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How social media makes us antisocial

Andrew Marantz and I discuss the symbiotic relationship between social media platforms and the alt-right.

Zac Freeland/Vox

Andrew Marantz is a writer at the New Yorker who, for years, has been deeply immersed in the world of conservative trolls, alt-right social media personalities, and online conspiracy theorists. His most recent book Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation has been viewed as a brilliant ethnography of the bizarre universe that is the alt-right.

But today on The Ezra Klein Show I sat down with him for a different reason: Somehow, these folks have figured out how to manipulate the social media ecosystem that frames our political discourse. Thus, they represent an important window into understanding how that ecosystem functions, who it advantages, and where it dramatically falls short. We discuss:

  • Why Mark Zuckerberg’s defenses of Facebook so obviously fail
  • Where the conversation about “free speech” in America went completely off the rails
  • How alt-right personality Mike Cernovich cracked social media algorithms to influence the 2016 news cycle
  • What Marantz calls the “primary laws of social media mechanics” and how they can be manipulated to bring out the worst in human nature
  • Why conflict has become the primary way to garner attention and influence online while more constructive social interactions remain in obscurity
  • How a kid from a progressive, upper-middle-class family became one of the nation’s leading neo-Nazis
  • The role the social justice left plays in fomenting online extremism

And much more.

You can listen to this conversation — and others — by subscribing to The Ezra Klein Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Marantz’s book recommendations:

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty

The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

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