Every human on Earth seems to have a social media identity as unique as a fingerprint, so we all see what the cybergods are algorithmically feeding us.
(Disclaimer: I’m a social scientist, not a brain scientist.)
One of the drivers is conflict, especially negative and destructive interactions. People seem to think that sitting in their homes behind locked doors is the perfect time to insult, threaten, belittle, and just rudely attack others.
Another driver, which feeds into the former in many cases as part of an amplifying feedback loop, is the “news” which is designed to outrage. When we read something that drives us crazy, we tend to engage with the platform that brought us that news. Our eyeballs, so to speak, are thus delivered to advertisers.
And of course, there is confirmation bias. When we like or like a message, the digital demons record this knowledge in our relentlessly updated cyberprint and we receive more of it.
So what we hate the most and what we love the most is what we get. Social media seems to create our own personal polarizing instruments. Pleasant.
For at least some people, social media is addictive, triggering dopamine in our brain’s reward pathways, neurobiologists say.
Most humans want to replicate those bursts of reward and connection with other people who tend to support, praise, accept, and compliment them. So we can become posers, repost, retweet terribly incorrect information that our favorite people like, like, share and comment on with the approval we crave.
And of course, some parts of the net amplify and exaggerate disinformation, such as “Ukraine is a paragon of freedom and one of the most democratic countries in the world” or, conversely, “Ukraine is riddled Nazis from top to bottom. ”
The first statement naturally increases outrage against Putin.
This last statement naturally excuses Putin.
Looking at one of the most impartial reviewers of freedom measures in nation states in the world, Freedom House, they rank less free countries like Syria, South Sudan and Tibet only marginally better in this regard. North Korea, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Western Sahara and Eastern Donbass, the last two of which are not true nation states but rather territories, at least currently.
The freest countries, according to the Freedom House ranking, are Sweden, Norway and Finland, closely followed by New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Uruguay. The ranking is based on 100 possible points, and the worst are only 1-4 points, the best 97-100.
Freedom House ties to their methodology so you can judge for yourself how much stock you put there, although they’ve been doing these rankings for decades. Similar new ranking systems have similar results.
Just a few years ago, the United States had regular rankings in the mid-90s and we were usually in the top 10 freest countries in the world. Now (the latest rankings only reflect until the end of 2020), after four years of Trump, the United States has precipitously slipped about 12 points, down to 83 points on the 100-point scale. We are now ranked number 62, less free than 61 other countries.
Of the 210 countries and territories they rank, Ukraine falls more in the middle, with a score of 61 points, rated “partly free” about the same as Liberia and Madagascar.
Russia are in the unfree group, with only 19 points out of 100.
We hear justifications, excuses, and many convoluted reasons for Putin to invade Ukraine, just as we heard excuses for the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States.
Yes, there are reasons. But none are good enough unless we suspend all ethics, morals and compassion in favor of a litany of criticisms of NATO, Germany and the United States in particular, and unless we naïvely swallowed Putin’s lies about the need to denazify Ukraine and his WMD lies in Ukraine.
Yes, there are Nazis in Ukraine, but none are more blatant than Putin’s repressive and militaristic regime. No, the Nazis don’t control Ukraine. Meanwhile, Nazis are demonstrating openly, brazenly, across the United States, simultaneously waving swastikas and pro-Trump signs, including in the attack on the Capitol last year. Are we giving Putin a free pass to invade the United States? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
WMD in Ukraine? Again, it’s a projection. Russia has nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and even biological weapons today and Ukraine does not – as we should all know Ukraine had thousands of nuclear weapons when it did seceded from the Soviet Union and signed a treaty with Russia to give them all nuclear weapons in exchange. for Russia’s promise to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Maybe Putin should surrender the nuclear weapons, since he broke the promise of Ukrainian sovereignty.
Putin’s lies could tragically be promoted in order to set the stage for a truly horrific false flag event that would literally benefit no one, not even him. If he is still able to think strategically, he will realize this.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is the Coordinator of BS and BA Conflict Resolution Programs and Certificates at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of PeaceVoice, and Occasional Expert Witness for Resister Defense civilians in court.