OK, so let’s get back to what happened, and how your generation got screwed. In my view, and you can choose to agree with this theory or not – but there were basically two major events that led to the mess we’re in.
The Rest of the Story...
First, Jimmy Carter, instead of kicking some ass when OPEC jacked up the price of oil, told everyone to just put on a sweater. And when a bunch of Iranian terrorists took over the American Embassy, instead of kicking some ass, he told everyone to just be patient.
And so, in 1980, we got Ronald Reagan.
Now, I don’t care what you think of his politics, or if you’re a conservative or a liberal. I think we can agree that Ronald Reagan was bought and paid for by big business.
• To wit: In spite of the fact that he had been the President of the Screen Actors Guild, mere months after taking office, he fired the entire membership of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, who had the temerity of going on strike for better pay.
• But just remember, this is a guy who was a paid spokesman for General Electric.
Now, why does this matter?
Well, back then, there was a big debate over the social responsibility of corporations.
• On the one hand were people who said that corporations should only be accountable to their shareholders.
• On the other hand were people who said that corporations should be accountable to their workers, their communities, and government regulators, in addition to their shareholders.
Guess which type of people Reagan put into positions of power? And, by the way, Bush and Clinton went down that same path.
• And that how we got Section 230 of the Communications Act – which relieves Internet platforms of any accountability for the content they host.
• And you get Citizens United, which basically says that a fictional creation of the government – which is what a corporation actually is – can influence, through virtually unlimited campaign contributions the very government put in place to regulate it.
Again, I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or you’re completely apolitical. The fact is that, as a result of these two events – and, admittedly, there are a few other factors goosing this thing along - wealth is flowing into big corporations, and up to their leaders.
And there is no practical check on their power.
But this is why what was created as a digital, Worldwide forum for free expression – the Internet – has devolved into an automated conflict generator. Because businesses have figured out how to use it to monetize human nature – in particular, through tribalization and conflict.
Anyway, I’m just a marketing guy. So what does this have to do with marketing?
Simply put, with the early Web, publishers used the Internet as if it was cost-reduced advertising space. They could say what they wanted, of course, but it was a collaborative medium where publishers were ultimately accountable for what they published.
With Web 2.0, however, anything goes. And it’s not collaboration that rules, but conflict. And the more conflict you can generate, especially if you can tribalize your audience, the more money you’ll make.