2016 has been a most horrible year so far, to say the least. It saw the downfall, if not death, of a handful of well-known and decent persons; it also saw the rise of some relatively unsavory characters into power. With the election of Donald Trump in the USA and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, for instance, political analysts have even gone so far as to suggest the imminent rise of fascism worldwide.
The Internet has played a crucial role in 2016 unfolding this way — i.e. for the worse — a phenomenon which The New Yorker staff writer Adrian Chen loosely describes within the context of Duterte’s and Trump’s political successes, in the following thread. While the two are more different than alike, one thing both men do share is their exploitation of social media outlets in political campaigns and later electoral victories.
According to Chen, social media these days work to the advantage of what he calls the “unhinged populist” (or populist demagogue). Duterte’s and Trump’s reported sentiments are erratic at worst and confusing at best; however, when coated with an additional layer of journalism which exists to sell stories, they become viciously divisive, with the more ludicrous statements acceptable only to the most diehard of supports.
Then there is the dynamic nature of social media feeds to consider, the technicalities of which already fall outside the scope of Chen’s thread. Outlets like Facebook have only served to reinforce the divisions of recent months — owing to algorithms that can create bubbles for people with similar political views and even deliberately inject fake news articles into users’ feeds. In this way, perceptions are further distorted instead of broadened by the Internet, a plot twist that not even Black Mirror could have seen coming.