It’s the internet’s fault

A climate of polarization, insults, threats: one has the impression that the debate is degenerating dangerously these days.

Two parliamentarians have publicly lodged a complaint with the police in recent weeks to protect their safety.

The latest is Pascal Bérubé, parliamentary leader of the PQ, to whom an Internet user, on Twitter, said: “You and your spouse will no longer be able to walk. [sic] in the streets [sic] soon. “

The man withdrew his Tweet claiming he didn’t want to threaten the couple.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated act. Prime Minister Legault received more explicit death threats even recently. The police investigated.

Last summer, it was not an elected official, but a key figure in our fight against the pandemic, Dr Horacio Arruda, who was the subject of worrying comments whose author was finally arrested.

  • LISTEN to Antoine Robitaille on QUB radio about the threats received by the interim leader of the Parti Québécois, Pascal Bérubé

Less violence

That citizens threaten politicians in the name of ideologies is nothing new. Just think of the October Crisis of 1970, the kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte. Since then, we have continued to tighten security measures around our elected officials.

Paradoxically, our time is less politically violent than the previous ones.

But the public debate has gained in verbal violence since the advent of the internet for ordinary people in 1995. In the meantime, social networks have been added.

Inventions in many ways fabulous; so practical in fact that they rivet us to our screens for work, to communicate, to entertain us, to pay our bills, etc.

This obsessive online life, however, has perverse effects. It brings each of us together in our abstract communities of interest. Which can end up locking us up. The other who does not belong to this niche becomes a wicked, hateful being. All the more so since he dares to question the small “certainties” that the niche strengthens and allegedly confirms with distorted, misled or tampered with information.

In addition, we can, in a click, send to graze the “bad guy” who we come to forget is a real person. Before, you had to at least take a piece of paper, write, buy a stamp, mail the letter …

“You are too much of the FakeNews cellar to realize that this plot is Chinese. An act of war, ”one reader wrote to me recently. Posters of the same water, betraying the Americanization of our debates (another by-product of the internet), are legion in the demonstrations against the wearing of masks.

“Information superhighways”

The era of mass media had many flaws, but we were at least forced at one point or another to step out of our niches.

How to fight the falsehoods which have found an infinite number of paths to the extremes (right and left) on the “information superhighways” (to use an archaism betraying the naivety of the 1990s)? By developing “digital hygiene”; by leaving its “niches”; by cultivating the art of nuance; by refusing to obey the injunction to be indignant. I know it: easier said than done.

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