After the 2016 elections, there seems to be a desire by tech-savvy entrepreneurs to write software to “bring the country together.”
For instance, in the latest Built in Colorado newsletter, there is an article about using apps to bridge the gap between what has become two very distinct political and social philosophies. I have seen or heard of a number of similar apps in the last month and now feel I must address all the silly that is going on.
I hate to rain on the parade of Ms’s Nina Sharma and Maribeth Romslo (the founders of The Whole Truth Booth), but attempting to write an app to fill this very deep divide is not only naive but is akin to continuing to dig to get one’s way out of a hole.
I call such software Kumbayaware, and I expect it to do nothing more than calm the jittery nerves of people who think they are on the left end of the spectrum. I say such people are on the left in name only largely because they are more interested in quelling words and feelings they don’t like and avoiding confrontation (ew, ick!) than addressing real issues. For instance, they never address how the so-called left has failed just about everyone, because it is different from the right in name only.
The idea behind their site (and, of course, app– because everything needs an app, right?) is that if we all just sit down an talk, we can resolve all our differences. If we all just post our viewpoint and air our grievances, we can all resolve our differences like adults and make a better world.
This approach fails on two points:
First, it’s time to face the music that there are people out there who can’t be reasoned with. They cannot now and never will sit down around the campfire and sing kumbaya. For the most part, such people will never hear of the app, let alone calmly discuss their viewpoint in such a forum. Should they make an appearance in The Whole Truth Booth or any other forum for discussion, expect a largely flame-oriented rant and fake-news driven hate fest.
Welcome to the bubble, and welcome to software that is written inside the bubble to approach problems that don’t exist anywhere but in the bubble– like that we all need to talk to one another more. Most of the people who will use Kumbayaware will talk and listen to people of a like mind only.
Second, technology applied in such a manner is what got us into this mess in the first place. Facebook and Twitter have divided us because they allow the creation of “channels”– echo chambers where people can spout and listen to crazed rantings that reflect their limited viewpoint. Everybody promulgates and consumes their fair share of fake news and generated outrage. Not only is such talk echoed, it is amplified.
I’m talking about both the faux-left and the alt-right here. Just as only alt-righters only watch Fox News, read The Drudge Report and Newsmax, and listen to Alex Jones, faux-lefties only watch MSNBC, read Salon and Daily Kos and since they are “hip” don’t even listen to that archaic radio thing. But does either of these two channels address real issues or do they merely provide a calming assurance that we are not alone?
It’s all boiling down to brand-loyalty and insulation. Both sides think that their “brand” (whether R or D) will bring about real change for ordinary people and shield them from uncomfortable outside influences that disturb their “reality”. And both realities are false. On the right the reality is a conspiracy-based worldview in which white people are surrounded in a Fort Apache last-ditch defense against all that is corrupt and evil (read: black, latino, LGBT, etc.). On the “left” is the delusion that rationality and calm discussion will bring back a status-quo normalcy of goodishness.
A friend of mine on the right does not give a flying rat’s ass about Trump’s policies, but that now he will be able to say any old thing he wants any time he wants to. That’s all that matters to him: the appearance of change.
Furthermore, if you think that there is really a shift in policy that would have substantially changed america in more than a superficial way had Hillary Clinton been elected, you need to read a book: “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. Go get a copy and read it right now– I’ll wait. She would have been in the back pocket of Wallstreet and had to prove that she was “tough”, so more money would have been dumped on the Pentagon and into prisons. She just would have been less of an asshole about it.
But back to the app: it’s this sort of self-congratulatory, substance-free pap that has gotten the left into the position it now holds today: nowhere. It allows its adherents to cling to the cottony-comfortable assurance that talk without action will draw us all together: an echo chamber indeed. Can we go back to ignoring our real problems now so I can catch up on my Facebook posts?
Let me just add one more thing about our current dilemma and the silliness with which I see people on the “left” approaching it, a little analogy if you will:
When you put your head in the sand, it leaves your ass sticking way up in the air where the mean-spirited (read: people) are likely come along and either kick it or fuck it.