July 8, 2020
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Whatever happened to that idealistic slogan, “Don’t Feed the trolls?” For the past five years I’ve probably fallen into that trap more times than I’d like to admit, but it’s kind of hard to ignore when we have the President of the United States who himself is a troll. Our kids, who might shun the internet entirely will be asking us, “how stupid were you?” The answer is very.

How did we get from fringe extremists, those bad youtube videos decrying capitalism, or others demanding people to vote for Ron Paul to where we are today? How did we begin to believe everything on the internet? The greatest information tool in the history of the world is only a click or voice command away and people have lost the basic ability to fact-check. How is this even possible? The mainstream acceptance of the conspiracy theory is very troubling to this ex-conspiracy theorist.

In the online community, you can get in trouble for cursing out Trump supporters who are allowed to say the stupidest things as long as they themselves, “follow the rules,” and I think there’s something wrong with that. I’m not sure what it is or what can be done about it, but it’s bothering me. Part of it is the trolling aspect ever present in the politics of today.

Part of the problem is that we have giant corporations who are using the don’t-feed-the-trolls concept against us, and they don’t even know it. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and the so-called “father of the internet,” Vint Cerf have all recently been forced to accept a harsh reality. That the technology and the tools they so optimistically rely on is breaking down. The internet is getting taken over by trolls, and in some cases, it always was.  Fake news peddlers like Upworthy, ViralNova, Elite Daily, or Barstool Sports are masters at trolling as are 4chan and certain Reddit communities.

If you haven’t spent any time over the past week in any online community you would be shocked to hear what was going on and how people were debating. As the conspiracy theory about David Hogg reached new heights; another conspiracy theory was normalized, and quite easily bypassed “new” social media bylaws about sharing “cool” content, I was banned from one my favorite websites for barely cursing out the idiots who were bashing Brendan Fraser and branding him a sore loser. All because he put himself out there as a victim of sexual harassment. All because they were dead set about being against something. It’s all so tribal.

According to the site’s rules I could not tell these people to shut up. This was apparently, at one point, in the spirit of free and open debate. That ideal just like the ideals that the founding fathers of the internet held-that the internet would only be used for good-is now wrong.

It’s only been amplified recently and gone mainstream since the election, but anyone who has spent any time studying the subject of conspiracy theories knows that belief in the CT is a fundamental part of the history of our country. It is part of the reason why we are a country in the first place, so yes, some good can come from it, but I fail right now to see what good can come from calling David Hogg an actor and for being against something just to argue about it. I think most people don’t know they are wrong, and they are willing to believe because as the X-Files goes, they want to believe it.

Not limited to UFOs anymore

Speaking to the X-files, I blame that show in part because of the cultural impact it’s had in making the CT go mainstream. It’s very popular and I see the same attitude online as people “expose” the truth as did Mulder. He was constantly looking for something that wasn’t there, as are the public. All the emojis have that look in their eyes!!

Now companies have learned to capitalize on it and they don’t even know it. Analysts and talking heads condemn CTs, but if you go to their websites and look at the sponsored content, what’s there? CTs. It’s akin to if Fox News had MSNBC content as their sponsored ads. Facebook and Twitter are large parts of the problem too and I’m not even talking about the bots.

I’m talking about Mark Zuckerberg. He said that Fake news could not have possibly impacted the election. Once it was proven that it did, he was shocked and still doesn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t know what was happening on his own networks and the user base are even more clueless! Since the internet is being overrun by this crap so to is our national political discussion and why both sides seem to think the other are evil monsters. Although allow me to point finger at one such party who has elected one of the biggest CT/Troll/Con-man of all time; The GOP.

It’s rampant not just in politics, but in the selfie obsessed meme culture, and the get rich quick promises of the bitcoin and crypto communities, the pro-internet communities and the dating sites. As the internet community endlessly battle for their misplaced desires in Net Neutrality, they are ignoring all of the other problems that are going on on the internet, how it’s shaping society, and the very future of freedom of speech is at stake. David Hogg says, the kids who are fighting for the future right now will outlive the trolls, but to what end?

John J. Falco