Scribbles, &c.

Deep in Girard again, and I’ve been thinking about ways the Internet accelerates or intensifies mimetic crises and their attendant scapegoating. First, groups obviously can (and do) form a hell of a lot faster, but without the “thickness” of embodied relationships, I suspect this means they’re more brittle. We can sort ourselves - or have ourselves sorted - much more easily, and the engagement models and algorithms of social media are going to guarantee an intensification of desire which means an acceleration towards crisis all the quicker. The release valve - scapegoat - will also be identified all the faster, but instead of relying on physical differences, the group has no choice to but seek performative aberrations or deviations from some tightly defined orthodoxy. The disembodied nature of online relationships has to give way to text and pictures, and at this point in time, most everyone has accumulated oodles of both.

At the same time, the anonymity, or perception of it removes one more obstacle to the scapegoat mechanism - the friction of “the first stone.” The cost to call out the scapegoat has dropped to near nothing, but the cost of an in-grouper to stand idly by has soared tremendously, so pile-ons happen faster and spread wider - past the in-group and into adjacent groups and clusters. It’s come up on at least one podcast I listen to (Blocked and Reported) that perhaps Twitter’s general decline has attenuated the pile-on tendencies a bit since many folks have migrated to other platforms. Getting data for something like that would be tough. It feels plausible, but it could also be that the cancel- and callout-culture zeitgeist has shifted. The mechanisms for them are still very much at work, though perhaps on a more diffuse scale. Neither desire nor the mimesis and conflict it causes will be going away any time soon