Digital Wastelands; Digital Kingdoms

On the other hand, Internet Warriors are released from the fear of actually meeting somebody and having to deal with the consequences of their words. The digital mediated atomisation of society acts like the hunters’ masks in Lord of the Flies. Behind the mask of algorithms, we are freed from responsibility, even though the mask bears our signature. “Liberated from shame and self-consciousness”[1], we can indulge our dark impulses with plausible deniability, even to ourselves. 

The trolls, plain and simple, revel in the freedom to be offensive and get away with it. I guess they are the kids who, before the internet, would roam around waste-ground smashing things. Now they’re middle-aged and have broadband but are still bewildered by their own lack of empathy. They are still experimenting with language and its impacts, as they did when they were tormenting the sensitive children at school. They are the most like Golding’s choir-boy hunters, shouting “Bollocks to the Rules!”[2]; shouting “BUM!!” at a funeral to see what happens. 

In contrast, The Internet Warriors are defenders of a faith. They are self-defined Activists, inspired by principles. The faith is, of course, Classical Liberalism, the creed that underpins most nominally right or left-wing positions, at least in the Western Democracies. The principles are belief in the individual, its inherent virtue, and the virtue of self-definition and self-development, freedom of expression. 

The internet is the Utopia they have created for themselves, founded on these principles, fostering these principles: a caliphate, a sort of digital Outremer[3].

And, like that crusader kingdom, they have planted it, defiantly, right in the midst of hostile polities, as a bulwark against them. 


[1] William Golding, 1962, Lord of the Flies, (1996 edition), London: Faber & Faber, p.80

[2] ibid, p.114

[3] A collection of Christian crusader states established around the eastern Mediterranean coastline after the first crusade(1098-9), and ending with the fall of Acre in 1291. 

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