It seems like every few generations there is a kind of technological advance in media distribution that sneaks up on everyone and, almost overnight, renders everything the current generation in power knows about "how things work" obsolete. It happens too fast for the older generation to be gone and so they are still the ones in charge and they are the "experts" chirping at us what we should expect to happen next...and they have no shred of knowledge from everything they learned in their lifetime that prepares them to not be wrong about it.
Printing did it (Hi, Catholic Church! Yeah, sure literacy is no threat to your dominance!), Radio did it (Hey there, Europe, I'm sure a few strongly-worded and logical pamphlets will outclass anyone with mere rhetorical charisma!)
This is what I saw over and over the last two years as the same (not even very old) people on CNN or MSNBC told me "yes, but the system will do this..." or "yes, but, this poll always tells us that these things mean this..." or "Of course, this will sink him, it flies in the face of everything we know to be true about politics...." And I see them all falling in the same holes again and again and again like the Keystone Kops and I just accept now that every single thing they say is 100% incorrect. Even really smart and youngish ones like Maddow or Chris Hayes.
And they're not stupid. It just happened too fast. They grew up in and learned their trade in a world that is only ten years ago and that is based on the technology of 20 years ago...and even that is just absolutely obsolete. The way information moves now is fundamentally different than it was at any point before, say 2008??? 2009? 2005 at the earliest?. And no one of the age to be in a position of institutional authority int he press or in political parties understands it at all. There is nothing of political science as learned by these people that still applies. Jesus, do you know how old and out of touch David Remnick suddenly seems?
And it happened so quickly it was like throwing a switch. People have always been susceptible to mass mis-information campaigns. In fact, one of the most interesting and relevant trends in history scholarship right now is to see parallels with "fake news" as fundamental to sudden turns in, for instance, the French Revolution, where unsubstantiated or even just deadass made-up rumors were monetized and weaponized using the techniques of the day suddenly altering the course of massive events because of a turn in mob sentiment.
But no technology has ever existed that is so specifically, efficiently, and perfectly designed to focus that tendency and harness it as social media does once it reaches a certain saturation point of ubiquity in the lives of the population. The Gunn thing is just like a weapons demonstration. It's like blowing up Alderaan. It just shows us that a massively prominent and secure person of any kind at any position of security can be obliterated within hours when the weapon is trained on them. The only "shield" apparently is to "never do or have done anything wrong at any point in your life." Good luck to the younger generation who at least have a fighting chance to keep themselves in line knowing from day one that they are on public display at all times from the moment they are capable of communication and their life will be collected and parsed regularly by an army of whoever is on the other side. Oh, and also, since there is no central power in control any of this (which makes it maybe better maybe worse), what does or does not constitute a mistake worthy of destruction changes from week to wee,k is pretty random, and based on the general mood of the billions around you. It will be a bit of a grind. Oh, and also your words and thoughts from 10 years ago or 20 years ago will be judged based on the mood and standards of today. Hang in there I guess.
There is, thankfully, still the one nice choice, which is not to participate at all. but at some point, that will become a suspect thing. "You don't engage with social media? What kind of creepy fuck are you? What are you hiding? You better get your brand out there or we're certainly not going to hire you!"
You know how Jeff Goldblum was all "genetic power is the last great pandora's box and now that it's unleashed, Welcome to Jurassic World!" That's basically how I feel about social media. Whatever path the world was on before it is erased. We have to figure out a new one now based on rules that only people who have grown up immersed in it will even begin to understand. The lessons of the Weimar republic don't apply. The lessons of Watergate don't apply. The lessons of the 60s civil rights movement don't apply. The lessons of journalism from the 19th century on don't apply. Hell, even whatever lessons we learned from reality t.v. don't apply.
Basically that means I will spend the last couple of decades of my life, like I suppose most old people in history, living in a world that I don't understand and that resembles nothing I remember as being "the world" and it is unlikely I will ever have anything of value to say again.