The new counterculture is incoherent

“And something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, Do you, Mr. Jones?” Bob Dylan

I used to feel little smug when I was part of the Sixties counterculture. I was in on the inside. The establishment was on the outside; wondering what the hell was going on with free love, drugs, and rock and roll. The man just didn’t get it.

image: washingtonpost.com

Now I feel like I’m on the outside looking in at an incoherent counterculture. Sure, there are some similarities to the sixties. There is an anti-establishment element to the protests such as the occupation of Ottawa by the Freedom Convoy.

The Sixties counterculture welled up in San Francisco.

However, there seems to be no physical place of the new counterculture. The anger and discontent springs up at various places around the globe. Canada found itself as an unlikely source of the new counterculture during the Freedom Convoy.

I was astonished at the global attention paid to the Freedom Convoy. Canada was seen as a model of protests that were duplicated around the world. We don’t think of ourselves as a radical nation, a hotbed of discontent. But in our car culture, apparently the use of trucks as a vehicle of a seething anger is novel.

There is distrust of corporate media, the so-called “mainstream media” that produces fake news. We had underground newspapers, some that went on to some success like Rolling Stone and The Georgia Straight.

The new counterculture has antiestablishment internet news spread through social media.

The sixties counterculture was coherent. The leaders were identifiable, those such as John Lennon, Timothy Leary, and Marshall McLuhan. The values, however naive, were ones of peace and harmony. Flower children wanted to live off the land in communes and set their souls free. There was even a kind of uniform consisting of bell-bottom pants, tie-dye shirts and beads.

Like Mr. Jones, looking from the outside, I find the information shared by the new counterculture unfathomable. QAnon has become a model for the “real news” in which followers believe that a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.

Unlike Mr. Jones, I find the new counterculture to be dark and incoherent. Their issues shift with each new world event. One week they’re against vaccines and the next they want, in a copycat storming of the U.S. Capital last year, to overthrow the government of Canada. Then they are repeating Russia’s claim that the invasion of Ukraine is justified in order to remove Nazis from power.

Unlike the sixties movement, there is a dark side of the new counterculture. It’s not flowers and free love but a gloomy, brooding mood. There is a seething anger that seems to have a sinister source.

I’m tempted to blame the Russian propaganda machine. It’s no secret that President Putin wants to get even with the West for the downfall of the USSR.

But there seems to be something more fundamental behind the new counterculture, a groundswell that is less a grassroots movement than a dark force oozing from the bowels of the earth as a vapour and taking shape as a vague, ominous discontent.

The new counterculture howls with an ache that will not be silenced. May they find solace for their tortured souls.

You can no longer utter death threats to journalists on Facebook

Facebook has now increased protection for journalists against harassment, bullying, and death threats according to its global safety chief (Oct. 14, 2021, Globe and Mail).

Image Credit: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

However, too bad if you’re a public figure. Facebook differentiates between public figures and private individuals in the protection it affords. For instance, users are generally allowed to call for the death of a celebrity in discussions on the platform, as long as they do not tag or directly mention the celebrity.

Under existing Facebook’s policies, you haven’t been able to call for the death of a private individual for some time. Earlier this year, Facebook said it would remove content celebrating, praising or mocking George Floyd’s death, because he was deemed an involuntary public figure. Those who are involuntary public figures are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Now journalists are afforded the same protection as involuntary public figures.

Why has it taken Facebook so long?

Accurate reporting is fundamental to democracy. Journalists must be protected in order to inform citizens.

Media trolls claim that they are protected by freedom of speech, and for too long social media have given them a platform to spew their hate.

However, freedom of speech ends when lives are threatened. When journalists are threatened, it provides a license to kill. Others who see those threats take action even when the trolls don’t. Sixteen journalists have been murdered globally this year, so far, 1418 have been killed since 1992 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

It doesn’t take death threats to place a chill on the flow accurate news. One Kamloops Facebook user doesn’t hide his disdain for of reporting about the pandemic on local media. He is especially contemptuous of Kamloops CBC:

“The hysteria being promoted in the media especially the CBC is just that -hysteria !”

He has repeated these criticisms to me and to other local media outlets.

From the comments, some of his Facebook followers agree with his assessment. Either they, or someone sympathetic to his criticisms of CBC, vandalized a Kamloops CBC van by dumping paint over it and spraying “fake news” on the side on April 4, 2021.

The President of CBC/Radio-Canada, Catherine Tait, is worried about the chill on reporting that such attacks have. She told Kamloops This Week:

“We are looking at what security we need to provide so that people feel safe in their jobs. We cannot have people feeling anxious and nervous.”

The pandemic has raised levels of fear and mistrust of news sources in all sectors to dangerous levels. The contagion of COVID has corrupted trust in traditional sources. It’s almost as if the coronavirus has affected people’s ability to think clearly.

A recent survey found that trust declined in all institutions, from business to religion to academia. Forty-nine per cent of Canadians surveyed agree that journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or by gross exaggerations.

Canada faces a crisis in leadership and expert credibility. More and more, citizens are turning to the echo chambers of social media for news.

I find this astonishing. Why would anyone trust someone sitting at their computers spewing hate and misinformation over those whose job it is to go out and dig up what’s really happening?