From couch potatoes to smartphone zombies

The failure of Donald Trump’s blog is symptomatic of the death of the Internet as a “lean in” medium.

Internet visionaries of the 1990s through early 2010s distinguished the Internet from TV. TV was a “lean back” medium, where passive couch potatoes took whatever the three networks gave them. On blogs, Web 2.0, and forums, engaged people “leaned in,” sought information, and engaged in discussion.

But social media algorithms killed that. Now, we take whatever Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram algorithms feed us. Not even Trump’s fanatical followers can be moved to follow him when the algorithms aren’t magnifying his message.

However, Cory Doctorow notes the paradox that the algorithms can bring like-minded people together, and many will get up out of their chairs and get things done, either in BLM protests or in the January 6 insurrection.

Like Cory, I wish social media would just go the fuck away. But I am also aware of that Facebook in particular – which I hate more than all the other social media – is also the one I love the most, because it has brought me together with friends that I would not have connected with you any other channel.

On Wired, Philip M. Napoli says leaned-back couch potatoes have become hunched-over smartphone zombies.

The failure of Trump’s blog tells us that even the kind of impassioned political extremists that form the core of Trump’s base of support are so entrenched in their passive, social-media-dependent mode of media consumption that a traditional blog, absent accompanying social media accounts to generate algorithmic amplification, is incapable of gaining a fraction of the online engagement that a single tweet could achieve. Not even the most public of public figures can break free from the platform dependency that largely dictates the distribution of audience attention online. If Trump’s blog can’t gain traction without direct access to the audience aggregation and amplification tools of social media, then perhaps nothing can.

The failure of Donald Trump’s blog is, then, yet another indication of the massive power that the platform giants hold over the content that we consume. But it’s a reminder that we bear responsibility for voluntarily ceding this power to them, and enthusiastically embracing the push model of the web over the pull. Ultimately, we may look back at the failure of Trump’s blog as the final, definitive nail in the coffin of the original model of the web and the notion of the “active” internet user.

The GOP’s ‘Off the Rails’ March Toward Authoritarianism Has Historians Worried

Ben Jacobs at Vice:

One political scientist, the co-author of a book called “How Democracies Die,” put it bluntly: “I think we are headed for a crisis.”

The Republican Party’s rejection of democracy is unprecedented in history or world current events, say historians.

But Jan. 6 was like Fort Sumter. And so far the Democrats are a lot like Buchanan — inviting future bloodshed and crisis by failing to act decisively.

For the Republican Party, Jan. 6 was a training exercise. And it went pretty well for them overall.

The defining characteristics of true democracy are that the outcome of elections are uncertain, and the losing party cedes power. We’re seeing one of the major parties of the US reject both these principles.

How was your weekend? Qanon had a good time

The Qanon “For God and Country: Patriot Roundup” conference in Dallas this weekend had former US Army General and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn calling for a military coup, and Roger Stone social media advisor Jason Sullivan called for Hillary Clinton to be hanged. Tickets started at $500.

David Gilbert reports on Vice: QAnon’s Wildest Moments From Their Massively Disturbing Conference

The event was held at the Omni Hotel, which is owned by the city. Honored speakers included Rep. Louie Gohmert and the chairman of the Texas GOP, Allen West.

Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell predicted that Trump will be reinstated as President.

Security was provided by the 1st Amendment Praetorians, a group of ex-US military personnel, with pugs. Robert Patrick Lewis, an ex-Green Beret, is an organizer of the group.