Sunday, December 4

defeat the troll

Don’t feed the troll. It is an advice among Internet users that should also be raised to the category of political slogan. Do not feed the troll and thus prevent it from succeeding in poisoning and creating tensions to sabotage any viable conversation or constructive debate. With its aggressiveness, the practice of trolling is inherent to this new fascism based on the unscrupulous manipulation of social networks. Demagogues have always made use of lies, hate and distortion, and used to use sectarian and partisan loudspeakers of the media, but they have never had such a disruptive toolbox at their fingertips as the one provided by digital technology .

At the beginning of globalization much was theorized about the “information society” and its potentialities; At some point we began to worry about the disturbing effect of disinformation, and almost without realizing it, we began to feel dizzy at the irruption of its monstrous consequences in real political life. Right now, and for a few years now, democratic societies have faced the challenge of stopping racism, xenophobia, intolerance and fanaticism once again. It is not a minor problem, because its dissolving belligerence attacks the very fabric of the public sphere on which consensus must be built and disagreements, however passionate they may be, in the civilized world must be established.

The dynamics of the troll threatens to kidnap freedom of expression, to supplant intellectuals and to undermine collective coexistence to replace them with permanent conspiracies, angry preachers and irreducible sects. Symptomatically, there are already many voices in journalism warning about the toxicity of (a)social networks and about the deformities they generate in the media and its methods in full transformation. And there are beginning to be more than a few people abandoning the spheres of global conversation by figures in public life who are fed up with having to deal with permanent insults and verbal aggression protected by anonymity.

Be careful, it is not about falling into the naivety of believing that conflict is bad by definition. On the contrary. Conflict is an intrinsic part of the democratic condition. But it is precisely a matter of preventing it from being impossible to manage and ending up being replaced by certain mass unanimity based on prejudice, fear and animosity. The worst episodes in human history have been marked by the horrors to which this type of drive leads.

All this confers special importance to certain hopeful political events of recent times. It was crucial that Donald Trump lost the presidency of the United States to Joe Biden in 2020, that the system withstood the subsequent assault on Capitol Hill, and that in the mid-term elections the citizenry has stopped the network wave of the negationist, supremacist and fascist extremism that has become hegemonic in the North American right. So has the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro at the hands of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the Brazilian presidential elections, which has obscenely stirred up the coup mob of the South American giant. Both Trump and Bolsonaro, after reaching power, tried not to let him go, in anticipation of their potential European imitators. It is not enough to realize that the troll should not be fed. It is necessary to defeat it, although for this it is essential to mobilize broad coalitions of democratic forces.

At the moment in which we have had to live, free societies have to give that battle. With more emphasis because the other model rides between autocracy and totalitarianism of a new type that represent events such as the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s troops (with all the brutality of war and internal repression applied to Russian society itself) or the recent congress of the Chinese communist party, in which Xi Jinping reinforced his leadership on an unlikely choreography of men in uniform suits applauding with discipline that the Asian giant reinforces, on the basis of its state capitalism, the social control of a monolithic regime. Undoubtedly, this historical crossroads is reminiscent of tragic times and, at the same time, poses radically new challenges that have to do once again with the double face of modernity. That is why we play so much against authoritarianism.

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