The Dawn of Unity? No. Not really.
Less polarisation in the US would be great, but it is not happening, not yet. Despite the ousting of Trump and a president-elect Biden…
Less polarisation in the US would be great, but it is not happening, not yet. Despite the ousting of Trump and a president-elect Biden vying to unify the Americans. Sure, let’s celebrate that Trump is on his way out but also let’s get to work fast to repair what is broken. To do it, you and I and the establishment need to start really interesting ourselves in the lives of people very different from ourselves. And, we need politicians to pressure social media need to change, massively.
This weekend started with a literal dawn hitting my face atop a rock on the Swedish west coast. I had forgotten how awe-inspiring this spectacle is, seeing the sun rising. By that time, Friday morning, we did not know what we know now. All major media outlets, including Fox News and The New York Post, would name Biden president-elect when the results from Pennsylvania came in. I predicted Trump would claim to be winning on election night and that Biden would legitimately win eventually. So far so good, I was also dead wrong, however. I thought Trump would create chaos and be able to give us a real scare, threatening democracy. Instead, Trump seems abandoned by everyone but Rudy Giuliani, Marco Rubio, and Lindsay Graham. Despite the legal contestations on its way, Trump seams weakened, almost powerless, ready to fade away. But what lifted him to the presidency is still around.
The conflict-incentivising algorithms of social media is a problem, and for this to change an entire financial logic needs to change. Ad supported social media is fuelled by the time we spend on the platforms. The more engaged we are, the more time we spend. The engagement is effectively created by rage in combination with feeling belonging with people sharing your outrage. This creates two movements. You get tighter with the people you agree with. And, you get divided from the people opposite any issue. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube make their profits from engaging, connecting, and enraging people. What needs to happen? Much like the tobacco industry and the chemical industry in earlier times, special regulations needs to be imposed so that the social media giants cannot destroy our democracy for profit just as the tobacco companies could not entirely ruin our health and the chemical companies couldn’t entirely ruin the flora and fauna. This conversation is much overdue, but without a unifying media landscape, no unity among people is possible. Biden-Harris could address this, but they will not I’m afraid. I hope I’m wrong, because there is, indeed, an innate opportunity for social media to bring people together, they could do it. The only problem is that they are financially incentivised to do the opposite.
During the Trump years until the pandemic hit, poverty fell in all ethnicities and average incomes reached all-time highs for all. From what I understand, people felt it. Though contested, the exit polls indicate that Trump doubled his support among non-white minorities. The world is a messy place, where a racist oligarch-abiding narcissist can have a major appeal among working class and people of colour. But it is not impossible to understand, given the economics. Also, Trump has a cultural appeal beyond racism in many groups. Sam Harris articulated this Trump appeal better than anyone I know. To paraphrase: Trump, through his open moral corruption never claims to be better than you, and hence, you are sort of absolved from sins. He is “grab-them-by-the-pussy-Jesus”. Juxtaposed to the sanctimonious politically correct all-holy liberal-left leaders the image gets clearer. In Trump’s company you feel good about yourself, also, sticking it to the man. Socialising with the woke left-liberals, you feel like a lesser person. Not a great feeling.
Unless the Democrats and old mainstream Republicans understands how to make a large chunk of the people rooting hard for Trump feel included, we will see no unity. We have very similar issues in Sweden and in many countries in Europe. Joe Biden has the rhetoric of a unifier, though I doubt that he is willing to spend political capital to convince the righteous left in his party to do the soul-searching needed to start understanding how to really make the previous Trump voters feel included.
Sorry. We will have to wait for the dawning of the unity era, though I have long said we are predestined to get evermore connected. Perhaps we need to become human-machines-hybrids before it happens. The era will include collective decision-making and collective efforts around global challenges and it will be awesome. When we make it there.