone Throwers


 

The tech monopolies like Twitter make their money and increase their power by making people hate and attack each other.  That's their business model.  It's not a bug, it's a fundamental feature. 


Jack Dorsey who owns Twitter needs and wants you to hate each other.  It's not a game to him, it's the way he makes his money.  And that's the reason why appeals to "fairness" are so totally beside the point.  If things were fair and conversation polite, Twitter would fail as a business.

All it takes is for certain people with a low threshold for violence to start the process of creating a violent mob.  And there are always people who are willing to throw the first stone, and then the rest of the mob is empowered to throw the next,and the next and the next.
Because people are mimetic, meaning they imitate both the behaviors and desires they observe in others, they can be prompted most easily to perform an action by others doing so. As a result, Girard says, “the first stone is the most difficult to throw ... Because it is the only one without a model.” Contagious violence can be forestalled if the crowd lacks a model to follow. 

"Threshold models” developed by sociologists complement Girard’s “first stone” theory. For instance, Mark Granovetter concludes that for a riot to occur, there must be one or more individuals in a crowd with low “thresholds” for engaging in risky or antisocial behavior. Once they start the process, individuals with higher thresholds, who are less predisposed to such acts, will be more likely to join in. The mimetic chain goes from the lowest-threshold actors, who are least in need of a model, to the highest-threshold ones who will only join the riot once many others are already participating. Just a few individuals with low thresholds suffice.



Like their archaic counterparts, these modern priests grasp that “collective effervescence” is a powerful force that needs to be channeled and circumscribed. But the essential goal of today’s priests is not control, although that is an effect. Nor is it social cohesion and the greater good of the community. It is profit. The gamified mechanisms that precipitate us toward indignation against enemies also drive our continued use of the platforms. The more of us that are transfixed by spectacles of victimization, the greater the revenue the platform brings in. Like a bloodthirsty god, the platform business feeds off of sacrifice.
 
 Stifled debate may present an immediate political loss, but the far greater risk is the subjugation of all realms of human life to the sacrificial profit-driven logic dictated by the digital platform god and its priests. Many of those who defend participating in these cruel rites seem to regard them as a vehicle of progress. But sacrifice is cyclical, never progressive. It permits a temporary substitutive crisis resolution, in which individual victims stand in symbolically for vast, multifaceted problems. The punishment and expulsion of the victim occasions a cathartic transference of responsibility and an ephemeral relief of pressure. But the platform god and its priests will keep stoking the resentments that precipitated us toward this harsh resolution. That’s the game they need us to play.

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