Twitter and the “Two Minutes Hate”

Another of the many, many reflections on the big story of the weekend.

In 1984, George Orwell famously described a totalitarian political order in which people were kept as docile subjects in part by a daily ritual called “Two Minutes Hate” in which the population directs all of its pent up fury at “Goldstein,” a possibly fictional enemy of the state.

Thanks to Twitter, we now know that the same dynamic can arise spontaneously, with fresh ire directed at a new manifestation of the partisan enemy nearly every day. It shows us that under certain circumstances — our circumstances — people can and will fasten onto an endless succession of real-life Goldsteins for the sheer, addictive joy of it — for the pure, delirious pleasure of denouncing manifestations of evil in our midst. Nothing, it seems, is quite as satisfying as singling out our fellow citizens for their moral failings and indulging in fantasies of their fully justified punishment.

We see this on the right, we see it on the left, and we increasingly see it among ostensibly nonpartisan journalists. No matter where it originates on the political spectrum, it is an impulse we indulge at our peril. — Damon Linker, How Twitter could be the death of liberal democracy (The Week)