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Manny’s: Antisocial: A Conversation with New Yorker Writer Andrew Marantz
October 17, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz sits down for a conversation on technology and the rise of a new traditional media.
How has social media supplanted traditional media?
What does it mean that we are trusting social media for our news more than typical news sources?
Has the relationship because social media, traditional media, and politics turned into a toxic soup?
Where is this all going and have we passed a point of no return?
New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz has just come out with a book on the topic where he interviewed folks at the epicenter of social media to take stock of where we are. See Andrew’s latest feature article in the New Yorker, Silicon Valley’s Crisis of Conscience and we’ll see you at the talk. Andrew will be signing his book afterwards.
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About the Book:For several years, New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz has been embedded in two worlds. The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs—the new gatekeepers of Silicon Valley—who upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information with little forethought, but heaps of reckless ambition. The second is the world of the people he calls the gate-crashers—the conspiracists, white supremacists, and nihilist trolls who have become experts at using social media to advance their corrosive agenda.
In ANTISOCIAL: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and theHijacking of the American Conversation (Viking; October 8, 2019), Marantz weaves these two worlds together to create a sweeping, unsettling portrait of today’s America—online and IRL.ANTISOCIAL reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in the deeply broken informational landscape in which we all now live. In candid conversations with the B.S.B.s—or Big Swinging Brains—of Silicon Valley, Marantz discovers a selective community of techno-utopians who took Mark Zuckerberg’s motto, “Move Fast and Break Things,” to heart. Viewing their role as disruptors to be free of any responsibility to actually monitor the tools they have built, they either choose not to police their users’ actions or, in many cases, don’t know where to begin. In fact, such policing is often seen as antithetical to the nature of our one true democracy—the internet. Marantz discussed these issues with Eli Pariser, co-founder of UpWorthy; Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, co-founders of Reddit; and Emerson Spartz, founder of MuggleNet and the viral media company Dose, among others. Spartz’s words in his first meeting with Marantz would appear to be prophetic: “If you could make ideas go viral, you could tip elections, overthrow dictators, start movements, revolutionize industries. The ability to spread a meme to millions of people, is the closest you can come to a superpower.”
In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, it became apparent that something was happening online. On Facebook for instance, while many of the traditional gatekeepers to information—like Reason, Foreign Affairs, the Nation, and more—were seeing less engagement with readers, other, darker corners of the platform were thriving. Most people view social media as a reflection of popular will and interest, but the virality industry is built on a large number of small human choices. At every step, there are people behind the curtain, and ahead of the election, someone was attempting to drag the notion of a Trump presidency from the fringes into the realm of the imaginable. But who were these new virologists?Enter the gate-crashers. Marantz spent years analyzing how alienated young people are led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization, and how fringe ideas spread—from anonymous corners of social media to cable TV to the President’s Twitter feed. Along the way, he met with the men and women responsible for it all. He ate breakfast at the Trump SoHo with self-proclaimed “internet supervillain” Milo Yiannopoulos; toured a rural Illinois junkyard with freelance Twitter propagandist Mike Cernovich; drank in a German beer hall with white nationalist Mike Enoch; and shadowed histrionic far-right troll Lucian Wintrich during his first week as a White House press correspondent. Marantz also spent hundreds of hours talking to people who were ensnared in the cult of web-savvy white supremacy—and to a few who managed to get out.
When Marantz returns to the new gatekeepers in Silicon Valley, and witnesses them trying to reckon with the forces they’ve unleashed, he wonders: Will they be able to solve the communication crisis they helped bring about, or are their interventions too little too late?
About the Author:
Andrew Marantz, a staff writer, has contributed to The New Yorker since 2011. His first book, “Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation,” about social media and the mainstreaming of fringe politics, will be published in the fall.