In twenty years, the Internet has transformed all of humanity. Although not every person interacts with the Internet directly, few have escaped its influence on those who have.
The Internet has made it easier for people to connect, or to communicate without really connecting, or to interact deceitfully. This on a world-wide scale that has grown so quickly, we rarely step back and seek the historical perspective.
The Internet made it easier for joiners to join. It united larger numbers of apparently like-minded people than ever before. It also helped loners to find loners, creating small groups of peculiarly-minded people that never could have existed before.
Long before the Internet, there was concern that the world had become more interconnected and more quickly connected. This centered on the spread of disease and was based on the speed of flight. Half a century later, the Internet spreads its mutations of the mind at the speed of light. Only now, strife trumps ebola.
The one constant in conflicts around the world today is the rise in number and power of social divisions best described as tribal. These seek political power in an overcrowded world, inevitably manifesting itself in violent forms, from dissent to genocide.
Tribal web sites, like all social media, want numbers. While their size and focus are the opposite of big social media, their ability to connect people is similarly expedited by the Internet.
The “likes” transmitted to these small but excessively extreme sites are more intensive than the “likes” on Facebook and its ilk. Without the Internet, loners connected to these small, unique sites would probably remain alone, rarely making the news.
Not all loners are sociopaths, nor are they all connecting. The Internet has surely brought together more ordinary, lonely people than dangerous loners. But it’s not simple arithmetic. Good connections don’t balance the evil from connecting bad people.
The factions produced by tribal-like activity does not aim to become mass movements. They seek to destroy, dominate, frighten, or otherwise influence both individuals and groups.
Tribal activity comes in many shapes and sizes, and its methods are covert. Their use of the Internet for recruitment, publicity, and funding is highly overt and very sophisticated.
They do not concern themselves with broad public opposition since they believe it cannot stop or even slow their fanatical goals. They believe, as they foolishly used to say in Hollywood, there is no such thing as bad publicity.