The worst thing about the past few years, in some respects, is that the colossal sh*t-storm we're currently experiencing was quite literally foreseen.
Some of us noticed the marked shift in political rhetoric and media bias that began to occur shortly after the Tories returned to government in 2010. We saw how they immediately began to cheat, smear and spin; stoking division and the values of prejudice, turning society against itself. We saw how gutter tabloids formerly considered fairly harmless, like The Sun and Daily Mail, fast became bibles for the bigoted and puerile. We watched with horror as the BBC - a much loved and revered British institution - laid waste to a mantle claimed over generations for being one of the world's most fair and reliable news sources (whereas now, it's arguably a propaganda tool Goebbels would be proud of).
Yes. Some of us truly felt the rumblings of these insidious attitudes and manipulations beneath the surface of British society many, many years ago. Attitudes which have, since 2016, onset with the gusto of a freight train. We saw it happening, as if in slow motion. And what did we do?
We turned to Facebook.
See, before The Canary and Another Angry Voice, well before the Media Guidos and Westmonsters, and certainly well before every single Tom, Dick &Harry started mouthing off on social media regarding often ill-informed political views, turning the medium into a damned war-zone, some of us attempted to use Facebook to communicate truth. Some of us were doing it 'before it was cool'. In fact, it's arguably all our fault.
The original 'keyboard warriors'
We actively tried to steer conversation away from the banal and 'stupidifying' media we saw transforming our countrymen and women into vacuous idiots. We attempted to draw our friends' attention to the apparently small detail that they were being fed complete horse sh*t under the pretence of it being pertinent fact. That supposed 'views of the nation' were actually 'views fed to the nation', mostly fitting the agenda of an increasingly brazen Conservative party.
In short, Facebook became the one place alternative voices could be heard. The one and only political arena which a handful of billionaire tax-dodgers couldn't control, deciding both the narrative of world events, and which facts were revealed. An online sanctuary where often smart, informed and attentive people started to debunk myths, build followings and credibility, based on less biased interpretations and more reasoned assessments. Truth has a way of burning brightly when it's told. And suddenly, politicians became more publicly accountable for their words and actions; they became subject to the scrutiny of average citizens - not just the paid employees of media barons with greasy palms.
Later, many of us then saw something in Jeremy Corbyn, elected Labour leader in 2015. For the first time in recent British political history, we saw a politician who was humble, ethical and decent - who talked sense and voiced the same conclusions many of us had already come to. A man who would seemingly put average people first; not the ludicrously wealthy.
It was a beacon of hope, and as a result, we fought even harder. It was when the 'Alt-left' really began: a movement of which I'd consider myself a very small part. No doubt, Corbyn would have been toast without it. By the gods, we almost collectively upset the apple-cart at the General Election! A David and Goliath contest between independent online bloggers and news media, versus government and business backed mainstream media, and though we didn't quite win the battle, there was little doubt we'd shown their power and unchallenged influence was waning.
Ergo, a backlash was inevitable. I've been waiting earnestly, quite curious to see what form it would take.
Drowning out the voices
In hindsight, I suppose it was also inevitable the medium would become noisy - though early on, we who discussed politics on Facebook were the anomalies. We stood out rather like sore thumbs for being the minority not sharing videos of pets, and/or a relentless torrent of selfies in absolutely every bloody situation conceivable. But soon the loudmouth bullies and bigots soon caught on that discussing geopolitical matters in a public arena was the new avenue for asserting dominance, and the medium changed drastically. It soon became the realm of people like Paul Joseph Watson, Katie Hopkins, and Tommy Robinson. A catalyst for Brexit and Trump, looming obscurely in the distance.
But in the wake of Trump and Brexit, eg: now the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan, pesky socialists, libtards and remoaners are fighting back... like all lives depend on it. (Because newsflash, they may very well.) We were gaining ground. And when the aforementioned apple-cart was nearly upset at GE2017, well... the backlash really kicked into overdrive.
I for one knew this Conservative Party wouldn't let it stand. Exactly in the same way they've attempted to shift constituency boundaries and shrink the number of MPs to give themselves unfair advantage, overspending and embezzling in countless campaigns, leaving the mainstream press to discuss ridiculous smokescreens, like whether Jeremy Corbyn is a Czech spy/Kremlin stooge/antisemite etc. I knew full well they'd find a way to shut down people who debate and challenge public perceptions. Having been a writer for both The Canary and Evolve Politics, I also know by far the lion's share of such organisations' organic traffic comes through Facebook. Twitter and other mediums are negligible. And there's a reason for that.
Social media for cavemen
Without wanting to sound like a old man lamenting the passing of the CD for the MP3, Facebook at least was a social media tool allowing users to express themselves fully. A forum for open discussion and debate. You could write as much or as little as you wanted... post photos or videos, links and articles... choose your audience and who you want to see your posts interact with who you wanted... play games, follow news... limitless options really! An avenue for expression, fun, and articulation.
Twitter dumbed that down. In the 21st century 'Age of Inattentiveness', actually having to read sh*t is too much like a pain in the arse. You gotta condense that stuff down to two lines and words of three syllables, so that Barry down the bookies can vaguely follow what the f**k you're talking about.
Yes, some people get around it with 'threads' that go on for ever, but what really is the point in that?? In my mind it's actually quite patronising - as if reading one body of text would be just too much for my delicate mind to absorb. Not to mention, most sentient discussion on Twitter usually gives way to outright slagging matches... a truly vile place nowadays. A forum for confrontation, and/or celebrities/wannabe celebrities to mouth off, revelling in their virtual cult of followers. (A crime I guess I can't exactly deny I've been guilty of too.)
Then came Instagram, and Snapchat. Don't even get me started on those. They're the literal regression of humankind: the modern day equivalent of cave-people drawing on rocks to communicate. The death of language. Vacuous egotism to simply mind-numbing, torturous degree. "I don't know any words, or have any thoughts. But I look pretty, and have a great life/car/house/kid/pet/career... LOOK AT ME. AREN'T I GREAT AND POPULAR?"
Sweet Jesus... it's a big step towards Charlie Brooker's recent Black Mirror premise, of a world where social media interaction and approval decides quality of life - relying exactly on users being vacuous, unobtrusive, unquestioning. Overly committed to a public conception of being successful, likeable, and upstanding.
By the way, if that horrific idea seems a bit far-fetched, be warned... they're already trying it out in China.
The 'Whipping Boy'
It's therefore no surprise that Facebook is the one they're looking to take out of the equation, and subtly (or not so subtly) suggest we should abandon. It's the one that's done the powers-that-be the most damage. It's popular with older and more sentient generations of internet users. Don't be fooled. They've known what Facebook and corporations like Cambridge Analytica were doing for donkey's years. I think we all did. We all knew when we shared those apps and games, made our posts public etc, that someone somewhere would be watching, and gathering data. We just didn't care. Politicians and business have ALWAYS tried to influence and manipulate voters: what's important is that counter-argument and truth are available to the populace as well.
And now, because that medium is the only remaining resistance to mainstream spin, they earnestly want us to go back to using social media as the distraction initially intended... taking selfies and sharing cat videos. A stupid, uninformed and self-involved populace is a pliable populace, impotent to stand in their way. (Evidence of which is all around us.)
I have literally written numerous pieces in the past couple of years warning that a time of censorship was coming, one way or another. Clues and depressing tit-bits from from Theresa May have shown the way for starters; she's hinted several times at the 'need to control the internet'. You don't only censor something by outlawing it - you can do so just as easily by making sure no one sees it, or bothers to pay it heed. I thought Zuckerberg deciding what we'd see in our news feeds was bad enough: this move is far more ambitious, and insidious. It's certainly not coincidence.
Don't worry about Zuckerberg - he'll be fine. But think twice before you delete Facebook, closing the door on political ideas and activism; on 'alternative' voices and opinions. They may very well be trying to tell you truths you won't hear elsewhere.