How does one make sense of a climate denier's 180? Why take his new ideas seriously? Tony Heller used the pseudonym Steve Goddard to promote climate change denial. Then he "came clean" to explain how the effects of mass media make people  ignore reason and logic. As a long time Marshall McLuhan fan, this media effects perspective makes sense to me. I disagree that content means nothing in Trump's rise, but clearly modern media favor emotional content over reason.

In the climate wars, tribalism will Trump logic sorry to say.


image source

The Dawn of Hypbertribalism: How the Internet Makes Donald Trump an...

The internet has been with us forty-five years or so, the world wide web about twenty five, and the ubiquity of true personal communication for less than ten. A clearer picture of the impact of these technologies on us is beginning to emerge.

Once upon a time, the dream was that the internet and the accompanying technologies built atop it would usher in something like McLuhan’s idea of a “global village.” People across globe would be woven into an interconnected, electronic hive mind which would amplify and transmit the greatest ideas and allow us to coordinate thoughts and actions like never before, driving civilization to ever higher heights and dwarfing the accomplishments of the past century.

Marshall McLuhan image source

the internet, rather than bringing people together, is having precisely the opposite effect. By making it exceedingly easy for like-minded people to find and communicate with one another in virtual spaces, the creation of tribes around any particular idea or value, even if totally baseless or detached from reality, becomes much more prevalent. Combine this with a weakening of traditional, gatekeeping institutions like political parties and major news organizations, the internet has set the stage for vast political and social disruption.

As Trump demonstrates and as McLuhan taught us, content simply doesn’t matter. As we have seen, the more incoherent drivel Trump spews, the more popular he seems to become. What explains the Trump phenomena is the internet and the tribal bonds and relationships that can be built as a result of it. Websites, videos, social media are allowing members of the Trump tribe to share symbols and feel connected with one another in ways never before possible. And you could replace Trump with just about anyone. Trump is, in fact, irrelevant. He is merely scaffolding for a cultural movement made possible by the internet.

Rational individuals have trouble wrapping their heads around what’s happening … They can’t understand how someone like me can exist. Unfortunately, the desire to belong and be part of a tribe trumps all logic.

As 20th century institutions continue to weaken, the internet will usher in an era of what I call hypertribalism. Each tribe will have its own set of values, worldview and established “facts” they operate from. Members of the various tribes will be ensconced in their own sub-sub-cultures to the point where it will be difficult for them to relate to members of other tribes.

hypertribalism will likely make tackling issues that require massive global coordination like climate change exceedingly difficult. [emphasis mine]

I had imagined that the internet would facilitate global belonging, empathy across ethnic, political and race boundaries. In a small way that happens at Atheist Nexus, but we too are a sub-sub-culture. Between the reason-numbing effects of TV and the fragmentation of community in virtual space, our species seems to be lobotomized.

Views: 449

Replies to This Discussion

The (somewhat) bipartisan media are also jumping all over various details about Hillary, though.  They're STILL talking about the e-mail shit.  Matt Lauer wouldn't freaking shut up about it during the Presidential Forum.

I don't think they're jumping on Hillary quite as much as they are on Trump, but in part, I'm sure that's simply a matter of available ammunition.  Trump is a train wreck.  It's hard to cover all of the insane shit he says.

I am a parody of Steve Goddard.

Here is an article with a similar take on tribalism in the internet age and McLuhan:

Interesting article, Steve Goddard Xposed.

The growth and intensity of sectarian ideology appears to be fostered by,…. the effects of digital communications, and in particular of social media platforms which largely ignore national borders but reinforce cultural ones.

On its face, this seems counterintuitive. Why would national or cultural identity matter more in a globalized world, with such deeply interconnected economies, cultures, and communications? Shouldn’t national identity matter less in a connected twenty-first century?

If the medium is the message, then social media itself is becoming more specialized and tribal. We see this in the rise of everything from hyper-specialized online dating websites to … the proliferation of subreddits on…

Marshall McLuhan … envisioned digital or “electronic” media as an extension of consciousness.

… , he envisioned a kind of hyperlocal bazaar of discourse.

Godin, in contrast, sees tribalism as leader/audience behavior “in the chaos of the new media landscape.”

I take it this translates as small groups self-selecting within the apparently infinite virtual social landscape, because our brains can't "comprehend" very large groups. It sounds almost like self-organization, due to a mismatch of channel capacity. Perhaps we need some intermediate levels of processing to translate, coherently, across different world views. Perhaps this is an arena for new job creation.

BTW, I still don't grock what it means to identify oneself as a parody. Do you parody an earlier version of yourself or parody someone else entirely? Are you the same person?

I am not Steve Goddard or Tony Heller. The website and my Twitter account are designed to mock him. Tony Heller is the real name of "Steve Goddard," a climate denier:

Twenty years ago you would have never seen or heard from crackpots like Goddard, just as it would never be conceivable for a man like Donald Trump to become his party's nominee, when party's had more power. The nomination was largely a closed process. And if it was clear you were a nut, you didn't have a chance.

That's all changing. Though these men are clearly unhinged and not clear thinkers, they now have an audience. They resonate with other like-minded people who have always been there but normally would not get exposed to their ideas because the rational, hierarchical institutions (largely) suppressed them.

The world is a very confusing and mysterious place. And so finding like-minded people is comforting. It's cozy when you only associate with people who share your values because it reinforces that your view of the world is valid and you are not crazy.

Thanks for clarifying that. You're right about this,

The world is a very confusing and mysterious place. And so finding like-minded people is comforting. It's cozy when you only associate with people who share your values because it reinforces that your view of the world is valid and you are not crazy.

I associate with like-minded people here and on my favorite subreddits. I'm certainly not immune. So where will that lead all of us? I never imagined that I'd miss hierarchical institutions, never imagined they were filtering out most of the crazies. Your point is valid. In a way that contamination of public discourse parallels internet trolling by narcissists.

So that tweet that I cited was mockery? What about the article? Not by the stated author? I'm confused. It's not as easy to distinguish mockery from straightforward talk in these media as face to face.

That Tweet was in the vein of "you can learn something from a nutcase like me."

It’s time to realize that the promised “Age of Information” has actually ushered in the “Age of Disinformation.” The rules that applied to last century don’t apply to this one. If you aren’t playing by the new rules, people like me will mop the floor with you. [emphasis mine]

I take you point about it being past time for us to be angry. On the other hand, how could manipulation and lies be helpful? The "new rules" also involve corruption, like massive dark funding from self-interested corporations. Climate advocate won't have that. However I see that your effort provides an example.

I think the entertainment/media complex offers the best hope. Just as they helped changed public opinion on gay rights they could do the same for global warming.

Were entertainment and media companies leaders on gay rights, or followers, once they saw an increasing number of LGBTQ* citizens being out and visible?

GC, AIDS drove gays, especially young gays, out of the closets into which xianity had pushed them.

They made themselves known with slogans such as We're Here, We're Queer. Get Used To It. President Reagan's refusing to say "AIDS" added to their fury.

I was living in San Francisco; I saw and heard them come out. I told people their fighting for their rights was helping straight men win ours.

Problem is they're owned by the 1%ers. They buy newspapers and fire the fact checkers and climate reporters.

Also, one bottom line is that it's extraordinarily fast and easy to just make stuff up, without regard to physics etc. And portrayals that break real world rules, that violate expectations, are inherently more interesting that facts. Entertainment media and news-like entertainment media such as Fox not only have the vested interests of fossil fuel civilization in charge, they have inherent non-rational biases.

Which is what makes them so persuasive in the world of post-factual politics.




Update Your Membership :




Nexus on Social Media:


© 2018   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service