In the first week of December 2016, 28 year old Edgar Maddison Welch walked into the Washington based Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and let off a shot. He was taken into custody without incident. Welch it had turned out had come to “self investigate” reports that had found there way onto the internet that this pizza restaurant was somehow involved in a sex trafficking ring taking place in its basement (it didn’t actually have one) that was being run by high profile members of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton herself and her campaign manager John Podesta. Around the same time, 57 year old Lucy Richards from Florida was charged with making death threats to a family of one of the Sandy Hook victims. Richards, like Welch, it seemed had come to be convinced of an internet conspiracy theory that peddled the idea that the massacre was a hoax.
We live in a world where information, good ideas, bad ideas, misinformation and plain old disinformation can be spread like never before. Where before they might have been confined to a book, a newspaper article or a leaflet they can be disseminated in next to no time with no way of checking if any of it is actually true. The loss of control of information from professional publishers and the mainstream media, some possibly having an interest in what sees the light of day and not, has created a democratic revolution with both good and bad consequences. For one thing, we can now see the media acting as a propagandist mouthpiece and cheerleader in times of war, something that perhaps wasn’t immediately obvious in the past. A media correspondent reporting from the enemy capital would simply tell us what amounted to an MoD press release and we would have little choice but to believe it. Now we know so called “smart bombs” aren’t as “incredibly accurate” as we were once told. A quick search on the internet shows the effects of Russian and US bombs are just the same, despite what that BBC correspondent tried to make us believe. A case for war now crumbles faster than ever.
Instantaneous communication means we can debate the latest news story, organise petitions and even protests. These advances in the way the internet is used led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader last year and the mere click of a button on a computer screen led to fundamental transformation of the composition of the membership of the party, possibly forever.
The democratisation of information on the internet however also leads to more and quicker radicalisation. It makes it easier for Muslim fanatics like those from ISIS to reach into the minds of people they might otherwise have never got to. In February 2015, three schoolgirls between the ages of 15 and 16 from Bethnal Green in east London set off to Syria to join the Islamic State terrorist group. Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum, all straight A students, had unknown to those around them been communicating with dangerous religious fundamentalists online who had convinced them to become ‘Jihadi brides’. Sultana would later die in an airstrike on the ISIS occupied city of Raqqa in Syria, the capital of their self proclaimed “caliphate”. Mainly however it is Westernised Muslim men, who aren’t particularly religious who get led down this path of indoctrination and radicalisation as appears to have been the case with the ISIS inspired terror attacks in Orlando and Nice this year.
This can also be seen in the resurgence of white nationalist and supremacist ideas that have coalesced around the “Alt-Right” phenomenon. Internet propagandists who up until recently been on the political fringe that few would listen to can now reach into millions of homes, with their message of white male victimhood. Centring around such concepts as anti feminism, men’s rights and opposition to Islam it has given purpose to social misfits and those who otherwise wouldn’t be politically engaged into believing they are on the front line in the defence of Western civilisation and maintaining a white demographic majority that they are led to think will be gone in a matter of decades in Europe, which if things don’t change will be under Sharia Law.
All of this has occurred at breathtaking speed and while access to the alternative media, rumours, smears, conspiracy theories and propagandists becomes easier than ever, the traditional media where we used to get our news with its strict control of information and determination of what was fact continues to shrink, lay off journalists and go behind paywalls.
Rorschach AKA Mr Cloud ©