Demetri Kofinas

Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation | Andrew Marantz

Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation | Andrew Marantz

In Episode 107 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz, about his new book “Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. In the book, Andrew reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in the deeply broken informational landscape in which we all now live. This conversation is meant to help us understand what went wrong and how we might go about trying to fix it. For several years, New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz has been embedded in two worlds. The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs—the new gatekeepers of Silicon Valley—who upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information. The second is the world of the people he calls the gate-crashers—the conspiracists, white supremacists, and nihilist trolls who have become experts at using social media to advance their agenda, influence elections, or just make money. Marantz weaves these two worlds together to create an unsettling portrait of today’s America, both online and in real life. He reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in the deeply broken informational landscape in which we all now live. In candid conversations with Silicon Valley executives and social media entrepreneurs, Andrew Marantz discovers a selective community of techno-utopians who took Mark Zuckerberg’s motto, “Move Fast and Break Things,” to heart. Viewing their role as disruptors to be free of any responsibility to actually monitor the tools they have built, they either choose not to police their users’ actions or, in many cases, don’t know where to begin. In fact, in Andrew’s portrayal, such policing is often seen by these techno-utopians as being antithetical to the nature of democracy, which they synonymize with the Internet writ large.  In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, it became apparent to Andrew that something was happening online. On Facebook for instance, while many of the traditional gatekeepers to information—like Reason, Foreign Affairs, the Nation, and more—were seeing less engagement with readers, other, darker corners of the platform were thriving. Most people view social media as a reflection of popular will and interest, but the virality industry is built on a large number of small human choices. At every step, there are people behind the curtain, and ahead of the election, someone was attempting to drag the notion of a Trump presidency from the fringes into the realm of the imaginable. But who were these new virologists? Enter the gate-crashers. Marantz spent years analyzing how alienated young people are led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization, and how fringe ideas spread—from anonymous corners of social media to cable TV to the President's Twitter feed. Along the way, he met with the men and women responsible for it all. He ate breakfast at the Trump SoHo with self-proclaimed “internet supervillain” Milo Yiannopoulos; toured a rural Illinois junkyard with freelance Twitter propagandist Mike Cernovich; drank in a beer hall with white nationalist Mike Enoch; and shadowed histrionic far-right troll Lucian Wintrich during his first week as a White House press correspondent. Marantz also spent hundreds of hours talking to people who were ensnared in the cult of web-savvy white supremacy—and to a few who managed to get out.  In the overtime to this week’s episode, Demetri shares stories from his time working at RT, including intimate details from his relationships and encounters with some of the characters discussed in Andrew’s book. The two also continue a conversation about gender and race, as well as the role of power in society.  You can listen to the overtime, as well as gain access to the transcript and rundown to this week’s episode through the Hidden Forces Patreon Page. All subscribers also gain access to their very own overtime feed, which you can easily add to your favorite podcast applications like Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Overcast, Pandora, etc. Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Duration: 58 min

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