Since its inception, investors in the internet have pursued the dream of pure profit. Their logic seems to be that, as the internet is a wholly insubstantial realm, if they could use it to get users to spend real money, they would be left without material costs. Every cent or penny spent would go directly into the investor’s pocket: something could be made out of nothing. (Does such word association drive all pioneering thought?)
They soon discovered that there are costs, even in an immaterial world, but they are abstract ones: time, effort, ideas, peace of mind, so the profit margins are still enormous (1).
This is pure capitalism, capitalising on every aspect of human existence, turning it into money.
Internet natives have picked up and run with this idea: money for nothing. “Influencers”, vloggers, produce nothing, do nothing and can profit enormously from it.
When I’m feeling uncharitable, it seems to me that some British Critical Race theorists have attempted a similar thing. (America is a completely different kettle of fish). I’m not talking about traditional campaigners for equality and mutual respect, who I wholly support. I mean the new breed of social theorists. They appear to be trying to profit from dissatisfaction, envy and dislike. They seem to want to generate further indignation, racial division, antipathy, by which they gain status, power, influence, tenure, publishing contracts, speaking engagements, and money.
To do this, they assume a correspondence between American and British culture, because the internet knows no borders. They can import America’s uniquely toxic and dysfunctional racial hostility, a product of its unique history of slavery and injustice (2) and apply it, wholesale, to British Society, creating tribal suspicion, division and hatred for their own benefit, where before there were, at worst, personal attacks driven by individuals’ xenophobic fear of difference. (A much less deep-rooted thing)
They use the abstracts of theory as their weapons, bringing them to bear on their hapless opponents, which means anyone who questions them.
And I know, I know this is unfair, and that everyone just wants a better, fairer world. I’m sorry. That’s how it feels, sometimes, because conflict and hostility are being actively promoted and praised and people are being pushed apart. But for that very reason we must resist such resentful brooding and reach out to each other as individuals not types.
- Money itself has always been simply a token of promissory trust. This truth has been emphasised in an age of electronic banking, where huge profits, losses, thefts and frauds – lives ruined – can be created by an algorithmic error or a bit of bandit coding. Bitcoin is a set of instructions.
- Admittedly facilitated by British merchant-slavers, who creamed off the profits but outsourced the inevitable racial tension to their American colonies. Unfair but true: innocence is another sort of privilege.