Umair Haque: How Online Radicalization Is Destabilizing Democracy: "They’d regressed back to their little selves. A scalpel no one could see had somehow excised the adult parts of their brain responsible for reason, wisdom, and change. And that was when I really began to be troubled. It felt to me as if an info-bomb had gone off... radiating disinformation, misinformation, and folly.... I’d never seen minds change so suddenly, fast, or extremely.... So even then I warned that to use social media was to put yourself squarely in the explosion radius of this info-bomb. Today we understand all this a little bit more. There really was an info-bomb—weaponized, military grade propaganda was used against whole nations, with the encouragement, and even the guidance, of social media companies, while political leaders and media were asleep at the wheel. What was the goal? What was the result?... Once-sensible people came to believe foolish and strange things. Some turned into religious zealots. Some turned into xenophobes and authoritarians and bigots. The vector of this radicalization was often the mosque, the TV station, or even the bookshop.... Some significant portion of society has now been thoroughly radicalized. They believe in outlandish and foolish things. They have become ignorant and blind and petty and easily provoked. That isn’t an insult—they can undo all that. It is just an observation of empirical reality. A major social question for the West now is: how does it undo the radicalization of the last few years? Can it? How does one undo military-grade propaganda at a social scale?...


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