It’s that time of the year again, where Americans carry on like pork chops (okay, more than usual) and make the Internet unbearable to use due to their histrionics (okay, more than usual) over 9/11.
I’m sure it goes without saying that it’s not the event itself, but rather, 22 years of the same ridiculous behaviour, where, blissfully unaware that that the rest of the world doesn’t care (and in many cases, or even realise there is a rest of the world at all) and, like clockwork, start losing their minds over memes and wrong-think (okay, more than usual).
9/11 is almost as annoying as when they wish us a Happy Thanksgiving. Almost.
It is extra funny this year, because right wingers in the US are going through a particularly batshit phase of their usual batshit (you guessed it… more than usual), and they are the very same people who are perfectly happy for their fellow citizens starve to death, die from poverty-related illnesses and lack of health care – at the rate of roughly one 9/11 every two weeks. Oh, that’s not including COVID deaths, children, and… drum roll… US foreign policy. That number is just from poverty.
See, I was on the Internet when it first happened. It is extremely difficult to explain just how …batshit it all was.
In retrospect, sharing my thoughts about United States foreign policy and how it wasn’t entirely inconceivable that this would happen at the time was probably a bit much, especially in the September 2001 Babies Yahoo! Group, but even despite my trolling of American conservative women, yeah, the reaction was still way over the top.
Americans lost their fucking minds. And rightly so. Initially. However, as the months rolled by, it got bigger and bigger and bigger. I was there as Americans started selectively deifying soldiers and policing everyone else’s thoughts and jokes, cry-bullied, cancelled musicians and later… passed The Patriot Act in its name.
Which, in case you aren’t clear… wasn’t good. 9/11 was a major turning point for the Internet. The original sacred cow was cynically exploited in the form of the Patriot Act, resulting in the massive overreach, and the erosion of privacy and civil liberties we see today. Oh, and it also set the stage for the ‘cancellation’ playbook we see today, like, you know… manufacturing consent for war, mass surveillance, and cancelling and smearing anyone who objects and that whole War on Terror thing, that hijacked people’s lizard brains to get them to act as hall monitors, foot-soldiers, vigilantes and assassins on behalf of anyone who wants to ‘nudge a needle’.
9/11 is the Internet’s ground zero for the deplatformings and systematic dismantling of digital rights as we know it today. So yeah, I’m gunna take the piss. You know what? I’m still kind of mad at what they did to the Internet, that had so much optimism and hope for a better world. Instead, they wrecked it, put banners ads on it and made it absolute fucking garbage. And, because Americans Online in their Eternal September tend to have zero situational awareness (okay, more than usual), nor bother to notice the emotional toll their never-ending trauma dumping and death cult infighting takes on the rest of us, some people need to use humour to make the internet… fucking bearable. Okay, more than usual.
So, here’s my favourite 9/11 meme, sent to me by my 14 year old. El oh El.
I also mentioned that I gave birth to my daughter that day. Folks, I kinda have my own stuff going on. It was traumatic in its own way, but also, over the years, has become more painful, as I reflect on the kind of mother I hoped I’d be, and the kind of mother I ended up being. Which is not a great one. I thought I could have it all. Much like the internet being democratising and a platform for freedom of expression, that was a lie too. And so I do what I do best: make dark jokes and try to suck the poison out and make the pain at least count for something, or result in something good.
Even if it’s a dumb joke that makes people laugh for a second and breaks tension when everyone is being annoying.
So, as if the Eternal September 11 carry-on irritation isn’t enough for me at this time of year, I also have to deal with it being my estranged daughter’s birthday.
This year, it has a particular sting to it, because I also logged on to see members of the gentrified US ‘left’ who all preach ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’ and are constantly moaning about ‘stochastic terrorism’ when it suits them … cheering because Elon Musk is estranged from his child over the gender issue.
They probably think this about me too. It must be great to be able to oversimplify every issue and live in a world of good guys and bad guys, where I am a bad person who deserves it. That seems like a far less healthy way to deal with pain than humour, but who am I to judge. Shit’s complicated and people gotta do what they gotta do. But, I also know that there are people who I consider friends and political allies who also think this about me. I have accepted that.
Thankfully, for me, the political isn’t always personal and I have thick skin and, gasp, priorities that don’t change depending on what mentally unwell strangers on the Internet think of me.
People have a tendency to show you who they are when something bad happens to someone they don’t like. And especially when they can wrap it in an ideology that gets them off the hook and turns it into ‘analysis’. I speak not only from my own personal experience, but for many when I say this issue of sex vs gender has ripped families apart, and the mean-girl sociopaths of Twitter/X continually cry ‘stop hitting yourself’, because they can’t see past their ridiculous and childish politics. It turns them into playground bullies, who goad, and goad and then rub salt in the wounds of everyone who has had to navigate this problem… and then hide behind their distorted version of class politics because BILLIONAIRE BAD FASCIST BAD so let me, by proxy, bully ordinary people who have experienced some of the most painful shit anyone can go through: estrangement from your child/parent as a result of manipulation by outside forces.
Or paying for an edit button and long tweets. Righteous cruelty is a helluva drug.
I haven’t seen my daughter in five years – partially (and I emphasise partially) because she’d been hanging out in various online communities that were telling her that fairly common mother-teenage daughter dynamics made her a victim of abuse. Without my knowledge, my flawed assumptions that it was normal teenage girl stuff were being spun on its axis and given the worst possible interpretation, and the most extreme solutions, because I was a ‘TERF’. I have to emphasise that I am not saying it is the only reason, because, you know, I’m me, but Tumblr ‘feminism’ and fandoms definitely poured kerosene on my far-from-perfect parenting and everything else so that we couldn’t work through our mother-daughter stuff. Let’s just say that if the mother-daughter stuff was a plant that was in need of some TLC, those communities were definitely the glycophosphate that killed it off for good.
Obviously since then, I have done the work, I see it as it is, and I am far more aware of what is going on. I can’t go back.
Social media was intended to be a place where we could share, interact and create. I truly believed that. I still believe it is possible if tech can get our priorities right and some of us old schoolers remember why we do what we do. Instead, through a series of blind spots and being over a barrel with VCs who lied to us about making the world a better place – and, well capitalism doing what it does best and worst – it has instead become a weapon of mass distraction, a tool for propaganda, and a never-ending maze of radicalisation funnels known as ‘political marketing’. They blame Trump and Russia and Biden the Communist or whatever other boogeyman they can (and they certainly don’t help), but it was actually the Obama campaign that made it what it is today. Compare it to the ISIS radicalisation funnel. I dare you. Oh and it also looks like a standard marketing funnel too. And, I have been in marketing long enough to know that most marketers aren’t evil. They’re just too stupid and have too narrow focus on ‘nudging the needle’ – sorry – doing omnichannel data-driven campaigns to drive quarterly performance indicators – to understand that what they are doing is wrong.
Social Media is designed from the ground up to promote, incentivise and elevate sociopaths and psychopaths. It even makes good people have to pretend to be, or rationalise behaving like one to succeed. I won’t do that.
I must emphasise that this has never been about the ‘gender wars’, even if part of my motivation was trying to understand what had happened between me and my kid and try to see it from her perspective. Everyone has a point and honestly, if I never had to think about this ridiculous internet stupidity ever again, to be honest, it would be too soon. But unfortunately, it is also the intersection of the worst problems that have plagued the internet: platform manipulation, all the wrong incentives, cults forming through fandoms, radicalisation funnels, dark money laundering through not-for-profit organisations, engagement pods, politicians being idiots about the internet, marketers being stupid about politics, abuse by state and non-state actors and every black hat marketing tactic known to man. And people aren’t okay. Kids aren’t okay. Families aren’t okay and are being torn apart because people refuse to understand this: Cults always hide behind something real. That’s how people get duped: because cults exploit real concerns, fears, and problems. The fact the far right have co-opted this certainly doesn’t help, but there are many, many people on the left who have been called fascists for so many years now you’ve basically diluted it, now that it is an actual threat.
So, I’m a TERF, apparently. Because I happened to agree that ROGD, especially in young autistic girls, needed more research (and saw those that tried be harassed out of it) and I dunno, maybe women are allowed to set boundaries in our hard fought spaces. This was before the far right in the US glommed onto it, and I didn’t know what I know now, and anybody who claims otherwise is lying. It was wild. To this day, despite seeing many who came after me drift towards the clicks and the dollars and catch terminal brain worms, I still hold perfectly those perfectly reasonable points of view.
Thankfully, after COVID poured accelerant on a lot of these problems, with a little more time passing, the cycle repeating itself often enough and enough people having their particular issue or innocent question make them the worst person on earth, everyone who has managed to keep their synapses intact for the last decade (and I gotta be honest, there have been moments where I wondered out loud if I had lost my mind) sees it for what it is: propaganda and radicalisation using a dystopian fusion of politics and marketing campaigns. We all know that little playbook by now – just repeat and omit information and sling mud often enough and do it long enough to make stuff true. And if you happen to be Rupert Murdoch or Jeff Bezos or have a controlling share of a massive media conglomerate…. even better.
That tactic is called milieu control – an earmark of cults.
Also, basic Chomsky.
Or choice architecture.
They’re the same picture.
It’s never been about any one issue, even though the TERF Wars are the new ground zero for all of this. Everyone who has dared to stick their neck out over it has been systematically harassed, enabled by dumb and unethical marketers, bad actors and unmanned algorithms. It’s not a conspiracy, just powerful interests that favour this setup as it is, that catches good people its net, because they think it is about the one issue they happen to care about at the expense of all other issues. Single issue activist lizard brains, hijacked, as far as the eye and the infinite scroll can see… in order to disorient, distract and deflect. It’s a playbook that that makes Big Tobacco and Big Oil look positively amateur. Because Tobacco and Oil weren’t able to use the threat of suicide or ‘terrorism’ (sound familiar) as a threat. Pharma (who cynically refer to the ’emerging market of gender dysphoria’ in their financial documents – how’s that, socialists? Cat got your tongue? Doesn’t that make you a little suspicious? No? How do you not see the Oxy thing, and then Monsanto… how about now? How do you not see it? Good heavens.)
So, anyway, the 9/11 meme.
It’s almost like I tried to make a point about how the original internet sacred cow that was 9/11, paved the way for the Patriot Act. The thing that was used by the US government to run roughshod over human rights, speech and privacy… much like the ‘hate speech’ laws are doing today. Any questions about these vaguely worded and heavily loopholed laws that rely on ‘trust us, bro’ when that trust has been so severely undermined in literally every previous case suddenly means you are ‘pro hate’ and ‘literal murder’.
If you object, you are a terrorist. For the love of God would you look up the Propaganda Model if you are a ‘leftist’. Please. For fuck’s sake.
So, yeah, I’m going to make fun of 9/11, to provoke the people who are currently screeching over speech, to – I dunno – not be a hypocrite, and maybe even get them remembering that time, where everyone got swept up into a cult frenzy and allowed for a lot of terrible laws in the form of the Patriot Act that actually came to bite them in the arse.
And I dunno, maybe look at your own behaviour and trauma and stop letting it be weaponised? If you oppose something, at least have your head and your facts straight.
It’s really, really hard to hold a mirror to your own behaviour. Trust me, I know. Especially when you are in a situation where you could have done things differently and wish you could go back and can’t. I know better than anyone that facing that you might be wrong, or selfish, or not as great a parent as you thought you’d be. All the parenting books and deconstructionism in the world cannot help if you are unable to face your own demons and blind spots and own it.
But, look at your behaviour when you are joining in a pile-on, or mobbing someone in their replies. Do you recognise yourself and who you wanted to be? Is this who you want to be right now? How did you get here? How did you end up a slave to dopamine, cortisol and adrenalin and just retweeting and reblogging everything like it is a 2001 chain email whilst making everyone as miserable as you are? Going along with everything because it is easier than breaking rank or putting the work in to fully understand an issue and all its areas of grey – or worse – actually believing that your family are all domestic terorrists and rapists?
You don’t have to live that way. It’s hard to live this way. But you the structural stuff can change, but it’s a slow ship to turn around, and needs everyone who outnumbers the psychopaths and sociopaths to say ‘enough’ and work together and through our differences and cleavages. Failing a change of leadership, I tell you, we are stuck with this shit for a while, and for Gen X, probably for a large part of the rest of our lives. But you can choose to not do this psychopath factory’s bidding. You don’t have to speak up, because of course, people have to survive, but you can choose to not be a shitty person. You can model to your 10, 100, 1000 people in your circle that you won’t treat people this way. You can not participate.
You can break free of all of it. You just have to see things as they are and know that there is more support than you think. You have to understand how your brain and its biases are used to manipulate you and get your rationalising behaviour.
Cults have rules for thee, not for me. So does outgrouping and scapegoating. And fascism. And polarising marketing campaigns and team sports. All your rotten, abusive and cruel behaviour is fine, so long as it is righteous and for the right cause or team or brand. That person over there? They are a Suppressive Person (and yes, as someone who has closely studied Scientology tactics online, there are various bad actors and dark marketing agencies who use those in online communities and radicalise people, away from their families, by convincing them they are abused…)
Ya know, that ISIS & Al Qaeda playbook where they get vulnerable angry young people with a righteous cause to go do stuff for the sake of the cause?
That DNC and GOP engagement pod telling you to share what they tell you to share that kicks you out if you won’t?
That Not-for-Profit who has a Donor-Assisted Fund and campaigns against ‘hate’ who sends you emails saying that Elon Musk is coming to get you and your family?
That Apple vs Samsung war?
That political cleavage between radical feminists and US neoliberal feminists?
Which has a higher body count? Oh, sorry. We’re not allowed to think about the numbers and the common enemies, lest we be securitised and branded a terrorist.
So yeah I’ll post a meme to release some of that pain and make people laugh at a 22 year old holiday where Americans act ridiculous. So what.
And this is to the online left who still have some synapses remaining: if you’re going to lecture people about compassion, harassment and ‘hate’, I dunno, maybe model that behaviour rather than selectively Fair Game people because it is convenient to you? Maybe – just maybe – despite the painfully idiotic (and yes, fascistic) rhetoric of the right – there is also a – cult? Not trans people, eff off with that nonsense.
Scientology says it’s about ‘self-improvement’ too – which doesn’t make everyone who supports self improvement a cult leader, and everyone who says ‘that’s a cult’ anti self-improvement or pro Psychiatry.
The last few years, have felt chillingly similar to the experience of being declared a SP. Just saying. Oh yeah, Scientologists also destroy the lives of “bigots”. They literally use that word as their battle cry. Again, just saying.
Do consider if this is who you wanted to be. Look at yourself gloating over the suffering of others. Hiding behind an issue to justify being a bully and terorrising people online. If that’s who you wanted to be, then that’s fine, but then I want to ask why you consider yourself to be on the left? Because if there’s one thing we are supposed to do differently, it is to accommodate difference and work with evidence. Not cool. Check yourselves, please.
You can hate on Musk all you want, but take the time to pause and understand why. “I don’t llike the guy” is not a reason in a policy or discussion of an issue. I will defend where needed, and denounce where needed. I don’t live in a world of heroes and villains, black and white, and thought terminating clichés.
That said, it’s no wonder he thinks he can get away with not paying rent, when he is so accustomed to living rent-free in your head. Personally, I am less concerned with the richest man on earth doing richest man on earth things and more concerned with you and why you are obsessed with him and using that to harass your neighbours, alienate your family and cancel your peers. What are you avoiding? Why do you want to wound others so much, especially on an issue that has cut so many, so deeply, on all sides. Yeah, sure, make it about the billionaire. But know that when you do, you are kicking people like me in the teeth too.
Maybe hurting someone like me is what you want? If that’s the case… well… what did I ever do to you?
Tweet? Good heavens.
Tell some truth and suggest that you may be in a cult based on a lifetime of work and research, all the evidence and literature in this area around radicalisation funnels, internet geopolitics and policy, the history of Red Scare and anti-communism and where it leads? The ‘ladder of engagement’, Donor Assisted Funds and Political Action Committees and dark money and how corporations and the state spend tremendous resources on co-opting ‘the left’ in order to implode it from within?
Or, do I remind you of your own mother and therefore you feel like you can displace all that crap onto me? I dunno, maybe you need to work on that. Or at least, be more mindful of it and stop turning your trauma, intellectual blind spots and susceptibility to corporate messaging and authoritarianism everyone else’s problem and calling it activism. It ain’t. You’re a vessel for propaganda and your lizard brain has been hacked.
If only there were precedent for that.
Is this who you wanted to be?
Anyway, yeah so what I posted a meme. Oh no, I also pay for longer tweets and an edit button. I defended Elon Musk on a handful of issues. I, of course, deserve all of it, despite working on myself more than anyone I know. Despite simply trying to understand and analyse and help, and occasionally misreading a situation that is new and batshit. Anyone who is in the same place they were five years ago has not done enough work or is lying. I was there. They’re selling merch, not answers.
People who bully others online aren’t activists. They’re bullies who are rationalising their behaviour. Anonymous bullies. It’s easy to use any dumb little ad hominem attack you can find and not have to do the years of work that I have done and come out the other side a better person. It’s easy to distract, attack, insult and then keep moving the bar, all so you don’t have to face the fact that you’re behaving more like a Scientologist than an activist.
It’s hard to persuade people and change their mind.
But, if you do genuinely care about this problem I have been talking about for years, and I know there are some of you who do, maybe, at least consider that other people exist and have feelings too. Maybe consider that once in a while, you might be wrong. I am frequently wrong, self-correct, and try to get it right next time. Fun fact: smart people actually fall into cults more because we are better at rationalising when dissonance hits. I have had to remain vigilant on that too, even being pretty much an expert in ‘online cults’. Ideology provides the perfect rationalisation for a lot of people on the left to escape themselves and their discomfort. I know. I’ve been working with annoying left-wing fucks my whole life and you get on my tits, frankly.
Beyond this… just don’t be a dick. You may not have a lot of freedoms right now, and may be feeling angry and resentful at the world and despairing at a system that is painfully, ruthlessly unfair, but you do have some agency, and sorry, but I am not letting you off the hook for being horrible to others because of some misguided anger. I’m not letting you off the hook when you say that Elon Musk’s autism or Kanye’s bipolar disorder is ‘irrelevant’ but then cry victim when it is you. I will not let you have morals of convenience without calling it out. Rules for thee, not for me. Huh.
Maybe you should do some self-improvement. Reflect. Is this who you are? Who you wanted to be? You are no different to the lunatics carrying on about 9/11 like it just happened and was the worst thing ever and justifying all sorts of terrible laws because you’re too lazy to think things through or face yourself. You are no better than Matt Walsh sending his followers to harass people for living their lives and having their own thoughts and telling us we are all broodmares. Get it together.
I say this as someone who wishes they could go back and change things. I, for one, don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want families broken apart by politics. I don’t want misunderstandings to have poison poured on them because a corporation is telling you what to think. I want us to love each other, work together, and see things as they are. I want you to be consistent, and actually persuade. Not pitch a fit because you’re a little bit uncomfortable. There’s too much at stake.
And if that makes me the bad guy, so be it. We’ll see who ends up being correct.