A gobsmackingly inept piece in the Daily Mail by Dominic Lawson seeks to blame the Pittsburgh synagogue murders partly on the social media site Gab.
The social media site Gab had been rapidly identified as the platform used by Robert Bowers, the virulent anti-Semite arrested for the killings.
And so, on its Twitter account, Gab boasted yesterday: ‘We have been getting 1 million hits an hour all day.’
There could be no clearer illustration of the way in which the social media monetise the propagation of vile abuse. Gab is a minnow compared with Facebook and Twitter, but its business model is the same. It is just a bit more honest in admitting it.
Lawson — son of ex-Exchequer Lord Lawson, brother of Nigella — is normally one of Britain’s most reliable and insightful conservative commentators, but he clearly does not understand either the internet or the culture wars.
While it is perfectly true that Robert Bowers was on Gab, he had few followers, and the idea that the site had any influence on what he did is laughable.
Of course, it suits the left-wing media to pretend otherwise because that is part of its mission: To close down any sites where conservative voices are not censored by Silicon Valley’s house left-wing activists — hence, for example, the hit job in the New York Times, headlined “On Gab, an Extremist-Friendly Site, Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect Aired His Hatred in Full.”
What is very disappointing, though, is to see a conservative columnist playing the same game in a conservative newspaper.
Lawson is 61 and not, I’m guessing, a regular user of social media. If he were, I’m sure that as a conservative, it would not take him long to work where the battle lines are really drawn on the internet: Between the censorious, controlling, politically correct sultans of Silicon Valley on the one side, freedom of speech on the other.
This isn’t to say that he’s not right to hate on Twitter and Facebook and the rest, as he does at various points in his article.
What’s almost entirely missing, though, is an understanding of perhaps the key political conflict of our age: The culture wars.
As a conservative, Lawson should be absolutely livid at the way the left cynically exploited the furor surrounding those awful murders in Pittsburgh to shut down (only temporarily, let us hope) Gab by bullying its platform provider.
Instead, here he is shaking his fist at something he does not understand, like your granddad explaining what an awful racket dubstep is.
If this is the best the conservative mainstream media can do when covering tech, it is no wonder it is being seen as increasingly irrelevant.