Common Sense with Dominick Bonny – Hate, Inc. Part I


Join Dominick Bonny as he takes a look at toxic internet culture and what happens when it mixes with toxic gun culture and how we can work together to make the internet less awful and our society safer for everyone. Part I of a two-part series.

Common Sense with Dominick Bonny - Hate, Inc. Part I

Common Sense with Dominick Bonny - Hate, Inc. Part I

Common Sense with Dominick Bonny- Hate, Inc. Transcript and Sources


Hello and welcome to Common Sense. I’m Dominick Bonny and the title of today’s episode is Hate, Incorporated. That’s because we’re going to take a look at an issue that concerns all Americans, and affects our lives on a daily basis. It’s an issue many Americans see eye to eye on, even if they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. It is also one of the big reasons why our society is so polarized. It’s a favorite tool of terrorist recruiters from international organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda as well as domestic terrorist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. It has been instrumental in the radicalization of millions of our fellow Americans and played a big role in the communication prior to and organization of the attack on the capitol on January sixth. Of course, I’m talking about Big Tech, specifically social media. Recently some of Silicon Valley’s most recognizable CEOs went before Congress to defend their industry and yet again spurn any attempts at meaningful regulation. It was the same old song and dance we’ve seen before, but in the wake of the capitol attack and the subsequent banning of former president Donald Trump from social media platforms, the stakes were higher. Democrats wanted to nail Mark Zuckerberg to the wall for Facebook’s role in the insurrection and Republicans wanted to nail both Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to the wall for banning Trump, as well as what they view as censorship of conservative voices on their platforms. (gesture to open space) Can you believe that this guy started Facebook as a tool to judge the hotness of college girls? This guy, right here, who presumably looks in a mirror every day, thought “You know what I should do? Create a tool for ranking other people’s looks.” The irony… Anyway, that’s a general summary of most of the lines of questioning these captains of modern industry faced, but there were some in congress who took different lines of attack, like Cathy McMorris Rogers, from our state’s 5th congressional district here in Eastern Washington. She deftly avoided echoing the sycophantic screed against cancel culture and hit upon an issue that has bipartisan support: concern over how these companies exploit and profit off children and teens. She said quote “Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent.” and later asked the question quote “What will it take for your business model to stop harming children? I know I speak for millions of moms when I say we need answers and we will not rest until we get them.” endquote

She raised concerns that social media is leading to greater rates of depression and suicide among teens, which is an important problem and one cracking down on social media companies might help alleviate. Now, I don’t find myself in the position of complimenting Cathy McMorris Rodgers often, but credit where credit is due: it was a masterful line of questioning that brings up a serious issue, and one that can only be solved by better understanding and regulation of an industry that has gone too long without proper government oversight. And that’s what I want to talk about today – how we change the systems that run the internet to make it less awful. Because it can be done! We’ll get into the details of that might work later, but first I want to go deeper than just focusing on the easy targets that are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Showcasing how terrible they are isn’t that hard, but there is a lot more that goes into making the internet the awful place that we all know and hate. It all starts with 26 words in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says that companies that operate online forums cannot be considered publishers of the posts that others put on their sites. Therefore those companies cannot be held legally responsible for any of the content users post to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Parler, YouTube or whatever. The key portion of Section 230 reads, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Here’s ad media expert Mark Douglas explaining why Section 230 is so important on The News with Shephard Smith.  Now there are exceptions, like for instance users are not free to post about child sex trafficking, but other than that and some other egregious things, it’s pretty much the wild west. Which is why you see such a huge variation in what types of content is allowed from platform to platform. What might get you banned from Facebook or Twitter might barely register on the radar of the moderators of sites like Reddit and Four Chan. That’s why Four Chan and the chimera it belched out called Eight Chan then went on to spawn movements like QAnon, which, bringing it back full circle, was instrumental in the January sixth capital attacks. I don’t want to spend a whole episode on QAnon because frankly, gross, but if you’re interested in knowing more about what has become a defacto umbrella organization for many of the right-wing conspiracy theories you see filter through to quote-unquote “mainstream media,” (whatever that means anymore) you can check out the new HBO documentary called Q: Into the Storm, which is ok as far as an overview, but it completely misses the mark in its failure to take the movement seriously. For a better and more contextual better deep dive into QAnon is the Q Clearance: The Hunt for QAnon Podcast by the independent British journalist Jake Hanrahan. Or if you don’t have that kind of time, disinformation expert Abbie Richards breaks the entire concept of QAnon down in an interesting and entertaining way on Tik Tok and on Twitter. You can get a link to all three of those sources in the show notes if you go to NCWLIFE dot com and find Common Sense in the full episodes tab. Like I said, I don’t want to spend a whole episode on this cancer to our body politic, but it should be noted that this malignant amorphous group which is repackaging age-old anti-Semitic tropes going back to medieval Europe has led to the breakup and estrangement of many American families and is so mainstream at this point that there are at least two members of Congress who count themselves among the followers of Q. So it’s not something to dismiss or laugh off, and it’s not going away because Trump is. It’s just morphing into its next form. But back to the issue of moderation. Now that we know a little bit more about Section 230, I want to talk about stacked power and how even though we only see big names like Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey in the hot seat at congressional hearings, the business of moderating content is actually approached by companies on five different levels, or stacks, of the internet. The first level is the platforms themselves, the websites and apps containing user-generated content and goods and services for sale, like Facebook and Twitter. The second level is cloud services, file storage, web hosting and computer processing power available on the Internet. They also moderate content to certain extent, and every once in a while you’ll see a pedophile get caught trying to save or share illegal photos or video files via the cloud. They get caught because those cloud services do some very basic moderation. The third level is the content delivery networks, which provide delivery services like video streaming and protection from cyberattacks. The fourth is the domain registrars, which allow sites to register domain names and ensure Web traffic goes to the right place. And the fifth level is the ISPs, or internet service providers, which are companies that provide internet and phone services. If the companies that register your domain or host your website decide your platform is too toxic and decide to deny you their services, that is also a form of moderation and that’s exactly what happened to the first version of Parler. Amazon and Apple decided to cut ties with the platform after the insurrection and within days it had vanished from the internet, only to remerge hosted by quote-unquote “independent technology.” The saga of Parler shows how much power companies that control apps, domains, and web hosting can be when they choose to flex their muscles. Now I know that was a lot of ground to cover before the first break, but it is necessary because after we come back I want to talk about how the digital culture we are all a part of contributes to and exacerbates problems like gun violence, hate crime and extremism across the political and religious spectrums. One of the keys to addressing those issues lies in addressing this one. And there is realistic hope for making the internet less awful. Stay tuned after the break.


Welcome back, as more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, our children return to the classroom and the economy comes back online we are also seeing the return of a grim yet entirely preventable hallmark of modern American life: mass shootings. On March 16, a series of mass shootings occurred at three spas or massage parlors in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, and one other person was wounded. A suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was taken into custody later that day. According to police, Long said he was motivated by a quote-unquote “sexual addiction” that was at odds with his religious beliefs. He had previously spent time in an evangelical treatment clinic for sex addiction. After the shootings, Long was charged with four counts of murder in Atlanta, and four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in Cherokee County. Now there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the shooter was actually motivated by racial animus toward Asians, or if he was a misogynist who just hated and objectified women. It’s probably a mix, and we may never know what was in his heart or his mind when he went on that rampage, but what we do know is that 58 percent of Asian Americans and 45 percent of African Americans believe that racist views toward them had increased since the pandemic, according to a June 2020 Pew Research study. And those numbers are from June of last year, just imagine what they would be if that poll was taken today. Rather than waste time speculating what the motivations of the Atlanta shooter were, I think it is more important to listen to what people of color have to say about this topic. Let’s take a look at this piece from Bloomberg News about the rise in anti-Asian hate crime featuring an interview with a woman in Oakland, California who was a victim herself. 

Then on March twenty-second in Boulder, Colorado another mentally unstable young man with a gun killed 10 people, including a police officer, in a King Soopers grocery store. The suspect 21-year-old Ahmad Al-Alissa allegedly used a Ruger AR-556 pistol, which he had bought on March 16, just six days before the attack. Which was the same day as the Atlanta massacre. These two shootings were a sobering reminder of pre-pandemic life in America, where it seems like there was a shooting every week in this country. And it’s a reminder that guns and mentally unstable people with violent tendencies or urges can be as potent and explosively dangerous as a bomb, literally. And it seems like we have almost become numb to these mass casualty events perpetrated nearly one hundred percent of the time by an individual male who was radicalized on the internet. I am just old enough to remember before the Columbine shooting, which also took place in Colorado, in April 1999. I remember how that event shook the nation and really made an impression on people. Since Columbine, there have been 304 more school shootings in this country since then. And that’s just school shootings! According to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as firearm violence resulting in at least four people being shot at roughly the same time and location (excluding the perpetrator) there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013. That’s roughly one per day! Now I’m not saying all of those shootings were done because someone was radicalized on the internet, but what I am saying is that enough of them are and we take a hard look at the internet-to-massacre pipeline. Take, for instance, Dylann Roof, who in 2015 during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killed nine people, all African Americans. According to Wikipedia, three days after the shooting, a website titled “The Last Rhodesian” was discovered and later confirmed by officials to be owned by Roof. The website contained photos of Roof posing with symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism, along with a manifesto in which he outlined his views toward black people, among other peoples. He also claimed in the manifesto to have developed his white supremacist views after reading about the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin and black-on-white crime. There’s that famous victimhood complex we see so often from right-wing extremists. He was radicalized by the killing of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a security guard named George Zimmerman, a man who later sold the gun he killed Martin with for $250,000, according to CBS News. So a black kid gets shot and the guy who did the shooting gets away with it and gets a big payday, plus it actually helps to radicalize a future mass murderer who will target black folks. File under: things that could only happen in America. 

Cut to El Paso, on August 5, 2019, a shooting at a sprawling shopping complex in El Paso leaves at least 20 people dead, including seven Mexican citizens. Another victim, Jordan Anchondo, 24, died while shielding her 2-month-old son, her aunt told CNN. Her husband, Andre, 23, was also killed in the shooting. The family was shopping for school supplies when the gunman opened fire. That gunman posted an online manifesto espousing his racist ideology on the far-right website 8chan before the shooting. 8chan, as you will recall from earlier in the episode is the website that became a home for QAnon and according to Robert Evans at the open-source investigative firm Bellingcat, some users on 8chan’s board dedicated to politics have a single purpose, and that is quote “to radicalize their fellow anons to ‘real-life effortposting,’ i.e. acts of violence in the physical world.” endquote. 

8Chan is such a pariah that its owners have to run the site off servers in the Philippines, partially to avoid regulation and partially because the site’s owner Ron Watkins is the kind of guy who seems to value a country with a relaxed approach to its legal system, in all sorts of areas. Not all websites are as obscure, fringe and downright hard to find. Yet hate and extremism still thrives on more mainstream platforms like YouTube and Facebook, even after all the measures those companies say they have taken in the last year, once the extremism genie had fully emerged from its bottle. According to the Washington Post, nearly one in 10 people in a recent study conducted by them viewed at least one piece of extremist content on YouTube. The study directly measured the browsing habits of a diverse national sample of 915 participants. They found that more than 9 percent viewed at least one YouTube video from a channel that has been identified as extremist or white supremacist; meanwhile, 22 percent viewed one or more videos from “alternative” channels, defined as non-extremist channels that serve as possible gateways to fringe ideas. Facebook too has tightened its rules against violence, hate and misinformation in the past year. In October, it banned QAnon groups across its platform. Before that, it would remove them only if they expressly supported violence. It has also banned extremist and militia movements and boogaloo groups, with varying degrees of success. According to the AP, Avaaz, a nonprofit advocacy group that says it seeks to protect democracies from misinformation, identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that it says spread violence-glorifying material in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. The group said that Facebook’s failures quote “helped sweep America down the path from election to insurrection.” endquote

But if you think that these extremist ideas and fringe nonsense circulating on the internet doesn’t really impact this community, think again. In September 2019 someone or a group of people distributed flyers with the all-caps headline “NO WHITE GUILT” on 9th Street in Wenatchee, which includes part of the Wenatchee Valley College campus. Below the headline was a list of websites, some labeled “anti-white” and others under the label “pro-white.” An official from the Wenatchee Police Department said the flyers linked to websites they described as likely being “offensive” to some. I got my hands on one of the flyers myself and took a look. I can say that the xenophobic, jingoistic trash the links below the headline led to were the predictable, tedious work of sad, small people. I won’t bore you with the details, but the basic message was: “White culture is under threat by (fill in the blanks – immigrants, people of color, Muslims, etc.) and we can’t sit back and let them replace us.” I interviewed some people of color about how pamphleting like that made them feel and wrote about it in a piece called “What ‘No White Guilt’ Means to People Who Are Not White” and you can find a link to that in the show notes as well. I wanted to bring this instance up not because it was an act of violence, but because it shows how white supremacist and extremist ideology bubbles up even here in our bucolic community. As recently as February, a state DOT crew had to remove a Swastika that was spray-painted on the retaining wall beside a portion of the Apple Capital Loop Trail’s Hydro Park extension in East Wenatchee. Between these two instances and the creepy stalking behavior encouraged and exhibited by some self-styled militia people in this community in response to completely peaceful protests for racial equality last summer, I think it is safe to say there is a disturbing amount of extremism right here in the Wenatchee Valley. 

Now, this brings me to the OTHER elephant in the room, which is obviously, access to guns and their role in our culture. In an article in Foreign Policy Magazine titled “How Does Online Racism Spawn Mass Shooters?” deputy editor James Palmer ends the piece with this quote “And, of course, the unique U.S. permissiveness with gun ownership empowers killers. Virtually every other developed country that has experienced a mass shooting has passed stricter gun laws in the aftermath. In the United States, with 251 mass shootings in 2019 alone, they have remained a political impossibility.” endquote. But why? According to a recent poll from Data for Progress and Vox, Americans are broadly in favor of regulations on assault weapons and background checks for gun purchases. The poll, conducted March 19-21 (after the shootings in Atlanta but before the shooting in Boulder, Colorado), surveyed 1291 likely voters and has a 3 percentage point sampling margin of error. A third of respondents said they have a gun in the home. According to Vox, When asked if they would support “a bill that would require a background check for all gun purchases,” 65 percent of respondents said yes, with just 27 percent opposed — including 48 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents. When asked about “banning the manufacture, possession, and sale of semi-automatic guns, known as assault rifles,” 61 percent were in favor — including 45 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents. And Vox says these findings are consistent with other surveys showing majority support for these measures. But that’s just a poll. Polls change because people’s opinions and priorities change, and what isn’t clear is if those gun control measures nationwide would even work to address the problem. The fundamental reality about the US gun problem is that it’s a function of how many guns Americans have. Heavily reducing that stockpile may be the only way to significantly reduce America’s out of control gun deaths, as Vox’s German Lopez has highlighted in his reporting on the issue, quote “Gun control policies that don’t confront the core issue — that America simply has too many guns — are doomed to merely nibble around the edges. Everywhere in the world, people get into arguments. Every country has residents who are dangerous to themselves or others because of mental illness. Every country has bigots and extremists. But here, it’s uniquely easy for a person to obtain a gun, letting otherwise tense but nonlethal conflicts escalate into deadly violence.” endquote 

And that’s where it’s important to provide context when it comes to how guns are killing Americans. In 2018, the most recent year for which data are available as of 2021, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics report more than 38 thousand deaths by firearm, of which more than 24 thousand were by suicide. That’s huge, and it means the problem is so much more complex than just passing common sense gun control regulations at the federal level. The total number of guns in this country would have be reduced to make a real dent in that nearly 40 thousand deaths per year. And then we have to do something about the fact that almost 25 thousand Americans wanted to use guns against themselves in 2018. The total number of suicides in 2018 reached nearly 50,000. On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. And this is where it’s appropriate to talk about the intersection of mental health and gun violence, not as a deflection or a pivot away from having an honest conversation about gun control. But rather in the context of asking the question why so many of our fellow Americans want to harm themselves? And it begs the question, what kind of mental health issues and other health problems could be addressed before they reached chronic levels if we had a single payer healthcare system like other developed countries around the world. As many on the right like to say, a gun is just a tool. Yes! It’s an extremely dangerous tool that literally has one purpose and can end a life in an instant. Don’t even get me started on accidental child deaths because of unsecured firearms. Any way you want to slice it it’s plain as day that common sense gun control works in other countries, but new laws don’t address how many guns are already in this country. Or our increasingly toxic relationship with an object that has gone from a necessary tool for survival for many Americans throughout our nation’s short and brutal history to expensive vanity items that gives their owners a sense of power. And if you don’t believe me just take a look at the marketing. Take a look at this one: “His other weapon is an F/A-18.” Nothing about the product. Nothing about the specs. Nothing about what makes it better than its competitors. The message is simply: “Jets are cool. So is this gun. Buy it and you will be cool like a fighter pilot.” And many times the ad will play on feelings of male inadequacy that manifests itself in the need to act hyper masculine, like this ad from Bushmaster: “Consider your man card reissued.” We really don’t have time to explore the link between contemporary male feelings of inadequacy and American machismo culture, so we’ll save that for a future episode. But I do want to address culture, and how we might be able to make an extremely toxic online culture more healthy, for individuals and society at large. That’s after the break. See you on the other side. 


  1. Report: Extremist groups thrive on Facebook despite bans:
  2. Big tech CEOs face lawmakers in House hearing on social media’s role in extremism, misinformation?:
  3. New Evidence Points To Coordination Among Extremist Groups Ahead of Capitol Riot:
  4. The storming of Capitol Hill was organized on social media:
  5. WATCH LIVE: The CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are testifying in a congressional hearing about misinformation, Insider:
  6. Social media use may play important role in youth suicide, expert says,
  7. Section 230: The little law that defined how the Internet works:
  8. Gatekeepers: These tech firms control what’s allowed online:
  9. Q: Into the Storm, HBO:
  10. Q Clearance: The Hunt for QAno‪n:
  11. Many QAnon followers report having mental health diagnoses — including paranoid schizophrenia and Munchausen syndrome by proxy:
  12. What is Section 230 and why do some lawmakers want to revoke it? The News with Shepard Smith:
  13. How to tackle mis/disinformation with a human-centered approach, ODI Think Tank:
  14. What is QAnon? A Thread by Abbie Richards:
  15. YouTube still hosts extremist videos. Here’s who watches them:
  16. What is Parler? Conservative Social-Media App Denied Apple’s App Store Access:
  17. TECH – Social media platform Parler is back online on ‘independent technology’:
  18. How cartoonists are tackling the gun debate after the Boulder and Atlanta shootings:
  19. Grocery Store Shooting: Who Is Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa?:
  20. Boulder Shooting Suspect Makes 1st Court Appearance:
  21. Boulder shooting suspect’s gun looked like a rifle. But it’s a pistol. Experts worry it’s helping people skirt gun laws:
  22. One week since Atlanta spa shootings: What we know:
  23. Atlanta Shootings: Asian Americans Speak Out About Hate Crimes:
  24. A Timeline of School Shootings Since Columbine:
  25. Report: U.S. averages nearly one mass shooting per day so far in 2017:
  26. YouTube still hosts extremist videos. Here’s who watches them.:
  27. How Money Flows From Amazon to Racist Troll Haven 8chan:
  28. Info on Dylann Roof:
  29. Zimmerman reportedly sells gun that killed Trayvon Martin:
  30. How Does Online Racism Spawn Mass Shooters?:
  31. Voters back Joe Biden’s gun control plan. It’s not clear if the evidence does.:
  32. What “No White Guilt” Means to People Who Are Not White:
  33. Swastika Removed From Apple Capital Loop Trail:
  34. “Papa Says It’s Safe”: 20 Astounding Gun Ads:
  35. How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire:
  36. Man arrested at Atlanta grocery with six guns, body armor, police say:
  37. Gun violence in the United States: