Money to be made in hate
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By Kevin Ritchie
This year is going to be a high-water mark for the anti-vaxxers and new found freedom of speech advocates who are literally the same WhatsApp group. Ten days ago, a perfect cross section of this group stormed the Capitol, the symbolic home of the USA’s 250-year-old democracy – in the name of democracy.
It’s the same logic that allows them to bewail the subsequent banning of Donald Trump, their patron, from Facebook and Twitter for incitement. It’s censorship, they claim, ignoring the fact that Trump told his ‘patriots’ to storm the Capitol only to throw them under the bus when the world turned on him.
What we should be asking is why Marc Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, FB and Twitter’s founding fathers, allowed Trump so much leeway in the first place because last Wednesday wasn’t the first time he’d abused his position to spew outright lies. The reason they didn’t is because there’s money to be made in hate.
The mainstream media (MSM), so despised by the lumpen Trumpians, created the monster that was Trump. South African MSM did it here with Julius Malema. Why? Because of a toxic mess of intellectual cowardice and ethical laziness in search of the clickbait of spectacle and perfect soundbites for headlines.
Social media should ban more people for spewing hatred and fomenting racism of any hue. Instead, their followers are complaining that their democratic rights are being abused. They’ll probably tell you that protestors wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Camp Auschwitz or 6MWE (six-million weren’t enough) glorifying the Holocaust were just exercising their right to freedom of speech.
Holocaust denialism is on the same continuum as the repudiation of any view that doesn’t fit people’s prejudice or dares to test their credibility – like vaccines, even though most of us have already been vaccinated for everything from polio to measles, TB, meningitis, hepatitis B and Diptheria.
If you travel into Africa, you’ll normally get a Yellow Fever jab, and cholera shot. Until 1980, you needed a smallpox vaccination too – that’s the year the WHO declared it finally eradicated. Yet, there are people who are now fighting about having to get a Covid-19 vaccine – after hammering the government for not having a coherent vaccination strategy.
It’s the same convoluted, alt-fact post-truth logic that led to the lemming- like rush at the weekend from the extremely popular WhatsApp social messenger platform, all the while moaning about it on Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and indeed started the panic by announcing that data privacy would soon be the same on both apps.
At least FB issued a warning, but the truth is, there is no data privacy – anywhere – for the simple reason that we give it away; telling all and sundry what we believe; what we like; who we fancy; where we live; what we buy; what we own and even our favourite pets, numbers and nicknames.
We do it because we get to use the platform for free. God forbid, Karen, that we ever have to pay for it. But that won’t stop us always trying to blame someone else though when the chickens come home to roost.
* Kevin Ritchie is a former newspaper editor.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.