We Once Thought the Internet Could Liberate Us

By Jason Wilson (November 9, 2018)

1. “MAGAbomber” Cesar Sayoc was an active Twitter user — he used it to spread memes and issue threats. He was well connected with other Trump supporters on the platform.
2. Tree of Life Synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, announced his intentions on Gab, a site that was set up in response to mild and belated attempts to moderate far right accounts on Twitter and other platforms. Bowers palled around with far right influencers on the site.
3. Scott Beierle, who shot up a yoga studio in Tallahassee last Saturday, killing two women and injuring five others, made YouTube videos in which he “railed against women, black people, and immigrants”, according to BuzzFeed. His rants bore all the hallmarks of influence from the “incel” movement, which has flourished online.
4. ABC (US) is reporting that Ian David Long posted nihilistic messages to Instagram as he carried out a massacre in the Borderline Bar and Grill on Thursday.
All of these incidents have happened just in the last couple of weeks.

There is a deep archive of material, scholarly and otherwise — going back at least 25 years — that tried to position the Internet as an inherently liberalizing technology. I wish that I had been clearer, more forthright, and earlier in voicing my misgivings about that idea.


Portland Fighting More Vicious than Charlottesville

By Jason Wilson (July 4, 2018)

I have seen a lot of street confrontations in Portland and elsewhere now. The beat downs I saw last Saturday were among the worst I have seen anywhere.

I don’t want to get into league tables of street violence but the street confrontations were more vicious and plentiful than what I saw in Charlottesville (even though they played out over a much shorter period).

What you see in the video is really alarming. (Those sensitive to violence should know that it’s disturbing content) Several people attacking someone prone on the ground, and refusing to stop when asked (and actually attacking the person intervening). Ask cops, paramedics, or prosecutors exactly how dangerous that is.


People traveled from other states to be part of the Patriot Prayer rally. I counted 60+ people in Proud Boys colours. So where does this situation we have ourselves in the PNW end? I hope it doesn’t end with someone dying. That video shows how close we came to that last Saturday.

I have heard (but can’t confirm) that someone was hospitalised with serious head injuries as a result of a beating on Saturday. We’re getting close to the edge.

People outside the region should pay attention to what is happening here. They should factor it in to any discussions they are having about what is going on in this country right now.


Jason Wilson is a journalist for the Guardian US and Australia, living in Portland.