Mad Mad Crowds — Modern Culture and the Forces at Work.

In The Madness of Crowds Douglas Murray takes a look at modern culture and the forces that are shaping it.

But up until now the search engines have been assumed to be a neutral space. They might be expected to throw up oddities, but not whole new editorial lines — let alone editorial lines which are in particular directions.

Search engines operate on algorithms. Algorithms which are written by humans and therefore, are inherently biased. It is impossible for an individual to be completely objective and neutral. Like media companies, search engines and the technology companies that run them are pushing an agenda. They promote the answers that they want us to have and stifle the distribution of contrary information.

One way that information is limited is by shadow banning. When you have been shadow banned on a social media platform you aren’t told that you have been banned, but the content that you produce is essentially only existing within an echo chamber. Your content is no longer recommended to anyone and in extreme cases even those who follow you may be blocked from being able to see it. Shadow banning can be profile wide, or only when specific terms are used.

It is always important to think about who controls the sources of information. Do they have a strong agenda? What is it? Take everything with a pinch of salt. Everything can be twisted and manipulated and this needs to be understood when searching for and engaging with any content.

However, just because an information source has an agenda, doesn’t mean that it is always wrong or totally useless. It is important to keep a critical eye, but that also means that we should not have a tendency to dismiss content without engaging with it. There is value to be found everywhere and we should consider everything that is presented to us. This is the healthiest way to engage with information. We should especially consider information that runs contrary to what we believe. More often than not, we are the ones who are wrong. It takes humility to accept and admit this, but only by admitting this can we hope to become more informed individuals who are able to make better choices.

The one overwhelming problem with this attitude is that it sacrifices truth in the pursuit of a political goal. Indeed, it decides that truth is part of the problem — a hurdle that must be got over.

We sacrifice the truth to meet our own ends at our peril. The more a statement is repeated the more believable it becomes, but it will always remain a lie, there is no changing that. It is important that we do not lie, especially to ourselves, as when it comes to making important decisions we will not be able to trust our own judgement. We know when we are lying, but we do it anyway as it is easier in the short term. It avoids conflict, it lets us get away with short-term desires, but for long-term peace and happiness it is always better to tell the truth and deal with the consequences.

To reach the truth there needs to be nuance and consideration of both sides of the argument. There is always another side to the argument and often there are many. The world is very rarely black and white. We should be wary of anyone who seems to have a definitive simplistic answer to everything, unfortunately the world is not that simple. It is vital to always seek out contrary perspectives. It is only by looking at the other side to the argument and information that disagrees with us, that we can learn. By looking at the other side we can see what we are missing and build a complete perspective of a topic.

The problem with modern media consumption is that we all exist in echo chambers. The internet is becoming so specific and catered to the individual so that it only shows you what you want to see. Invariably these are views that agree with you. Even television channels cater to specific audiences, where previously we would all be watching the same one or two. We now have to actively seek out counter points and this is difficult and often uncomfortable to do. However, it is essential if we want to be informed individuals who have a good understanding of the world.

And we know from the work of the anthropologist and philosopher René Girard of the societal release that can come from the identification of such a scapegoat.

Scapegoats have been used since the beginning of consciousness. They allow tension and shared anxieties to be directed at a clearly defined enemy. It has happened time and time again in societies as this smoke and mirrors tactic allows attention to be diverted away from the real problems in society. Rather than dealing with problems, scapegoating is a much easier option.

Scapegoats provide a simple, easy answer to the problem. ‘All of your discontent and unhappiness is due to this, or these groups of people!’ Such a simple answer, and the solution clearly presents itself. To get rid of all your unhappiness all you have to do is get rid of the scapegoat. However, we know that the world does not present such simple solutions. Be wary of anyone who tries to convince you that there is such a thing.

If history has taught us anything, scapegoating is an incredibly dangerous approach to take and has always led to violence and persecution as a result. We need to recognise when scapegoating is taking place and ask ourselves why. What is really being hidden? What are we being distracted from? When someone is trying to scapegoat, we know that there is somewhere else that we should be looking and approach this person with caution. What is their agenda? What are they hoping to gain by scapegoating?

Scapegoating is never done with good intentions. Be wary when you spot it.

All quotes are from The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray.




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Alex Canal

Historical takes on current affairs

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