But I think the simplicity and force of that causal argument, whether explicit or assumed, is precisely why I’m still reading about it now. Because I think that’s what the Twitter storm needs; it needs to assert, in every situation, the absolute simplicity of right and wrong. To publicly state online that you are conflicted about any story that has provoked the mob into action is to risk the immediate wrath of the storm. It happened that, on the day the Jameis Winston case was blowing up, I watched the Ken Burns documentary about the Central Park Five. I thought about making the point that, perhaps, we shouldn’t rush to judgment when a young black man is accused of rape, given our country’s history on that front, but I didn’t dare. I knew the risks.
What people have built, on Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook, is a kind of boutique moral ideology that has one precept that precedes all others: the sheer obviousness of right and wrong. The very words “grey area,” in any context, have become anathema. The ideology of the Twitter storm is a kind of simple, Manichean morality that would make George Bush blush.
Read the whole thing here.
The main takeaway for me is that the nature of the internet hive mind is shaped by the nature of the medium. Tweets, Facebook posts, Buzzfeed listicles, none of these things are made for the purposes of contemplation or discourse. They are made to spread an idea quickly, to light a spark and hope for a conflagration.
The simple truth is that you cannot have a conversation about morality under such conditions, you can only have empty moralizing. It is almost impossible to have a real ethical discussion in 140 characters or less. All you can have is this sort of phony hipster ethics that has more to do with signalling tribal affiliations than with any interesting discussion of right and wrong.