A Paradox of Online Political Engagement

A problem: while sharing and commenting through social media on issues and causes which we all feel strongly about is an important assertion of voice, choice and self-determination, there are senses in which it is also enigmatically counter-productive and occasionally even entirely inconsequential. Reinforcing one’s own belief systems or ideological biases through participation in aligned narratives, or even through a vigorous critical engagement of divergent or outright ignorant voices and themes, simply provides more fodder and content for this logically hyper-inflating referential information-space we all inhabit. It is apparent that political fracture and an ideological turbulence born of democratic access to the means of self-expression and information transmission is becoming (or has already become) the zeitgeist and arena within which political battles and smokescreens of misdirection are played out – above and beyond traditional institutional or corporate media. Where progressive or notionally liberal and authentically rationally-informed assertions are added to the fray, and acknowledging (again) the importance of still speaking and presenting an opinion or position on critical matters, they merely become more weight and aggregated content to this vast and endlessly disassembling leviathan of discontinuity and partisan difference.

This represents something of a paradox, or at the very least – a genuine enigma. To speak and to act on issues of importance is to (even unintentionally or unwittingly) generate more division within a Globally-distributed information space that, in thus (further) fracturing and devolving into turbulence and partisan conflict quite probably benefits or biases the ideologies and ideologues of insecurity, difference and ultimately also of authoritarianism and fascism. This is of the “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” idiom that, while it is always conceivable that the arisal of circumstances in which (for instance) a just war might theoretically present itself as a valid response to some rank injustice, monumental crime or inhumane horror – current circumstances and tactics in an information theatre may actually require a sophistication and subtlety much more akin to (and conducive of) a metaphorical immaculate conception. What that particular slice of this Gordian Knot of engagement and disentanglement in contemporary public and political discourse might be, I do not claim to know; but the endless stoking of the fires of difference might do little over a longer term to benefit the ideological and political voices and positions of liberalism and of a humanism borne of the rational and mature application of science, logic and intelligence.

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