That’s okay, we hate them right back.
A significant new book by Andrew Marantz, a staff writer at the New Yorker, has reinvigorated the gatekeepers’ efforts to censor the internet. Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation is an account of our ongoing democratic revolution, a historical moment that brings into relief two realizations for Marantz: (1) conservative influencers are now able to out-compete legacy media outlets, and (2) it was this that lead to the election of Donald J. Trump. “[T]hey helped propel their man to the presidency,” he writes.
For Marantz, these two realizations justify all-out censorship of the internet. But his extremism comes as little surprise when you recognize that, from start to finish, Marantz’s argument is grounded in his contempt for the intellectual and moral capacities of ordinary Americans.
At one point in the book, Marantz recalls an encounter with a friend who saw little problem with politically compromising clickbait: “Look, we happen to live in a free country. People can click on terrible links if that’s how they want to spend their time.”
“I made counterarguments,” Marantz writes. “Those terrible links influence what people think, how people behave, who people vote for.” He means, of course, that we can’t trust citizens to choose their own sources of information. So it’s not enough for Marantz to lay the blame for Trumpism on an intellectual deficit; he also blames the “techno-utopians” who fed their terrible information consumption habits.
According to Marantz, a techno-utopian believes that the American people are wise and moral enough to make those distinctions for themselves. They can thus be trusted with an open internet. They have faith that truth and virtue will eventually win out in the open marketplace of ideas. They think that “getting rid of informational gatekeepers” is a victory for democracy. Recall that Reddit’s motto was once “freedom from the press.” Techno-Utopians want to use technology to “democratize [and] give the power to the people.” They might even believe that “the freedom to share opinions online was akin to a human right.” Note the implicit assumption here: that the popularity of some political content is some indication of its moral or intellectual value.
Marantz’s book is a frontal attack on all these beliefs.
Of course it is. He’s a weedy, wormy little twerp whose bloated ego isn’t strong enough to tote the load of his crushing inadequacy. His bilious contempt for the bovine lackwits who refuse to duly acknowledge his self-proclaimed superiority is based mainly on pure envy, as is so often the case. The whole mess of soggy neurosis drives him to reject the very idea of human freedom itself, along with the existence of any “rights” a godlike being such as himself is bound to respect. The stupid, blundering sheep must be herded, for their own good; who better than an enlightened über-shepherd like himself to lead them along the proper path?
This miserable worm is nothing less than the living embodiment of Progressivist ideology and attitudes, on both the micro- and macro-levels. The obnoxiousness; the shameless, completely unjustifiable arrogance; the narcissism; the grandiose self-dramatization; the unshakable belief in the neccessity of a wiser, more capable “elite” class to supervise and manage the affairs of a hapless sub-order dependent on their guidance—this is a pretty good summary of the original mission statement of early-20th-Century Progressivism. Latter-day Progressivists have trimmed these roots only slightly by dropping their progenitors’ open embrace of eugenics as a means of culling the undesirables from the flock, deciding it might be best for all concerned if nobody brings that embarrassing little chapter up anymore, thanks.
The title of Marantz’s book is where the sad irony really lives and breathes. It isn’t any “hijacking of the American conversation” that so frustrates and enrages him; it’s having the ignorant serfs speaking up without permission he finds so damned galling. Unapproved views are now being freely expressed, rather than all and sundry listening in enraptured silence to his exalted pontification, as he so much prefers. Oh, there’s a conversation going on all right, but he’s not invited. Nothing has been “hijacked,” but a few things have been left behind. People like Marantz have nothing new to say, nothing to contribute but more of the same-old same-old. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer of us seem interested in hearing their tired, century-old lecture recited all over again, only louder and more spitefully this time?