Hateclick Perfector

There's always lots of debate whether some right-leaning person or a youtube alt-right celebrity is really racist. Scott wrote a very long rebuttal to the mainstream idea that Trump is racist. I am not here to either side with Scott or with his critics. Instead, I will describe why everyone kinda misses the broader point of how the politics shifted in the age of social media.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, think of StarCraft, the cult RTS game (I swear I am going somewhere with this!). There is a big difference between how beginners experience the game versus how pro players do. Beginners care about the detailed lore behind every unit, about the single-player campaign. What really happened to Kerrigan and Jim Raynor? But pros don't care beans about such things. All they want to know is what unit is counter to what other unit and how many actions-per-minute can be achieved. For them, the game is data.

I think something similar is happening when you take politics to social media. Various ideologies, things like racism or Nazism are like lore -- you and I might care about it but pros with big audiences only think in terms of clicks and views. Trump was formed by the world of show business and he was conditioned to always think of viewership numbers. If he thinks that saying something ambiguously racist will increase his viewership he will say it. If not, he wont.

His detractors will look attentively to his statements and analyze everything in detail trying to detect some racist "core." But the problem is that there is no core, only a number and the instinct to raise it. This is very different situation than in mid 20th century when people actually believed in the power of ideology. Hitler actually tried to achieve most things he outlined in Mein Kampf. Even if Trump were to say unambiguously racist things, that would still be nothing like Hitler, as there would be no weight of ideology behind it. It would just mean something convinced him it would help him get re-elected.

And social media, especially YouTube and Twitter conditioned everyone to think in such manner. You can look at the statistics of every YouTube video you post, every tweet you make. People most willing to win become conditioned to ruthlessly optimize. Often what wins out is making pointless controversy over something deliberately ambiguous. There was lots of inane debate over whether PewDePie wears the Iron Cross or Georgian Cross. I don't think there is the answer, PewDePie probably figured out that people talk about him when he wears it and stop talking about him when he doesn't.

And of course I don't have to say here that this isn't limited to the right. Half of the time you don't know whether some woke statement is meant literally or just there for hateclicks. So there is debate whether feminists actually hate men or just pretend to. But what if there is no answer? What if making statements calculated to infuriate is the terminal goal?

tl;dr Social media turns people into hateclick-maximizing AIs.