Around this time four years ago, I was asked the same question: Callo, what do you think about the internet in Mexico? Four years ago, I was a young man who had just moved to the big city, the Distrito Federal (yes, that was still Mexico City’s official name four years ago), hoping to turn my dreams into a reality by becoming a writer. The only ticket I had into the world of writing was the internet. It was a one-way ticket; work on the internet or move back and live in Mazatlán.
Failure was not an option. At that time there were no #Lords or #Ladies. The only way to become famous was to lower one’s standards and land a gig on the show Sabadazo, but I didn’t know anyone there so that wasn’t even an option. Things have changed a lot since then.
In 2012, nobody in Mexico believed that the internet would become “the next big thing,” not even the large brands, or the TV networks, or the newspapers (which, if you were born after 1995, are those rolls of paper you use to kill flies), or the magazines (which, if you were born after 1995, are kind of like an internet page but on paper).
Only a group of young people chose to believe in the internet because we had no option and to us the internet was a way into doing what we loved. We were very ambitious, an essential trait of success, something that hadn’t been seen in Mexico for many years. And I was one of those youngsters. Four years ago, the internet represented freedom of expression in the fullest sense of the term. There was no such thing as the Thought Police and it wasn’t monitored by groups of moralists who made sure that the mainstream groups would be comfortable with what minority groups were publishing. There wasn’t self-censorship or political correctness. But now it’s a completely different story.
On the internet of 2016, there are concepts such as common enemies and good and bad people. There are new taboos, things we shouldn’t speak of, and a clearly defined list of people who we all must hate (it’s unacceptable not to). And there are people who we must love. Personal opinions and critiques are always acceptable so long as they are aligned with the progressive agenda.
Censorship isn’t something imposed on us by Televisa or by the government anymore, now we bring it on ourselves through our obsession with being politically correct. On the internet of 2016, we are all vegans, macrobiotics, feminists, pansexuals, inclusive, and we all vote for liberal causes. There are big consequences if you are perceived as the enemy.
The internet of 2016 is authoritarian and it is never okay to bully anyone except for those who annoy us (or who don’t think like the majority of us). There’s no problem attacking those people; all you need to do is Google “Peña Nieto,” “Nicolas Alvarado” or “Donald Trump” to figure out who the acceptable targets are.
The “shaming generation” has taken over the reins of cyberspace, and those groups that once seemed to be the champions of tolerance and freedom of expression are now the same ones that become completely scandalized if you vote for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Mexico’s ruling party “PRI”), or if you don’t like Juan Gabriel (before you all get offended, I should clarify that I like him as well). This generation plans to persecute and punish people on public platforms and humiliate everyone who likes bullfights (not me), or those that dare to claim that African children are more important than street dogs. On the internet of 2016, animals have more human rights than humans themselves, and being obese doesn’t mean you are at greater risk of a heart attack or of a metabolic syndrome—it just means you’re “beautiful.”
The guardians of public morality dictate how and when it is okay to comment on something, and what God we should to pray to. This is why I have started to believe that 2016 is the year were we started to take a turn for the worse on the information superhighway.
Those who have known me for several years, or have seen my YouTube videos, understand that I am (and always have been) a tireless defender of freedom of expression. I defend freedom above all else (even above what I think is right), and I firmly believe it is highly unacceptable (and troubling) to attack those who believe in things that bother the masses. Beyond that, as uncomfortable or irritating as it can be for everyone else, I believe that everyone should be guaranteed the right to say whatever they wish.
What is lost is lost and gone forever, but we have to accept what we have now: The internet has always been a reflection of society; people are right in saying that whatever you post on your social media accounts is now more important than ever before, and what you say there can turn you into a real life hero, or it can cost you your job (depending on which side you’re on). We have never been so powerful.
While we are waiting for the results of this experiment called “freedom of expression in Mexico” and contemplating the evolution of the internet through our own forums, I will wait for someone to ask me the same question four years from now. Hopefully I will be able to provide a different answer by then.
“Freedom of expression” is not about everyone holding the same views; it’s about confronting and debating one another, while tolerating each other.
Callodehacha is a 28-year-old Mexican comedian and YouTuber.