From top: Mosque shooting in Quebec, Canada on January 29, 2017; Dan Boyle

We have allowed a myth to take hold that doing things differently, and radically differently, is the only alternative to doing things better.

Dan Boyle writes:

We hear a lot of talk these days of us all living in a social media bubble. Our debates, such as they are, being conducted in echo chambers.

It’s something I try to avoid through following people I knowingly disagree with, on the social media platforms I choose to inhabit.Lately I’ve been wondering about the value of this in the seeking of honest, informed debate.

What I’m increasingly coming across is not such debate, but instead the reflection of the echo chambers where these voices are heard constantly in shrill-like tones.

A case in point is the reaction to the recent Quebec mosque killings. I could sense among some of a rightward bent, a palpable elation quickly followed by deflation on learning that a Moroccan who had been arrested, was instead a witness to the tragic event.

At first there seemed, with some, an almost orgasmic delight at the thought of Muslim on Muslim violence, in a country with a humane migration policy. The thought of a young man poisoned by the invective they believe to be truth, will not be accepted nor will responsibility for it be admitted. The failure to confirm the bias gets ignored.

Those on that side of the political spectrum are not isolated in this behaviour. Often they find unlikely bedfellows among the trendy lefties, those who never lose any opportunity to tell us we deserve what we are getting.

In their world view Trump/Brexit, the inexorable rise of hate is an inevitable consequence of the failure of liberal democracy. Clinton would have been worse. Obama was as bad. Them, others – Europe, immigrants, Arabs, Mexicans are the source of all our problems. We have let down, we have been told, those who came to believe these ‘truths’.

Like their hard-right counterparts, what trendy lefties won’t ever countenance is that the failure hasn’t been not to listen or to understand these ‘fears’, but not to confront them much earlier and far more strenuously.

The social media bubble has exaggerated the strifes of the Western World. We are agonising over first world problems. We have allowed a myth to take hold that doing things differently, and radically differently, is the only alternative to doing things better.

This is a bubble which seems to defy physics as well as logic. Bubbles tend to expand before eventually exploding. This is a bubble which traverses inwards, choking us with its contradictions.

And yet I will continue to try to listen and understand. I block infrequently. When I do it is against those whose most frequent form of argument is abuse. I’ve come to learn that time is too precious, in discussing issues of such seriousness, to placate those who refuse to be coherent.

By nature I am an incrementalist. I worry that revolutionary zeal can become misplaced, and even more worryingly that the cloak of revolution can be used to justify the most abhorrent of views.

Trump and his acolytes claim to be revolutionaries. It is justifiable for them to so claim. The problem for the many of the rest of us is that we don’t share the rabid belief that this how the wheel should be spun.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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23 thoughts on “In Extremis

  1. De Kloot

    ” a Moroccan who had been arrested, was instead a witness to the tragic event.”

    You know even after it was clear this poor lad was simply a witness a number of ‘media outlets’ were writing about his as being ‘with’ the shooter….. It’s very, very ugly…

    1. DubLoony

      It took the intervention of Candian PM to get Fox news to remove their tweet about him. Shameful stuff.


    Every day I had open & was switching between the CNN, Fox & CBS streaming news channel tabs during the run up to the election .. while CBS still biased towards hillary it appeared the most balanced, Fox were obliviously leaning towards trump but still reporting polls showing hillary leading?!?…while CNN was 100% a media machine for hilary

    Not to sound smug, but I felt I could see the wood for the trees, & was not surprised at trumps win.

  3. Starina

    most of the “hillary would be just as bad” “trendy lefties” are actually just conservatives who aren’t ready to admit what they are yet.

    1. Louis Lefronde

      There comes a time when you have to call these genetically modified conservatives what they really are ‘Neo-Fascists’.

      1. bisted

        …Dan used his column a few weeks ago to advocate his own form of genetic modification…’neo-fascist’ is what sprung to my mind as well Louis…

  4. nellyb

    Ah, come on now, Dan. How much longer would mature people be pointing fingers at opinions on ‘social media’? Social media is an instant gratification vehicle (like the comments in broasheet, where I am now for that very purpose -:)).
    There is counterproductive bit in your article: the ‘left’ / ‘right’ categories. They no longer fit contemporary humanity. Using them only muddies your otherwise attractive reasoning. We’re better off with ‘progressives’ / ‘reactionaries’. ‘Reactionaries’ are supposed to reign ‘progressives’ in – when ‘progressives’ overestimate general level of social maturity and by this open doors to all sorts of greedy small minded m0r0ns who binge on and abuse public trust and public funds. Thesis – antithesis – synthesis type of gig.
    There is a good piece on social media data harvest – you might find it interesting. It’s a showcase on how it is not entirely representative of real social processes / opinions pendulums (and grand but empty sales promises by well dressed people):

    1. nellyb

      I should have said – interesting piece IF you haven’t read it yet. You likely did. It’s floating around in politically minded circles.

  5. Ray O'Connor

    “By nature I am an incrementalist”

    If you seek to change things a little at a time while those you oppose are changing things wholescale, you are swimming against the tide and being taken to where you say you don’t want to go.

    Nama, bank bailout, housing crisis, etc which transferred wealth to the wealthy from this generation and subsequent ones for the sake of snail legislation etc as admirable as it seem, is not advancing social justice it facilitates the financial rape of the working poor.

    To describe the destitution of the working poor, the suicides, the lost childhoods in homelessness, the hospital waiting lists, the growing debts our youth have to face before they even start work as “first world problems” shows a detachment from reality by the pampered political class.

    Incremental changes are not going to solve these problems, only a major shift will, the long this shift takes to happen the more people will be affected.

    It is clear Dan and the Greens are content with the status quo, along with it’s corruption and favouritism but that was evident to every one by their actions in power.

    everybody can express achievement, getting out of bed is sufficient for some, only by comparing those achievements to expectations and achievements of others can you say they are successful.

    Dan and the greens set the bar so low for political achievement a 6 month old child could win the high jump by falling over

  6. Deluded

    Interesting piece Dan, I liked that you opened with a refutation of “Coulter’s Law”.
    However I wonder at the role of the centre-right in all of this.

    Even now (and I have a lot of American friends and family) they are mocking Sanders for proposing the kind of things, like education and welfare, that we take for granted over here. They didn’t defend the ACA* or say anything about the manipulations of people like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Lord Rothermere, Richard Desmond (Brexit) or the Koch brothers when they were spinning and lying through their media channels. (Although the Koch brothers did come out against Trump the damage, i.e. the Tea Party etc., was long done.)
    Are these economic types in no way responsible for driving the working class to extremism?
    I wonder do these angry Trump and Brexit voters imagine a liberal elite who are in fact conservatives without the boring Sunday bit, people who are economically liberal but socially remain silent until the debate abuse is long over, then claim they were liberal all along and blame the lefties for making people angry and bigotted.

    *Apparently half of America has just woken up to the fact that Obamacare is actually the Affordable Care Act, I would like to enjoy the schadenfreude but it will hurt someone close to me.
    Anyway, at least this person has put their hand up:

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