Donald Trump has now been permanently suspended from Twitter and indefinitely banned from Facebook and Instagram, among other platforms, leading to a cacophony of public comments on free speech, digitally facilitated fascism, and the roles and responsibilities of social media companies in democratic governance. Many scholars in my field appear to be particularly frustrated, as they have been studying and voicing caution about these implications for years.
Well, perhaps not to that extent, but I have written a few papers around these subjects myself, and I thought I’d highlight one in particular, in a sort of here-is-my-SoundCloud way. In 2017, my colleague Alison and I identified four directions of travel with regard to to free speech in the digital era.
Weaponisation of beliefs, opinions, and “alternative facts”
Content sharing as a speech act
Privatisation of censorship
Deliberate ambiguity, voluntary invisibility, and self-censorship as a strategic repertoire
Yes, this post is about that WSJ op-ed. Since its publication about 30 hours ago, it has kept turning up in my Twitter timeline, like a bad penny. I must have seen it at least 100 times. I guess this tells me a lot about the skewed composition of my social media bubbles. Anyway, I enjoy self-deprecating jokes, and I even have a collection of ‘not-a-real-doctor’ routines, but this piece grates on me on many levels.
If Dr Biden and Professor Cato have to put up with this kind of 어그로, what chance do I have? And what about those 70+ female students in my class who have just embarked on their journey to become a Doctor of Philosophy?
I don’t think I have met a Joseph Epstein myself (yet), but I have noticed something along the way. Those who have told me that they are not precious about their titles are all men and those who have suggested that I should put mine explicitly in my email signature and PowerPoint slides are all women. A tiny sample obviously, but no exception so far. Once I have realised this pattern, I find myself thinking about it regularly.
I don’t know if this is a thing at the moment, but I have noticed in my social media timelines, both in Korean and in English, that people are competitively sharing memories from their childhood that a young person of today would not understand. (What has shocked me most is that children have an entirely different hand gesture for ‘being on the phone’. 🤯)
I naturally have quite a lot to offer on the topic, but perhaps I will choose two for now.
There was a phone number you could dial just to find out what time it was.
A rock star that I was a fan of when I was about 12 lived with his parents, and their home phone number was available from directory enquiries.
A colleague I admire has shared on Facebook her experience of being a recipient of corporal punishment in school in India. A lot of comments have followed, echoing the post. I haven’t chimed in myself, but I could have. After all, I am no stranger to the topic, having gone through the South Korean schooling system.
One thing, however, that seems to set my memories apart from what’s shared in the post and comments is collective punishment. Teachers set a task, where some are bound to fail, and if anyone does fail, the entire class gets punished, usually physically.
They might have thought they were raising collective-minded citizens, but in reality, they were simply programming kids to loathe the weakest link the group. I regularly think about that giant psychological experiment we were subjected to, how the practice still prevails in schools and military bases, and how it has shaped Korean society as it is.