One point that I keep hearing is how internet made us all worse. In a way, it seems to be true; but let me tell a story first.
When I was young, there was no internet. I think I connected to the internet for the first time in my life when I was 15 years old, and it was way different than things are today – I remember that Google didn’t exist, or it was too slow to run on my very slow modem.
I also have to make a disclaimer: when I was young, like 15 or 16 years old, I did not see too much malice in the world. I could not understand the whole idea of prejudice for example – the single idea that one could hate others for their skin color or for the place they were born was alien to me… until I met someone that, indeed had this mentality. But again, I didn’t think too much about it – that person was not really a good person, and while I did associate with they (I was a nerd boy with no friends, a teenager already makes stupid choices by design, this was only an amplifier) when that person left my life it indeed felt that things were going to be better.
Well, fast-forward to some years, comes the first social networks. And then, I met a whole new group of idiots in 9gag, Facebook, the old Orkut… it was hell, but I made my decision to quit all of these networks, and I felt things, again, were better. After all, the internet gives voice to idiots, that eventually find other idiots, and these make a group that would never act like that in public, right?
Well, I was already quite old when a very close family member asked me if the relationship that I was starting with the one that eventually became my wife was going well – after all, she’s protestant-ish, and I am catholic (spoiler alert – I am not. But again, that person was already quite old and they never really approved the fact that I didn’t go to church), so the relationship is bound to have problems, right? I dismissed the person, without giving too much though about it.
Until the moment my SO and I got into a crisis, and spent a whole year distant; the moment when I heard the words “it’s weird for you to be with a black woman”.
That was not going to be the first time I would heard words like these; unfortunately, an even closer member of my family also expressed the same stuff. I have, since them, cut all communication with both, but… on my family?
Yes, I was naïve. I probably always was, or maybe it’s because of the way my brain is wired (I recently discovered that I have a lower-than-usual capacity of worrying for things that don’t come to be, to the point that it feels I’m dismissing others’ feelings or even that I have no sympathy); the truth is, there were racists on my family. They were there, all the time, and while I only have a real confirmation of two people, I have other suspects – considering comments and actions we saw.
The thing is: the internet made these people think it’s completely normal, and acceptable, to say what they always felt in public; to display their horrible thoughts for anyone to hear, in the name of “free speech”; to even call for the destruction of some groups in the name of whatever they feel justifies killing people.
They always existed – that’s scary. It’s also scary to think we’re probably better now, because these people are sufficiently idiotic to display their faces in public, to promote hate on platforms where it’s easy to track them down should they start to act.
But also, it’s scary to think that they have a platform to recruit others. To find the real psychos that don’t care if they rot in prison, if that’s the price to pay for killing a bunch of people they don’t like
I remember being shocked when I found that there are not so many few people that wish that, one day while they’re on their house, somebody appears on their window or balcony, so that they have an excuse to shoot and kill that person… now I know that was only the beginning – reality is much, much worse.
We have literal politicians, from multiple countries, literally promising to get rid of specific minorities. There’s no geographical border for this; both “developing” and “first-world” nations have their representatives.
And finally, we have Nazis walking around calling for genocide – literal Nazis! The people that we mocked in media when we wanted a obviously stupid 80s-supervillain because it was so impossible for someone, at the modern times, believe that there’s a “superior race” and every other race needs to literally be wiped from the planet, that we could not believe they were real – it was obviously an weird thing that happened in the past, where a whole country was fooled by a man, probably brainwashed by him, I don’t know…
Not only they were, real, but they are here.
And we are powerless to stop this. Because we believed, in our racist ways, that it was something that could only happen in German. We believed that we were somehow “superior” than they; even though we had experiments proving the opposite – I was lucky to see a group of students that recorded their own version of the experiment, in Brazil. Where they showed, simply put, that one would deliver a possibly lethal electric discharge if they were ordered to do it – except that in that version, the people that were discharging the supposed electric shocks could see the person’s reaction (in contrast with the original experiment, where there was no visual contact).
We were always this bad. It’s just showing more.