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The most interesting thing I saw online this week was Venkatesh Rao’s “Internet of Beefs” essay. I don’t agree with all of it. I’m not even sure I agree with most of it. But it’s a sharp, perceptive, well-argued piece which offers an explanation for why online public spaces have almost all become battlefields, or, as he puts it:
“are now being slowly taken over by beef-only thinkers … Anything that is not an expression of pure, unqualified support for whatever they are doing or saying is received as a mark of disrespect, and a provocation … as the global culture wars evolve into a stable, endemic, background societal condition of continuous conflict.” He goes on to taxonomizes the online knights and mooks who fight in this conflict, in incisive detail.
Conflict - Exists - Theory - Bots - Disinformation
I agree this continuous conflict exists. (There exists another theory arguing that it’s really mostly bots and disinformation ops. Maybe, I guess, but that claim seems increasingly unconvincing.) I think this seething tire-fire conflict is part of something larger: the transition of the marketplace of ideas from a stock market into a weapons market.
Once, the idea was, there existed a “marketplace of ideas,” wherein people from across the political spectrum — generally the highly educated, but with some room for notions bubbling up from the grassroots — would introduce ideas for initiatives, actions, programs, and/or laws. These ideas would be considered, contrasted, debated, honed, amended, and weighed, and over time, in the same way stock markets identify the best companies, the the marketplace of ideas would identify the finest concepts. These in turn would then see actual implementation, courtesy of those in power — i.e. the rich and the elected — for the greater good of all.
World - Think - Tanks - Policy - Documents
This was the world of think tanks, of policy documents, of presentations at important conferences,...
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