Virtue signals

Big Tech’s morality grab

Featured in

  • Published 20230801
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-86-3
  • Extent: 196pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

A TRAIN CARRYING dangerous chemicals derails and releases a plume of toxic smoke. What doesn’t burn leaks into local waterways. Residents take pictures of their red, irritated eyes and upload them to social media. The authorities fumble their messaging. Just how dangerous is this smoke? Should people be moving away? And whose fault is it? How do we stop this from happening again? 

If all this sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve encountered some form of this disaster, and the responses to it, in fiction and in the news. In Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, a train derailment leads to an Airborne Toxic Event, and the ‘black billowing cloud’ becomes a locus for people’s abstract and generalised fear of death in a post-religious, post-meaning world. More recently, conservatives in the US have seized on a real-life derailment in Ohio releasing carcinogenic chemicals to attack the Biden administration.

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