Thursday, November 16, 2023

"Trolling Ourselves to Death"

New from Oxford University Press: Trolling Ourselves to Death: Democracy in the Age of Social Media by Jason Hannan.

About the book, from the publisher:

Almost forty years ago, Neil Postman argued that television had brought about a fundamental transformation to democracy. By turning entertainment into our supreme ideology, television had recreated public discourse in its image and converted democracy into show business. In Trolling Ourselves to Death, Jason Hannan builds on Postman's classic thesis, arguing that we are now not so much amusing, as trolling ourselves to death. Yet, how do we explain this profound change? What are the primary drivers behind the deterioration of civic culture and the toxification of public discourse?

Trolling Ourselves to Death moves beyond the familiar picture of trolling by recasting it in a broader historical light. Contrary to the popular view of the troll as an exclusively anonymous online prankster who hides behind a clever avatar and screen name, Hannan asserts that trolls have emerged from the cave, so to speak, and now walk in the clear light of day. Trolls now include politicians, performers, patriots, and protesters. What was once a mysterious phenomenon limited to the darker corners of the Internet has since gone mainstream, eroding our public culture and changing the rules of democratic politics.

Hannan shows how trolling is the logical outcome of a culture of possessive individualism, widespread alienation, mass distrust, and rampant paranoia. Synthesizing media ecology with historical materialism, he explores the disturbing rise of political unreason in the form of mass trolling and sheds light on the proliferation of disinformation, conspiracy theory, "cancel culture," and digital violence. Taking inspiration from Robert Brandom's innovative reading of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Trolling Ourselves to Death makes a case for building "a spirit of trust" to curb the epidemic of mass distrust that feeds the plague of political trolling.
--Marshal Zeringue