And The Evidence Accumulates…

“Hate is a normal part of life. Get over it.”

Offensive as that sentiment about the “normalcy” of hate is, it’s probably correct. I prefer a different version of “getting over it,” however; the challenge of our time–made critical by Trump and Trumpism–is indeed “getting over it.” As in, refusing to normalize or condone it.

The quotation itself came about halfway through a recent Washington Post article documenting the rise of racist and anti-Semitic messages in the wake of Trump’s election.

Racist and anti-Semitic content has surged on shadowy social media platforms — spiking around President Trump’s Inauguration Day and the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville — spreading hate speech and extremist views to mainstream audiences, according to an analysis published this week.

The findings, from a newly formed group of scientists named the Network Contagion Research Institute who studied hundreds of millions of social media messages, bolster a growing body of evidence about how extremist speech online can be fueled by real-world events.

It’s actually pretty predictable that messages from “real world” events would be discussed and amplified on social media. What is far more disturbing is the iterative relationship between social media and the “real world,” revealed by the article. The cycle begins with a real-world event–in this case, Trump’s election–that triggers a burst of online response–in this case, a celebration of bigotry. That online response begins in the dark corners of the Internet, but thanks to its connection to the “real world,” it doesn’t stay there.  It infects more mainstream outlets.

One of the studies referenced in the article identified two such fringe forums, and found that

[a]lthough small relative to leading social media platforms, exerted an outsize influence on overall conversation online by transmitting hateful content to such mainstream sites as Reddit and Twitter, the researchers said. Typically this content came in the form of readily shareable “memes” that cloaked hateful ideas in crass or humorous words and imagery. (Facebook, the largest social media platform, with more than 2 billion users, is harder to study because of the closed nature of its platform and was not included in the research.)

“There may be 100 racists in your town, but in the past they would have to find each other in the real world. Now they just go online,” said one of the researchers, Jeremy Blackburn, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “These things move these radicals, these outliers in society, closer, and it gives them bigger voices as well.”

Niche hate movements that were once relegated to what the article calls the “dark corners of the Web” are increasingly influencing the mainstream.

The QAnon conspiracy theory began circulating on the same platforms last fall before exploding into public view in August, after months of refining its central allegations, purportedly from a top-secret government agent, that President Trump is secretly battling a shadowy cabal of sex rings, death squads and deep-state elites.

Trump is central to the most recent explosion of online racism and anti-Semitism. Surges in the number and intensity of “alt-right’ messaging occurred immediately after his inauguration and again after his “fine people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville. The alt-right celebrated–and continues to hail– the legitimacy they believe his election and rhetoric have conferred upon the white Christian supremicist worldview.

The article compares the spread of these tribal and racist sentiments to a virus for which there is not, as yet, an antidote.

The findings, researchers wrote, suggested a “worrying trend of real-world action mirroring online rhetoric” — and a possible feedback loop of online and offline hate.

That feedback loop requires both online and real-world support. We may not be able to do much about the rancid corners of the web, but we can vote to replace Trumpworld’s spineless enablers in the House and Senate.

Think of your midterm vote as an antibiotic.

26 thoughts on “And The Evidence Accumulates…

  1. I hope the researchers didn’t conclude that moving hate into the light was a bad thing. I’m sorry but memes don’t convince people who are on the fence on whether to hate or not hate. The hate message contained within the meme just gives them a lift because it confirms why they should hate _____ or ______.

    Our society laid claims that hate and discrimination were a thing of the past…it was all resolved in the 60’s and 70’s when CRA’s were passed. The waves of political correctness forced these groups underground but as the SPLC notes, they never went away.

    The election of Obama brought out the Tea Party whose “primary focus” was taxes and “big government”. However, it became rather clear within short order that the real motive with their members was racism. The term Tea Party eventually vanished from mainstream media.

    The negative connotation of this brand backed by the Koch’s caused new branding campaigns. The Alt-Right split off to continue its hate.

    Instead of hiding in barns or underground meetings, our haters now wear suits and ties and run for political office. I prefer they stay in the light so we can easily identify them.

    What’s ironic is the overlap of hate groups with Christian groups. The #MAGA movement has lots of irony, satire and/or hypocrisy. Once again, I say give them a bullhorn and let them blast out their beliefs for all to hear.

  2. The hate has been out in the open for decades.
    The GOP has used hate and fear in all of their campaigns in my lifetime
    and I am old

  3. Patmcc, “hate has been out in the open for decades.” Certainly it has been out in the open via talk/hate radio. The venom coming from the lips of Rush and Company attracted and kept a new kind of listener, the listener who wanted his ignorance labeled “common sense” or “patriotic”. The listener who sought validation in a world where he/she saw the world rapidly changing and could not keep up or understand. Those who knew better, but still listened, excused their support for such garbage as just listening because it was “entertaining”. It did not take long for Fox News to see the potential in going “entertainment” vs. “journalism”.
    For the media ratings are money. Again, it is money. It is always money.

  4. Hate and fear go so well together. Fear is easy to manipulate, though and it catches on quickly and runs rampant through large groups. 45 uses it to perfection, while FDR said that the it was the ONLY thing we had to fear. Be unafraid!

    VOTE BLUE!

  5. Yes, we are probably the most fearful nation on Earth. Why else would we worship guns so much? Republicans live on hate and fear. Their donors pay for that strategy to be perpetuated. Control and power is the goal in order to prevent sensible laws from reducing the potential for more profits. Why else did slavery have such a long and “distinguished” run this country? Once the slaves were freed by the last sane Republican, the prejudice turned to hate.

    Perhaps this can be applied everywhere.

  6. Oh, 4Chan. A fascinating mixture of trolls trying to get stories they know are made up to be believed by people in the main stream and legitimate lunatics who really believe the crazy things they claim.

    The anonymity of the internet sure does bring us some exciting times.

  7. I truly do hope the voter turnout this fall is a wave and that it’s Blue, but, sadly, antibiotics can’t cure viruses, and our metaphor here posits hate as a virus in our culture. I think it is a virus that we will still be contending with. Hate is tactically bold because it empowers people to do things that just stop respectful, reasonable people in our tracks, leaving us speechless in the moment. That makes it seem successful, but it’s strategically weak. It lacks a long game, and that is where the rest of us must step into the fray and insure there is a long game that meets the needs of real people, everybody, especially the ones being ignored and dismissed right now and delivers on the promise that there is a future worth being a part of.

  8. I would agree with Vernon – “Yes, we are probably the most fearful nation on Earth.”

    This fear started before we were a nation. We feared the Native Americans, that actually fought back as they were pushed off of THEIR land, to make way for the great white invasion. The Anglo’s feared the French, feared the Spanish, and Dutch. Fear was the coin of the Realm.

    Later on the White Man brought Black Slaves across the Atlantic to work on the plantations. The White Man feared a slave revolt. Once the Blacks were liberated from slavery, the White Southerners feared equality, Jim Crow would keep them in their place.

    The culmination of White Fear in the West was Custer’s defeat, which had to be avenged in the most brutal fashion.

    As a Boomer I recall the White Fear of armed Black Radicals pouring out of the inner city to raid our peaceful all White “Pleasantvilles”.

    Anyone today, with a laptop and some knowledge of photo shop can spread lies. I still come across on face book people posting about the first US President born in Kenya, with his secret Moslem Agenda to destroy AmeriKa and how he secretly smuggled in millions of Hispanics to Vote Democratic.

    I even came across one post raging about the traitor John Kerry undermining President Agent Orange. If I recall right John Kerry served in Vietnam and had two purple hearts – President Agent Orange had bone spurs.

  9. Just as an add on to my previous comment – one face book post has a surfer high on a red wave. The caption is something to the effect the Red Tide or Wave of Republican Voters is coming.

    I feel confident these fools that wish for a Red Tide, do not realize the real Red Tide is Toxic. From Wiki >
    Where red tides occur, dead fish wash up on shore for up to two weeks after a red tide has been through the area. In addition to killing fish, the toxic algae contaminate shellfish.

    However, improper harvesting of shellfish can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning and neurotoxic shellfish Poisoning in humans. Some symptoms include drowsiness, diarrhea, nausea, loss of motor control, tingling, numbing or aching of extremities, incoherence, and respiratory paralysis. Lastly, reports of skin irritation after swimming in the ocean during a red tide are common, so people should try to avoid the red tide when it is in the area.
    ***************************************
    So yeah, the real Red Tide in Nature sounds like the Reactionary – Rabid- Bible Thumping- Republican Party – Toxic to life.

  10. I hate to say this, but hate is. It is for some people I have known … their comfort zone. Beyond online are loving, caring people I engage everyday. I believe we were caught off guard by the venerable principle provided by our Constitution called The Electoral College despite the popular vote margin. Will smarter more strategic campaigns bring the political pendulum back to equilibrium in 2020?

  11. Hate and fear are nothing new. They have been used since time immemorial to manipulate the masses, ranging from lepers and pork in our religious history to communism and minority takeover in our secular life. Education and critical thinking are the enemies of hate and fear and therefore must be controlled to keep the polity fearful and in manipulatable form. Some governments are parties to such diffusion of fear and hatred by fostering non-education of their students – see the Texas School Board’s removal of civics from the high school curriculum and just lately, their erasure of Hillary from approved texts.
    I presume that that board’s members receive salaries or some other stipend from taxpayers, and if so, we the people are paying for our own brainwashing and jaundiced view of history at public expense. We the people in his case means all of us since many Texas school graduates will move to the other 49 states and bring their hatred and ignorance with them, and in such connection, I have heard Indiana described as The Alabama of the North, a disgusting designation.
    What to do? Keep on pounding civics and history and critical thinking into our students to prepare them for the real world, one which, incidentally, is about to become one where all humans have an A-I competitor which knows no fear or hatred unless taught, so let’s hope the Texas School Board is not put in charge of their curriculum.

  12. Becky – re WSJ article…cannot access unless you subscribe. Duh – it’s the WSJ.

    There is much hate on all sides as I see it. The hate isn’t expressed the same, but it is there. Look at the right’s treatment of refugees and immigrants, their bulldozing medical care, their tax proposals that benefit corporations and the rich. Look at their separation of children from their parents. Look at the discontinuance of aid to Palestinians. Look at their wanting to dismantle public education, all in the name of GREED. They’ve chosen to ignore climate change and roll back regulations that will ultimately affect our children and grandchildren. While one in five children live in poverty, the ‘right’ has been cutting government programs.
    I consider this definitely a form of hate.

  13. It is indeed ironic that Christians hate. Not only did Christ explicitly warn against it, but his life served as an example. Hate arises from fear, and his story is all about how to transcend one’s animal instinct toward fear to become a fearless higher being. Hateful Christians are, at their cores, cowards, and they do not believe in Christ.

  14. There are many here who hate America as well as the freedom that our liberal democracy guarantees us if we can maintain it.

    If they ever become the electoral force that Putin elevated them to appear in 2016 then this year will become normal: an out of control President presiding over a Cabinet that fills the dictionary definition of incompetent presiding over a do nothing Congress led by McConnel and Ryan puppets fiddling around as the West Coast burns and the East Coast drowns.

  15. Pete; “Becky, why do you suppose the right isn’t concerned with hate?” If you will turn on MSNBC right now – if not already watching – you will see the right using hate in their internal fighting. Cowardly Trump is in New York; leaving whatever the dirty work is to be done up to Kelly. Will Rosenstein be fired, allowed to resign, ordered to fire Mueller or be fired or allowed to resign?

    It’s only Monday; what a week we have to look forward to!!!

    VOTE BLUE! If we survive till November 6th.

  16. According to “Le Miz” when the aristocrat’s greed gets out of control we the people take to the barricades accompanied by soul stirring music.

    At my age barricades are especially effective but I think that the message of the musical is relevant to today.

    We don’t need to take this crap. But, we only need our electoral virtual guillotine to send those in our Versailles packaging. They can keep their heads empty though they be.

  17. Pete

    Re: Your “electoral guillotine”

    It is indeed a wonderful weapon. Unfortunately those who could and should wield it likely won’t. As I mentioned the other day only about 50% of the people bother to vote. My father, an unreconstructed FDR Democrat, in one of his several lectures about voting once told me, “If you don’t use your vote you will end up no better off than the communists in Russia.” It seems that we may be well on our way to just that fate.

  18. Wray, Republicans are continuously raising the barriers to voting for good reason. Voters don’t favor them. History informs us well of the ends to those means. That’s what makes the year so critically important. It may well be now or never.

  19. Pete,

    Republicans have lied, cheated and stole since Lincoln was shot. They are compelled to be this way. They have ALWAYS been beholden to the monied classes. That won’t change until that party is completely destroyed and actual, egalitarian activism fills the void left by their disastrous modus operandi.

  20. We find ourselves in a continuing he said she said and seething hatred on both sides. The right blames the rejection of Robert Bork by the Senate and uses that rejection to justify the destruction of the relative comity that existed before Newt and his minions of confrontation took over the House. Let me defend what the democrats did in rejecting Bork. They stopped the rewarding of a loyal Republican who did Richard Nixon’s bidding in the firing of Archibald Cox. Richardson and Ruckleshaus declined to do Nixon’s bidding and were not rewarded with a Supreme Court nomination. Just think how history would be changed if President Reagan had nominated either of those two Republicans instead of Bork. The confirmation would have been quick and by great majorities.

    So what does that prove. “You started this.” So what. The acceptance and approval of the Southern Strategy with its basis in racism has not only continued Bork but exacerbated the tribalism in which we are now engaged. Stopping anything that Obama proposed, even the endorsement of things like the Bowles/Simpson proposals. which were supported by Mitch McConnell until President Obama supported it, and then overnight Mitch was against his own proposal, served to extend this race based tribalism

    As a member of the other tribe, I remember the good old days, when we sat down and talked through our differences in proposals focused on how to solve problems that were before us. Now we cannot even agree on what the problems are. In fact, my tribe is tired and angry of bringing our books and library cards to discussions when the other tribe has already decided it is a knife fight. I am reminded of the two lines from the HBO movie about the 2000 election recount. James Baker says, “what we have here is a good old fashion alley fight.” Warren Christopher then says in another scene, “We want to avoid an Alley fight.”

    I wish I could see a solution other than to Vote Blue. Make sure the other side loses what they value most. Power.

  21. Throughout history our nation’s success has beenbased upon courage, honor and tolerance. These are not standard human nature. These traits made us great because they are exceptional. It is not strange that those who wish make us a nation of dependent serfs would work to replace those traits with groundless fear, terpetude and intolerance .

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