What Can We Learn from the Death of Gab?

Vox and the Z-Man have posts up on the shutting down of Gab.

http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=15418

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/10/they-cant-say-i-didnt-warn-them_28.html

There are a few ways of talking about this.  First off, we can discuss what is lost by a Gab shutdown.  Personally, I’ve never really completely understood Twitter or Gab.  It just seemed like everyone linking to everyone else but not actually reading the content.  What the actual value of that is escapes me.  I tried reading my linked content many times and found it a muddled mess.  Maybe that’s what happens when a million people are mixed in a blender together.  But I will confess I probably just didn’t know what I was doing.  So, all in all from a personal point of view it won’t actually affect me.  Now, maybe it has actually been useful for other folks for communication and publicity.  If anyone has found it valuable, say so in the comments.  But from my point of view it wasn’t very useful.

The next way we can look at it is what can we learn from how it was shut down.  Andrew Torba was vehement that he wanted freedom of speech to be the defining characteristic of Gab.  That sounds like a laudable ideal.  In practice, however, the content became pretty foul.  There were some pretty crazy people on the site.  Now, it’s unclear how much was just trolling by those looking to destroy Gab and which was legitimate nutbaggery.  But regardless, the result was unpleasant and chaotic.  Not being a Twitter user maybe I’m just unaware that this is par for the course in a social media arena.  If that is so then it sort of reinforces my impression that Twitter and all these social media environments are toxic places that are mostly about battling your enemies for sport.  I run a very different type of website.  It’s a microscopic place compared to Gab (never mind Twitter).  But we have to deal with the same questions of how to regulate the written interactions between real people.  I have the advantage that I can monitor the discussions on my own.  The scope is possible in a small venue.  For a place like Twitter or Gab it becomes expensive and difficult to maintain a consistent policy because of the need for multiple individuals with their individual points of view.  With respect to freedom of speech on my site, I tell people they can speak their minds but keep it reasonable.  Obviously, that isn’t a highly precise statement.  What I’m trying to say is stay within legal and cultural norms.  Different people have different perspectives on those and the only standard that I have to decide on what conforms and what doesn’t is my own judgement.  But that isn’t too different from any other venue where people interact and debate.  I’m guessing that a truly free speech site will always be a sort of giant demolition derby.  If your site is perceived as being on the right-wing it is clear that you will be punished whenever the opportunity presents itself so allowing the crazier individuals to let it all hang out will eventually lead to the situation that occurred at Gab.  So, the lesson to learn is a fully free speech site is not going to happen in the present environment.

And finally, we can look at what should be changed to avoid this waste of resources.  The first thing that comes to mind is an analysis could be done to find out exactly what are the useful functions that a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube serves and how, if at all, they could be replicated in a competing right-wing entity.  I am hardly qualified to do such an analysis but I’ll at least attempt to discuss some of the more obvious answers.  The two most important functions these sites accomplish is communication and commerce.  The sites allow people to find their audience.  To the extent that they are right-wing sites I guess that will help pre-select for the audience intended.  The second function is allowing content creators to monetize their product.  This will be tied into advertising revenue.  From what I’ve heard advertising revenues, even on established giants like YouTube and Instagram, are shrinking drastically.  What I think this all means is that a viable right-wing social media site will be a site where content providers will pay a fee to obtain visibility and the site will provide amenities like video storage space, band-width and some amount of moderation of the trolls.  Eventually, popular content producers will be able to sell advertising on their videos and other content products.  To me this seem to be the future of right-wing social media.  And it seems like a reasonable model.  Eventually the site will develop other ways to monetize its value.  Subscriptions like Netflix and Amazon eventually will be the end state.

So that’s my take on what can be learned from the Gab debacle.  Experience is the cruelest teacher but the most effective.

The Eclectic Prince by Caspar Vega – A Short Book Review

Back on March 14th 2017 I reviewed favorably Mr. Vega’s novella “The Pink Beetle”.  That was the third installment of his “The Young Men in Pain Quartet Book Series.”  The Eclectic Prince is the first installment but the grouping is only thematic and not sequential so you may sample in any order.  As I noted in my earlier book review, Mr. Vega has a very distinct writing style.  He makes sudden transitions and violent plot shifts.  His characters are not introspective but very impulsive and action oriented.  The plot progresses rapidly but rarely linearly.

The first piece of information to convey is that this is an adult book.  There is a fair amount of sexual content that would be entirely inappropriate for even teenagers (in my opinion).  And there are some situations that are fairly disturbing from the point of view of conventional social mores.

Now for some personal information as a point of reference on my taste in books.  Full disclosure, I’m not typically a consumer of dark fiction.  I mostly inhabit the sunnier climes of story-telling.  I will indulge in something like Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs if it’s very well written but it’s not my usual fare.

The Eclectic Prince is relatively dark.  There aren’t any good guys to cheer.  The protagonist at various times indulges in violent assault of a stranger and murder of a family friend.  And there are even darker doings that I will not mention so as not to spoil the story.  Suffice it to say he’s not such a nice guy.  And he’s not even justified in the sense that he’s getting revenge on someone who committed a terrible wrong against him.  He’s just a sociopath.

The outline of the story is episodic and consists of different vignettes that are tied together by the fantasy mechanism that underlines the story.  This mechanism isn’t entirely clear from the text and this vagueness adds to the seeming randomness of the plot.

Let me sum it up.  It’s a dark disturbing story of an unsympathetic protagonist, a kind of story that I would not typically choose to read.

But it’s well written, original and engaging in a transgressive way.  Once again Mr. Vega is in the tradition of a noir type story with a fantasy framework to remove the bizarre story from the realm of reality.  This allows some justification for suspending a very heavy bias against such a disagreeable protagonist.  For those who seek out this type of story I can wholeheartedly recommend it.  It is not for the faint of heart.

I haven’t decided whether to delve deeper into his quartet.  This type of story is, as I stated above, not my typical choice.  But maybe when I’m in a darker mood I’ll venture in again for another dose.

The Pink Beetle – A Short Book Review

The Pink Beetle is a novella (it says it’s about a hundred pages) published independently by author Caspar Vega. It’s listed in the sf&f category but I think I’d call it a noir or mystery story. Mr. Vega is on Gab and I’m interested in things that aren’t sanctioned by the mainstream institutions so I figured I’d give it a try.
Well, it’s definitely different. I think the best way to describe this story is staccato. There is no attempt to use smooth transitions between scenes in the story. There are no bridge elements between the wildly different sections of the book. Beyond this the writing style is extremely spare. The scenes are like sketches. It is minimalist.
With respect to influences on the story I’d say noir is the strongest. Who is this book for? Well I can say who it’s not for. Anyone who is looking for a refined, highly structured literary story does not want The Pink Beetle. This is more like a two-reeler that went before the main attraction at your local movie house when my parents were kids.
So, did I like it? Yeah, I did. He’s got three other books in “The Young Men in Pain Quartet Book Series” and I think I’ll try another one soon. But this is definitely one of those yes or no things. If you don’t go in expecting something that’s more than a little odd and different, you’ll be disappointed. And who knows, even if you are it still might not be your cup of tea.

The Eclectic Prince by Caspar Vega – A Short Book Review