Thursday, March 24, 2016

Comments as Id

If you remember, I have a thing for Internet comments. But lately, I've been annoyed by comments sections everywhere. Even in reputable places there doesn't seem any way to get a proper discussion in place. If everyone agrees, all that occurs is a circle jerk, while if there's someone who raises a  good counter argument, they're dismissed as trolls. There is no solid way to get a good discussion going as most seem to devolve in one way or another (people never seem to get over definitions and thus start arguing past each other).

I will discuss this more in depth later (the debate format in general) but for now let me just focus on comments and how they seem to have failed in terms of what they were meant to provide. Now, when a single person says something good, it can lead to some erudition on a subject, but rarely does this happen [1]. Once one includes both private and public shills (those who merely want to push a certain point and will thus chant certain points over and over [2]) who frequent the popular threads, it's hard to see the value in comments.

Well, not as places where discussions can lead to anything but they are still entertaining. Thing is, they seem more like the id of people, and in that sense they can provide a lot of context for the current zeitgeist of a particular group. Some of my friends were surprised by how Trump came and had staying power. But since I kept an eye on comment threads from conservative websites, I knew how strong the desire was to have someone who was anti-establishment and would say things similar to what Palin said before. 

That Trump has staying power speaks to how much he represents that id. Again, keeping an eye on the leftist blogs also helps to show the anger against the Clintons and the neo-liberal order (though this one isn't as strong as the conservative one, being that the conservatives have been out of power). If you look up Minerva and other DOD research, you'll see that most people know this. The Minerva research looks to certain societies to see if they can find some societal wrinkle online that speaks to that which happens on the streets. [3]

I do hope to see better comparisons in the future between what's said online versus what happens in the real world. Certainly, with all the trolling it can be distasteful, but I still contend that it represents the people's id. [4]

Update Jun2016: Here's a moment to think about comments as ID and comments as propaganda. Certainly no one has any qualms with every one speaking their piece as an individual citizen, even if those views are horrendous. But when governments around the world (with the usual suspects as well as Western governments) jump into comments to change the narrative, we know that, as I've said, comments are important. We also know that they're fouling the waters for any true attempts to track the zeitgeist of our world [5].

Here's a case in point. Read this title and the comments. Now read the main redditor's history. It appears to be their full-time job. Fine, whatever, everyone's gotta eat. [6] But this intentional muddying of the waters is silly in that it does ruin democratic discussion (even amongst the ids) and it also means that the future is not going to be good.

How? In that there are a going to be bots that can say what's needed to be said, and they can flood every place where there is the slightest chance of a discussion. As it is, our public spaces are being privatized, and this will destroy the little online communities that do exist (the truly small ones might be able to keep some at bay, but I'm guessing it doesn't take much ingenuity to write an algorithm that follows some in-group rules of an online community to enter then sabotage it). We'll see, but I don't think this ends well when the bots hit the internets. 

[1] And when it happens, since the comment is not meant for long form, it's still not good for refining certain points. 

[2] The Russian and Chinese governments purportedly do this, and now so does ours. They don't try to hide the fact and yet, online, they try to hide their identities. This should be troubling to anyone, that they're trying to influence discussions online. And, as I've said before, it also shows that comments still hold some value. 

[3] Odd stuff because one knows that this information is only used for oppression and not for actually solving the issues the people are angry about. If used that way, it could be very useful for a society's health. And yet governments want to influence that debate and thereby will kill that golden goose.

[4] As well as narrative. They do serve as a great place to collect stories. Any government trying to ruin that is surely spoiling that which is beautiful.

[5] No wonder these idiots are always kept surprised by every single revolution.

[6] And it's surely interesting to go through what they're doing: making false equivalency statements about Americans and the Natives and other such examples, to make what Israel is doing fine. Some are fair, for few Western countries can claim to have a clean record with regard to anything. But it absolutely discounts the real facts on the ground while also spouting Israeli propaganda. So it goes, but it is a master class in how to muddy the waters anywhere someone wants a good discussion on a polarized topic. I'm sure authoritarian governments elsewhere will learn.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it really is just some 15 year old trying to spout what his/her version of what talk around the dinner table sounds like. 

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