When Caleb Cain fell down an alt-right rabbit hole on the internet
This may be a song that some people love and some people hate. I was playing mandolin and came up with a little repeating riff/chord pattern. Wasn't sure what to do with it, and aroudn the same time I was reading a NY Times article about a guy named Caleb who had gotten obsessed with listening to increasingly fringe, right-wing youtube videos- one of the central points of the article is that the youtube algorithms and such are pushing increasing 'watch times' on viewers (for more ad revenue) and viewers are exposed to ever-more-inflammatory and fringe sites, overwhelmingly right wing, once they start looking at this. (I address more, you'll have to listen or read the lyrics).
Anyway, I don't post this to get in some fruitless argument about right wing vs center or left wing, but just because I think this 'radicalization by internet' is an increasing problem, and while you may have heard of this problem, you probably haven't heard it with mandolin accompaniment
Caleb Cain was a college dropout looking for direction. He played a lot of computer games, and started watching Youtube, starting with videos about gaming. Gaming led to a video about libertarianism, and the youtube algorithms started to suggest various other videos. ‘up next..’:
If you like Alex Jones, you’d like Ben Shapiro. If you like Ben Shapiro, you’d like Steven Crowder. You just watched ‘social justice warriors always lie’ , here ‘the global warming hoax’, and up next, ‘why feminism is cancer.’
Before he knew it, he was pulled into a far-right video universe of conspiracy theories, misogyny, and racism. Always entertaining far-right personalities ‘owned the opposition’, urging that ‘western civilization was under threat from Muslim immigrants and ‘cultural Marxism’, that innate IQ differences explained racial disparities, that transgender individuals or feminism represented a threat to our way of life, that black lives matter was more racist then the KKK, and that white males were ‘under attack’ every second from the far-left so-called ‘politically correct’ media.
Luckily, Caleb started to watch other things, and started to see how he had been systematically lied to, how his fears were stoked by easy solutions, blaming people that didn’t look like him, and how words like ‘race realism’, and ‘saving western civilization’ were code words, dog whistles by racist white supremacists.
Turns out that sites like youtube are driven by ‘watch time’- more watch time, more ad time, more revenues, more money. Turn up the extremism, hold your audience to more and longer videos, you get more watch time, more ad time, more money.
Ah but hasn’t the extreme left benefited too? The truth is, not nearly as much as the right, and the far left has been played with by Putin and others to demonize moderates, encourage division, and further fracture our fragile democracy.
So youtube, facebook, and the other social media sites, you’ve done some good in some ways, but a lot of harm too. Just sayin’.
Please keep your comments respectful, honest, and constructive. Please focus on the song and not the demo.