The core of the geek community is rabidly hostile to anything that smacks of censorship, and militantly favors radical free expression. Their influence is not always recognized by the broader consumer public. These two groups overlap some, but it’s hard to measure. What we see on the Net is a thin veneer of mindless consumerism hiding a very dark and powerful faction that could and would readily destroy the whole thing.
Big Technology is fully aware of this tension. They have to walk a tightrope, but there are too many bigshots who forget or imagine they have the power to ignore the geeks. But it turns out that the geeks have a very real power to ignore the windbags among tech titans and proceed with whatever the hell they please. Companies that tried to push the geeks out, or who tried to cherry pick the ones they wanted, tried to tame them with corporate culture, are the ones we remember vaguely, now gone from the scene. The core of entrepreneurial vitality makes room for the antisocial geeks, even in what passes for their boardrooms.
This is the new wave of activism; this is the real deal. It’s not so much they are right-wing, but an odd mixture of libertarian and liberal influences that defy easy characterization. To the mainstream, the geeks seem often juvenile, pushing the social boundaries for the sheer fun of shocking the mainstream. It’s a mistake to imagine they’ll grow out of it. One man’s puerile is another man’s moral responsibility. The geek is whole new thing previously not possible before the Internet.
The one thing they will not tolerate is the social justice warrior (SJW) movement. It’s not just lampooning, but open spite and persecution of the SJW snowflakes. They have driven executives out of their high-paid positions by merciless harassment. They pick their battles rather well. Quite often they are content to wound their targets without trying to finish them off. Still, their true power has yet to be seen.
Despite the geeks animosity toward SJWs, that is mere entertainment compared to the very real threat of corporate censorship. I note in passing that geeks would not hesitate to read something on an openly socialist website; their actual politics are eclectic. It’s much more useful to understand their moral philosophy, and to keep a very cynical eye toward established political institutions. Unilever is seeking to use their economic leverage to oppress and silence free expression, a cardinal sin in the eyes of the geek community.
This is all part of our proper understanding of the coming tribulation as the West crumbles and the Networked Civilization rises to take its place. The geeks reflect the core values of a networked society. A significant portion of Big Technology companies are still too much a part of the dying Western materialist world. Their recalcitrance is what will make it so painful for all of us. And you can be sure the geeks are watching them. To the degree Unilever adheres to this evil plan, they will face serious push-back from the geeks.
Unilever names their co-conspirators. You’ll notice that Facebook has wavered a great deal. Zuckerberg wants the mainstream money, but his geek roots won’t let him forget where he came from without paying a very high price. So FB has lost a significant portion of its audience in the past year because of this very real defiance of the geeks’ unlimited free expression. Google has been walking a tightrope and is wobbling. Twitter is on the verge of collapse, though it may not be obvious.
The old advertisement based model of funding is dying quickly. Get used to the idea of micro-payments and other forms of support. Get used to a wide array of small independent operations, and quite a few more who look for ways to participate with the likes of Amazon and remain mostly free. We live in a time when all it takes is a few missteps alienating the geeks and a massive corporation can simply die, replaced with something else, maybe a lot somethings.
Unilever has just painted a huge target on themselves.