Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
Once Woke, Brain Broke: A Tale Of Echo Chambers

05/04/2021 17:22:15

A lot of my regular readers have probably already seen the title of this post and recoiled in either shock or horror, perhaps a bit of both. But the truth is, while I have spent a lot of time pointing out and pushing back against the sins of the so-called "far right" over recent years, the "far left" certainly has it's fair share of issues and today we'll be discussing one of them.

Now to be clear, I'm only using the terms "left" and "right" here because they are easily accessible and universally understood labels that allow me to edit out at least a paragraph of wasted screen real estate and a few minutes of your precious time explaining the multitude differing corners within our political spectrum. While it is logical to argue that political identity is far more complex than what we can represent via a single abstract line with two sides, one left and one right, the point is not to hammer away at the host of the mental parasite so much as it is to identify it, call it out and make the case for it's swift eradication.

Much like the Q-Anon addled Trumpers who are still pretending that the 2020 election was stolen from them, the denizens of the growing Woke Army are living in an alternate universe where reality has no influence on anything within it. The core culprit here are of course the echo chambers we have built for ourselves and how they are beginning to unravel the shared foundation required for effective communication, reasonable compromise and the healthy exchange of ideas. If you believe that you and your core group are right and everybody else is evil, everything else falls apart after that.

I can already hear the emails being typed out, "Well now Jay that seems a bit extreme." Well sure, I agree that it does. So let's examine a recent example of Wokeness Gone Wild courtesy of the fiasco which took place last week at Basecamp:

About one-third of employees at software company Basecamp quit days after bosses told them to keep ideology out of the workplace and focus on the company’s actual business.

“We make project management, team communication, and email software,” CEO Jason Fried wrote April 26. We don’t have to solve deep social problems, chime in publicly whenever the world requests our opinion on the major issues of the day, or get behind one movement or another with time or treasure. These are all important topics, but they’re not our topics at work.”

Tech journalist Casey Newton said about one-third of the company’s roughly 60 employees took buyouts shortly after, with one fuming: “Basically the company has said, ‘well, your opinions don’t really matter — unless it’s directly related to business…’ A lot of people are gonna have a tough time living with that.”

Now this is going to strike some of my readers as quizzical as I'm generally a champion of tech related social issues. However in this particular case, short of a single instance of the company doing something immature and kind of dumb (having a list of funny sounding customer names and joking about it) it has fuck all to do with any actual tech related social issue. We aren't talking about customer data and who owns the rights to it. We aren't talking about lax privacy and security policies. We aren't talking about people being ripped off or employees being treated like indentured servants.

We are talking about a bunch of thin skinned children who are so immersed in the artificial drama of the day that they are missing the bigger picture altogether. Take this bit for example:

A third of the company joined a diversity initiative behind the volunteer, and two employees who had contributed to the list of funny names asked why there had never been an “internal reckoning” over it. They apologized for their involvement and included a link to something called the “pyramid of hate” from the Anti-Defamation League.

The pyramid lists “non-inclusive language, microaggressions” at the bottom and “genocide” at the top, saying, “If people or institutions treat behaviors on the lower levels as being acceptable or ‘normal,’ it results in the behaviors at the next level becoming more accepted.”

I want you to read that last quoted paragraph a few times and let the impact of that statement sink in for a bit. And yes that "Pyramid of Hate" is absolutely real and you can view it by clicking this link. It is just as insane as described.

Keep in mind that somewhere in the world actual terrible things are happening to people. For example China is currently rounding up Uyghurs for the purposes of re-education / genocide. But back here in the United States, there are people who actually believe that microaggressions are the first step on the path that takes us to that place. This is utterly absurd as the argument itself is built around a common logical fallacy known as the "slippery slope". Here is a brief definition of it shamelessly quoted / stolen from the previous link:

A slippery slope fallacy occurs when someone makes a claim about a series of events that would lead to one major event, usually a bad event. In this fallacy, a person makes a claim that one event leads to another event and so on until we come to some awful conclusion. Along the way, each step or event in the faulty logic becomes more and more improbable.

What's really astounding is that this issue of the funny sounding customer name list could have been easily resolved by those involved apologizing and nuking the list from orbit. That's how it would've gone in a sane world. However in the one in which Basecamp employees now live, people grabbed their torches and their pitchforks and attempted to find the nearest executive that they could tar and feather. Even worse, somehow employees who were actually largely responsible for the building and the maintenance of the list at hand ended up joining the angry mob that proceeded to tear the company down to its foundations.

This is the sort of cult like thinking that can and will break the brains of those who embrace it. Despite the utterly illogical premise and massive logical fallacy its subsequent extrapolations relied upon, these otherwise reasonably intelligent people either couldn't see the innate flaw in this progression or were too fearful of retaliation to speak truth to tyranny.

Much like how the Trump Q-Anon cult smears anybody who disagrees with them as pedophiles, satanists and communists, the Woke Army smears anybody who disagrees with them as bigots and racists. That is the core parallel that needs to be drawn here because while it might be convenient to pretend that caustic echo chambers are only a problem on the "other side of the fence" and that their influence is limited, the reality is that they are all around us and they are beginning to break the brains of people that we know, work with, break bread with and love. This in turn is beginning to break the systems that society itself relies upon to function.

Now I know it's tempting to blame the rise of these echo chambers on Big Tech. To be sure, they are at least somewhat responsible. But once you get past that initial knee jerk reaction, at some point you've got to grapple with whether or not our primitive human brains can actually handle being constantly jacked into a global network filled with information, some true but most not. As it stands right now, the sad truth seems to be that we can't. But what are we supposed to do about it? Short of a freak occurrence of nature that fries most of the electronics around the world simultaneously, I can't see anyway to fix this except for figuring out a way to adapt appropriately.

Also, don't fall into the trap of thinking this was an isolated incident at Basecamp or a tech only problem. You can see the same nasty tendrils rearing their ugly heads virtually everywhere nowadays. Thankfully as an employee who is largely remote and spends the majority of his time working on his own nowadays, I have been spared personal experience with the most virulent forms of this plague. Nevertheless, those of you in the thick of it have my sympathy as making it through to the other side won't be easy.

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