If Glenn Beck keeps a J. Edgar Hoover-esque blacklist under his bed pillow, journalist Rory O’Connor is probably on it, appearing before Nancy Pelosi and George Soros. O’Connor’s progressive bona fides are extensive: Alternet reporter, Huffington Post blogger, media watchdog, and author of Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio, a 2008 book that took populist demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to task for trading in sexist, racist, and homophobic hate-mongering. Four years later, the rabble-rousers of broadcast radio may seem a dying breed — angry old men fomenting their way to irrelevance through a fading medium — but their dubious tactics and principles live on, and their vitriol can be broadcast around the world in an instant. For O’Connor, the tools that enable this present an opportunity but also a threat to civil society. In his new book Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media Are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media, O’Connor turns a skeptical yet pragmatic eye to the likes of Facebook. He examines how such online networks empower citizens to create counternarratives to bullshit punditry, political spin, and corporate PR, while warning of the dystopian echo chamber they could realize, where every citizen becomes a bullshitting pundit, partisan hack, or corporate flak.
Tue., May 1, 7 p.m., 2012