The radicalization of young men is driven by a complex stew of emotional, economic and political elements, many having nothing to do with social media. But critics and independent researchers say YouTube has inadvertently created a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining two things: a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens.
Like so many separated families, the couple have experienced the years of Trump’s presidency as a grim journey of restless nights and tearful goodbyes. But unlike many in their predicament, Jason voted for Trump.
He knew Trump planned to get tough on immigration — building a wall and deporting drug dealers, rapists and killers. He never imagined anyone would consider his sweet stay-at-home wife a “bad hombre.”
Cynthia Glover has arranged her bed so that it faces the front door. On many nights she lies there until the pop of gunfire is replaced by the hiss of air brakes from the first school bus of the morning. Then the 56-year-old can doze off, her pit bull and her husband by one side, a loaded 9mm handgun by the other. It is chrome and holds 17 rounds.
Glover used to watch the movies with her four children, sitting on the couch as she held them, rocking back and forth. Then they grew up, and three of them were shot and killed in separate incidents. So was one grandson. Now, she worries her last child will be next.
And he thinks: Can I possibly work for such a regime, and still look at myself in the mirror each morning?
Which is the question that we, as a nation, must ask ourselves now. Even if we still needed Saudi Arabia’s oil, which we do not; even if Saudi Arabia was a strong and principled ally in the region, which it is not; even if it helped push the Palestinians toward peace, or kept its promises in Yemen, or bought the weapons that Trump thinks it is going to buy. . . . No matter what Saudi Arabia offered, could its supposed friendship be worth shrugging off the ensnaring and killing of a critic whose only offense was to tell the truth?
Is that the country we want to be?
Would we really rather lock up people than lock up guns? And is all that supposed to be facilitated with an ethic of mass mutual suspicion? Perhaps the next move of America’s gun promoters will be to place the blame on some other group of people with backgrounds and beliefs that the majority finds jarring. Will they keep drawing the circle of the good with an ever smaller circumference, until it resembles nothing so much as an armed camp, packed with guns? President Trump might call that a great and safe community. And whom will he blame then?
People respond to incentives, and so if we want to take on much bigger challenges, we need to collaborate across thousands and in some cases hundreds of thousands of people. How do you get 100,000 people to work together? It’s not that easy. In the old days, it was religion and before that it was simple fiat rules, tyranny. The Egyptians built some beautiful pyramids, but they did that with hundreds of thousands of slaves over decades. If we rule out slavery as a possible means of societal advances, there really isn’t any other choice. If we need 100,000 people to cure cancer, to deal with Alzheimer’s, to figure out fusion energy and climate change…I don’t know of any other way to do that other than financial markets: equity, debt, proper financing and proper payout of returns. I think that in many cases [finance] probably is the gating factor. That, to me, is the short answer to the question about why finance is so important.
The internet and social media don’t create new personalities; they allow people to express sides of themselves that social norms discourage in the “real world”.
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We may come to see face-to-face conversation as the social medium that most distorts our personalities. It requires us to speak even when we don’t know what to say and forces us to be pleasant or acquiescent when we would rather not.
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Social media have turned a species used to intimacy into performers. But these performances are not necessarily false. Personality is who we are in front of other people. The internet, which exposes our elastic personalities to larger and more diverse groups of people, reveals the upper and lower bounds of our capacity for empathy and cruelty, anxiety and confidence.