Recently, hateful right-wing political uberfuhrer Katie Hopkins was banned from Twitter. She had previously said all manner of things, from comparing immigrants to cockroaches to claiming dementia sufferers should not block hospital beds. Sussex Police even reported her tweets after 5 (BAME) Londoners drowned at Camber Sands and she mocked their identities. After Dear White People came out on Netflix she tweeted “Dear black people. If your lives matter why do you stab and shoot each other so much”. She has had more feuds on Twitter than you can poke a hairy stick at (with females, it’s usually about their weight). I could write an article just on her Twitter nonsense, but…
She had a radio show on LBC that she lost after tweeting that “we need a final solution” after the Manchester bombing. When she got a job writing for The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph contributor Bryony Gordon wrote in April 2015 that media organisations have “a tipping point here, where the marketing men and women don’t want to be associated with reality TV’s very own Adolf Hitler. But so far that doesn’t seem to have happened.” That said, even the Mail eventually got rid of her.
She lost a libel case to Jack Monroe and, in 2018, had to sell her £930,000 home in an individual involuntary agreement (something to avoid officially being declared bankrupt), which was nice.
Point is, she is a nasty human being. And Twitter eventually caved in and banned her (suspended her account permanently).
What did she do? She announced she was migrating to Parler.
She would be in good company since the Trump campaign publicly declared last Wednesday that it might decamp from Facebook and Twitter and refocus its efforts through Parler.
What is Parler?
Parler is “a US-based microblogging and social networking service launched in August 2018, promoted as an alternative to Twitter and particularly marketed to political conservatives in the United States.” The site says of itself: “Parler is an unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement.”
However, what this really means is that it is a place where horrible people can go to be horrible without any consequences. As Wikipedia details:
Parler has attracted Donald Trump supporters, and is noted for its far-right and alt-right,conspiratorial,antisemitic, and anti-feminist content. The site also includes anti-Muslim content, although it also has a user base of Saudi nationalists who support Crown Prince and de facto prime minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Parler is one of a number of social network platforms, including Minds, MeWe, Gab and BitChute, that are popular with people banned from mainstream networks such as Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and Facebook.
Both The Independent and Jewish news site The Forward have noted the site’s antisemitic conspiracy theory content. Matze told The Forward, “If you’re going to fight these peoples’ views, they need to be out in the open … Don’t force these people into the corners of the internet where they’re not going to be able to be proven wrong.” Political scientist Alison Dagnes responded “I don’t think you can have it both ways … There is no such thing as civilized hate speech.”
Though the site’s co-founder and CEO said that he initially envisaged it as a bipartisan platform, Parler has a significant user base of Trump fans, and of far-right figures who had been removed from other platforms.
The Parler terms of service do include the stipulation that “Parler may remove any content and terminate [the user’s] access to the Services at any time and for any reason or no reason”.
In June 2020 CEO John Matze said he wanted to see more debate on the platform and offered a “progressive bounty” of $10,000 to liberal pundits with at least 50,000 Twitter or Facebook followers who would join the site, later increasing this amount to $20,000.|
This last bit is super-important. The founder realises that it is such an echo chamber that he is bribing lefties to go there. Andrew Sullivan gives a pretty balanced view, after joining it to see what it was about:
That’s not to say that Parler is a wellspring of rational thought. Spend an hour at the site, and you start to see what the experience really is: It’s a clean, well-lighted place where mainly white people spout rumors, misinformation, and vitriol about a variety of go-to topics such as Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Big Tech, “socialism,” “Plandemic,” and Muslims. There’s plenty of venom for popular targets such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, and Bill Gates. You’ll also find lots of articles being shared from Breitbart, The Washington Times, OAN, InfoWars, The Federalist, and a variety of smaller right-wing “news” sites.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE
Many of the biggest right-wing media stars have accounts at Parler. People such as Laura Loomer (300K followers on Parler), Michelle Malkin (62K), Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric, Rudy Guliani, Mark Levin, and Fox News contributor Dan Bongino, who recently announced that he’s bought a stake in Parler. But the biggest name of all still hasn’t made the jump from Twitter to Parler, a moment that Parler goers are eagerly awaiting. That’s Donald Trump, of course….
But Parler isn’t exactly the “public square” many of its users say they want. I found no real debate, nor any real conversation. Instead, I found a lot of virtual head-nodding and ditto-heading. It’s a right-wing echo chamber where mainly older white people exchange right-wing memes and conspiracy theories about liberals, Democrats, and the causes and beliefs typically associated with them.
And that’s okay. Just don’t tell me Parler is helping the political discourse that Facebook and Twitter have already damaged so badly. It simply provides a place where the right can say what it wants without having its facts challenged.
Tories following Hopkins
Pundits such as Candace Owens, Milo Yiannopolous and Gavin McInnes use Parler, and Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale has met with its founder in light of Trump moving there.
What was interesting is that, straight after Hopkins left Twitter for Parler, a number of Tory MPs did the same and publicly announced it. They included Ben Bradley, Steven Baker and Angela Richardson. The New Statesman reported:
In the UK over the last week, Parler has become a major political talking point. Right-wing pundits, such as “Tories like to party too” Brexiteer Emily Hewertson and former Breitbart UK editor Raheem Kassam, have advocated using the app in lieu of Twitter, and at least 13 MPs appear to have created accounts. Conservative activist Darren Grimes posted on Parler last night: “I’ve just heard from Parler there have been 200,000 UK sign ups over recent days,” using the hashtag #Twexit, the app’s reliable rallying cry, which becomes popular every time a new wave of people migrate from Twitter to use it.
If you look at the major trending hashtags there, you realise how racist and hateful this place really is.
It’s Hewertson that is worth noting because she moved there and stated after moving there:
“Parler is brilliant. Such a contrast from the depressing, left-wing echo chamber.”
Just literally a few hours later, in realising what a dubious place it is, she then tweeted:
“Only thing I would say – please don’t use this app as an excuse to be racist. It’s grim.”
Where to now?
The crucial question that needs answering is, what happens now? If Twitter gets an exodus of its right-wing users, you will end up getting a partisan divide in social media, where Parler will be the home of right-winger zealots, and Twitter will be left with lefties and the general, more apathetic public.
Now, users are money. Twitter will not want this, which is why they have dragged their heels on these matters, and you can bet your bottom dollar they are working hard for a solution here. They don’t want a Twexit, even if it is from people who are less than desirable. I have perused Google concerning news for Parler and it is absolutely flooded with articles discussing Parler. They have just hit the jackpot for free press advertising. They’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
But, then again, Parler will become the most glaring example of an echo chamber where the right will be shouting to themselves. Does this serve their political purposes? Will they convince people? What is the long-term business model?How many tentative people will sign up to Parler and then be converted? I’m not sure.
Wikipedia talks about this homophily as follows:
The relation between homophily (a preference for interacting with those with similar traits) and intolerance is manifested when a tolerant person is faced with choosing between either a) a positive relationship with a tolerant individual of a dissimilar out-group, or b) a positive relationship with an intolerant in-group member. In the first case, the out-group relationship is disapproved of by the intolerant in-group member. In the second case, the negative relationship toward the out-group individual is endorsed by the intolerant in-group member. Thus, tolerant group members face being ostracized for their toleration by intolerant members of their in-group, or, in the alternative, being rewarded for demonstrating their out-group intolerance to intolerant members of their in-group.
Things don’t look good for the tolerant, I guess.
The value, in many ways, of places like Twitter is that they represent society in its full cross-section. Indeed, this is an argument for keeping censorship away from it. But the problems with freedom of speech are laid bare: when does it become hate speech and “just too much”? This is a subjective demarcation, and therein lies the problem. What is hateful and offensive to one is not nearly so to another.
And here we have an embodiment of the Paradox of Intolerance.
The Paradox of Intolerance
The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Karl Popper described it as the seemingly paradoxical idea that, “In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” [source]
If one was to allow freedom of speech to the sort of people who would use it to eliminate the very principle upon which that freedom relies, then we have something that appears paradoxical. Different approaches are evident throughout Western nations, where, in Germany and Austria, holocaust denial is illegal, whereas in the States, you can espouse it.
If Twitter doesn’t do something, then the hate spreads insidiously like a plague, but if it does do something, it loses its users who go and take their consumption and potential income to another platform.
It’s all about the money
As ever, any talk about the future of Parler or Twitter becomes a conversation about the money. Twitter predominantly makes its money from advertising:
The record high for advertising revenue came in the last quarter of 2018, at $791 million.
Advertising revenue comes from promoted tweets, accounts, and trends. Twitter uses an algorithm to offer tailored advertising opportunities – targeting the users who might be most interested in any given product or service.
Data licencing and other sources provided $121 million of Twitter revenue – compared to $114 million in Q2 2019 and $108 million in Q3 2018. Twitter’s data licensing business has grown considerably in recent years, though there have been a few stutters.
Parler can also expect this if they don’t get advertiser pushback like we have seen, say, with Tucker Carlson’s show on FOX News. There is a possibility that advertisers could see Parler as toxic. But, then again, if it attracts that many users, corporations will soon have to take note that the general population has a sizeable proportion of not very nice people, and it is financially dangerous to ignore, or even rile, this group. Morality and economics meet for a beer.
When you have residents and MPs, popular pundits and TV personalities endorsing such a platform, it becomes legitimized. And if something is deemed broadly okay, then corporations will advertise there.
However, here’s the rub. Twitter is very public. Tweets are now part of general parlance and are an accepted way of communicating and one expects this to be reported on. If Parler is home to people writing uncensored rants, then if these get out to the public, we will start seeing either a greater accountability of Parler users (who might censor themselves in light of the general public seeing their comments) or advertisers being more willing to pull out.
The problem with much advertising is that many advertisers just don’t know where their name and products are being placed. Advertising online is a complex business, and, yes, many corporations will be poring over the data with a fine-toothed comb, but there will be many businesses happy to not explicitly know that they are using, through intermediaries, Parler as a platform to advertise.
If Parler want to join the big league, then they will surely be formulating a way to navigate advertising and advertisers in a world that also includes Jewish people, black people and Muslims. What is bizarre is that Reuters has reported that some 200,000 Saudis may have joined Parler. They make for interesting bedfellows with Islamaphobes. Reuters finished with a quote from the founder:
“Most of them are getting along very well and share common ground on many issues,” he said. “Some are quickly regretting their views on free speech.”
Heh. I do worry that there are these hate-filled corners of the internet like Gad and Parler, but I don’t know the solution, or what’s better, or even how to measure better? All answers like this seem to be about education and making the world fuller of nice people. And that’s a tough ask.
Stay in touch! Like A Tippling Philosopher on Facebook: