Chapter 6 of Kevin Williamson’s The Smallest Minority, “The Lonely Mob”, lays bare an uncomfortable truth that many will shudder and cringe at upon understanding. The drama teacher in the movie High School Musical when she saw something weird with students she’d shout “Very disturbing! Go see a counselor!”. That’s how I feel about this chapter of the book, as Williamson links the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s to what is happening on social media.
Here, wince at this: “the biological consequences of sex never stood alone; instead, they were enmeshed in a complex set of social, legal, political, and economic relations founded on the underlying biological reality. Without the mitigating influence of marriage and parenthood – and the social institutions built around them – it was easy and probably inevitable that sex would degenerate into a mechanical exercise in self-gratification and exploitation that is mutual but rarely mutual in exactly the same way…By connecting everyone to everyone – promiscuously, without the traditional consequences – social media has created another new kind of loneliness.” This loneliness causes people to treat others with hostility and brutality driving them to extreme behavior and radical, irrational thought.
The point of online “pseudo-conversation” is not discussion or exchange of ideas. It is intoxicating outrage that makes people even more stupid than they already are – corrosive to any kind of discourse. The bad manners of the masses are making people miserable. Williamson writes that the social media mob “dissolves individual identity, relieving the stressed and anxious pleb of an identity that was more of burden to him than an asset”. Depression, anger, banality – why do they do this? It is, for a disturbing majority of our population, simply a pathetic, sad, grasping futile attempt to give life meaning for millions of ignorant losers.
Williamson’s hardcore. Very disturbing – go see a counselor.
He writes this about social media:
“By giving everyone an equal opportunity to speak, it has revealed how little of interest most people have to say – and how little the content of what they say actually matters when set against in-group tribal affiliation. That this comes as a revelation to the speakers rather than their auditors is significant even if obvious. Boring people are easily bored by others, but most of them harbor in their souls the belief, explicable and without any support, that they are uniquely interesting, gifted, funny, witty, intelligent – qualities that would become apparent if only they could get in front of the right kind of audience. Finding out how boring they are – and how little the world actually cares about them when given the opportunity to pay attention – is a jolt.”
He concludes the chapter by quoting Julien Benda from Treason of the Intellectuals (1928) who was particularly dismayed at the moral shortcomings of artists and professional writers who abdicate individuality to embrace mob groupthink. They’re supposed to be in the business of individuality! The root of the problem is that everyone now thinks they’re an exceptional, artistic writer but, by definition, everyone cannot be one.
Next week, we move on to the sad longing for fame by far too many people.