The War on Reputations

There’s a new Civil War in progress and nobody’s winning. This Civil War is all about destroying the reputations of political partys, politicians, news media, government institutions, and ordinary people who have found themselves in extraordinary situations.

This is a many-sided war with battles being fought over the reputations of participants. In politics, it’s about Republicans vs Democrats and who will bend the government to their will while it loots USA national treasure for its party.

Outside of national politics, it’s about the reputations of celebrities, businesses and their leaders, and the burgeoning growth of internet personalities. The destroyers attack the reputations of famous people, the reputations of historical events, and the reputations of religion, morality, and financial institutions. And they especially attack the reputations of hard work, civility, deferred gratification, and common decency.

The weaponization of social media is the suitcase bomb of the 90s. The tools of social media allow everyone to become a potential bomb maker and everyone else a potential bomb thrower. In the hands of irresponsible people, the innocent-and-imperfect are attacked with weapons in which there is no defense. There is no defense from the lies that are told or the misrepresentations of the truth. It is scorched earth warfare.

The War on Reputations is an ugly war. It is anarchy on the internet. A “hater” chooses a target and launches his/her hate bomb. Others pick up the same material and fashion it for their own purpose. When government or businesses attempt to stop the bombmakers, other haters attack those same governments and those same businesses and accuse them of denying free speech or being fascist, communist, anti-this, or a sympathizer for that.

The only way to win this war is either not to play the game (a la War Games) or become totalitarian and control the content. For humankind, it appears that controlling the content is the only viable option. Self-control is preferred but “from the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Just as newspapers and magazines controlled the content of their publications, the ISPs may be required to control the content in their e-publications.

Accusations and mudslinging will need an outside force to control them. And that is exactly what many fear.

The legislation that controls the content of the US internet will be foreboding at best; but to live with a free market of smearing, sneering, and fleering seems impossible. To give every person access to social media bomblets and permit the desecration of the innocent-and-imperfect seems too permissive. Not everyone is an adult and not everyone is equal. We should recognize that.

The War on Reputations could use a few Rules of Social Media Warfare and violations of those rules should likely become Social Media War Crimes with attendant consequences. Perhaps a new Geneva Convention is needed to craft those rules.

Any takers?