Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Welcome to the post text future (of the new authoritarian state?)

White males (and the republican party) seem to perceive that the most effective way to maintain their current prominence as they continue to become a minority of the population is to enable movement towards an authoritarian state by suppressing minority voting and delegitimizing the institutions protecting democracy. Today’s Hungary provides an example of a single party ‘democracy’ led by a powerful leader. A fascinating sequence of articles in the New York Times describes additional powerful tools that have been moving public discourse from a rational textual context towards emotional visual video communication employing simple powerful memes. So far, the right has been more effective at exploiting such memes than the left. From Farhad Manjoo's article:
...An online culture ruled by pictures and sounds rather than text is going to alter much about how we understand the world around us.
The haze of misinformation hanging over online life will only darken under multimedia — think of your phone as a Hollywood-grade visual-effects studio that could be used to make anyone appear to say or do anything. The ability to search audio and video as easily as we search text means, effectively, the end of any private space.
Then there’s the more basic question of how pictures and sounds alter how we think. An information system dominated by pictures and sounds prizes emotion over rationality. It’s a world where slogans and memes have more sticking power than arguments. (Remind you of anyone?) And will someone please think of the children: Do you know how much power YouTube has over your kids? Are you afraid to find out?
But what are we going to do? There seems no going back now. For text, the writing is on the wall.
Bowles describes the mainstreaming of political memes online:
Groups like the conservative Look Ahead America and the liberal Center for Story-Based Strategy emerged to nurture memers, and big political donors like George Soros and the Mercer family funded meme efforts.
“It’s almost like a new means of communication — the image and emotion and creation,” said Matt Braynard, 39, the former director of data for Mr. Trump’s campaign, who is now the executive director of Look Ahead America. “I don’t want to call it literature, but it has an art.”
Organizers on both the left and right said the left has so far been slower to adapt to meme politics. To catch up, Sean Eldridge, husband of the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, is working on creating shareable content with Stand Up America, a progressive nonprofit that opposes President Trump. And the activist John Sellers’s The Other 98% has received funding from Open Society Foundations, a group backed by Mr. Soros.
Andrew Boyd, who designs campaigns for social change, was one of the first to document political memes, writing a seminal essay, “Truth is a Virus,” in 2002. He argued that the most important recent political meme has not come from either party’s campaign or donors but from the #MeToo movement around sexual harassment.
“It has a crystal quality to it, a simplicity, and elegance, something that feels right and organized,” said Mr. Boyd, 55. “Me too. Me too. That happened to me too. The best memes are very populist, and yet they have a precision.”
I won't pass on any further chunks, but strongly urge MindBlog readers to check out the sequence of articles in the NY Times special segment.

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