#80, outlast virality

April 6, 2017

#fakenews is on the decline. Not the amount of it, or the uses of it, or the power of it, just the internet’s attention to it.

#fakenews has outlived its viral function as an interchangeable, time-stamped home for frenzied production and consumption, hand-wringing, quick-fixes, and then deflation and depletion. Perhaps today that function is filled by Pepsi. Or Trump’s thoughts about Syrian children.

#fakenews has left me exhausted. I don’t to need to hear or read another thing about it ever again. I have nothing left to say (and yet twenty more posts to go!)

#fakenews—unlike real news—reveals the logic and cycles of virality, a mad explosion of attention that flattens and simplifies whatever is under scrutiny by having to bear the weight of mass attention and production, that may also at same time produce some considered and complex response and reveal long-term ongoing approaches that had already been in the works and will continue to be after the storm passes but that will become harder to see given the clamor and the clutter and the manipulative misuses and the sarcastic re-renders. Then an exhaustion and a gutting out of integrity and a quick hard move to deception, irony, play, and the confusing, bizarre reversal of the thing itself (fake becomes real and then back again) this made particularly confusing when the viral subject is fakeness. The real story now seems as superficial as the frenzy it began. Boredom, exhaustion, disinterest are left in its wake: i.e. #fakenews … how last week!

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Given this defintive cycle, I often argue that virality is not good for social justice: where depth, connection, careful consideration, and usability matter much more than brief recognition, superficial attention, or momentary if strong emotion. After the crush of attention, #fakenews remains, as do the people and organizations committed to studying and changing it, the people and organizations who use it to manipulate, and the real world changes it can, does and will inspire.

#fakenews depends upon the logic and cycles of virality. Criticizing, understanding, and outliving this logic is critical to its undoing.

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This #100hardtruth was shared with me by the artist, Natalie Bookchin:

“Silicon Valley has their cake and wants to eat it too. The tools they create, promote, and that enrich them have been instrumental in creating the mess we are now in. These faux-populists claim that they and their tools are anti-institutional and countercultural, giving the people a voice and a choice and challenging the hegemony of mainstream institutions. But entrepreneurial capitalism is their only true religion and the only agent of change. As they congratulate themselves on changing the world, and on their hard work and entrepreneurial rigor, and as they dream of space travel, moon walks, eternal life, and superintelligence, they are blind and deaf to the rubble left in their wake: from rampant sexism in their companies, the autocratic rule of the white elite, increasing inequality, loss of jobs, to a bolstered and strengthened surveillance state and market. Deep in their hearts they know it is not likely to end well, and they have prepared their escape – from bunkers in New Zealand, to the sea and intergalactic travel.”

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