I’m no psychic. I’m just concerned that things have gotten badly out of hand and there may be no way out without some pretty ugly conflicts.
In years past, anti-vaxxers were a small subculture of homebodies trading vinegar toxic cleanse recipes in the back alleys of the internet. No one took them seriously because they weren’t a big enough influence to be a threat. As the pandemic came and lockdowns started, anti-vaxxers started railing against vaccine efforts and championing alternative treatments.
MAGA hat wearing acolytes have had quite an emotional rollercoaster in 2020. They went from haughty disdain of BLM to rage and fear of the new ANTIFA boogeyman; then from denial the panemic was real to denial that Trump lied about its severity; then from fear of election fraud to fury over baseless claims.
As 2020 wore on, internet hucksters and conspiracy nuts piled on and amalgamated with the above groups to form Q-anon. And where they went one, they went all. The echo chambers of the far right and fringe views became a rapid breeding ground for fantastic stories of every possible form of evil done by elites that control the world.
Some were radicalized enought to storm the capitol building in an effort to stop the certification of the vote.
Many more are convinced that the medical community means them harm or is at a minimum incompetent and won’t take the vaccines, preferring instead whatever flavor-of-the-month treatment is currently being touted on alternative social media. And they keep believing it despite hospitals filling to capacity with COVID-19 patients and none with vaccine side-effect patients
Many still claim the election was fraudulent, despite all claims failing in court and republicans getting elected on the same ballots.
It gets worse. As frightening as all this is, it is a pale shadow of what is being passed around in growing and increasingly warped alternative-internet. This space, once reserved for only the outcast ideas that society has rightly rejected, has festered into a living horror that has infected the minds of people we once thought were stable and sane. Somehow, all critical thinking has been suspended and anything, so long as it can fit a narrative where elites do evil and control everything, is accepted and passed along. I suppose it’s rewarding, in a way. Those in the alter-net get to know stuff and they can feel superior to everyone else, who are all just shills or dupes.
The real problem is that wrong information leads to improper decisions and bad outcomes. The pandemic has now claimed 1 in 500 Americans, in no small part due to the constant stream of misinformation pouring out of the alter-net. The viral subculture lurking in cyberspace has evolved to kill in the real world.
I am afraid that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. A reckoning is coming. I don’t know when or how, but I don’t think anyone is going to like the outcome.