The Good Fight Review: 1×06 “Social Media and Its Discontents”

In this episode, The Good Fight takes on one of the thorniest issues currently facing the tech world—and by extension, the actual world—when Neil Gross comes to the firm and asks them to come up with a plan of action for him to deal with trolls and racist or misogynistic harassment on his social media platform.

(Though I thought Neil Gross’s search engine Chum-Hum is supposed to be a sort of alt-universe Google, one of the offensive postings read out loud in the opening act mentions “Google search” by name multiple times. So maybe Chum-Hum is the Bing?)

The lawyers have a really good argument amongst themselves, where both Adrien and Julius seem to be of the opinion that messages starting with “I want to” are not threats, where messages starting with “I’m going to” are. As many other characters point out, that makes little sense; if someone says “I want to kill you,” that should probably be taken as a threat. Maya wins a point by reading some of the vicious tweets she gets herself.

Finally the lawyers come up with a policy where people will be expelled from the platform only after a certain number of threatening messages, and will be allowed to appeal. Their first appeal comes from an obnoxious, flamboyantly gay Milo Yiannapoulos clone who is oh so passionate about free speech, especially the kind of free speech where he spews violently hateful insults at women and black people.

TGF 106 troll.png

Eventually Diane realizes his adept maneuvering has a little help from Neil Gross himself, who is leaking the internal details of the policy in order to be able to abdicate his responsibility to do this by blaming Reddick Boseman for its failure. She calls Neil out on it, and he then totally disses her, calling only Boseman and Barbara into a meeting to discuss his foreign litigation. I have to admit it is a moment of rare, deserved comeuppance for Diane, who used her connections to Neil Gross (which she earned against great odds as a female lawyer, but which are also undeniably related to her white privilege) to strong-arm her way onto her black-led firm’s masthead.

Diane gets her moment, though, when she calls out Faux Milo on his tantrum, calling him a kid throwing a tantrum, basically. It’s certainly true, and it’s satisfying to watch her takedown of the obnoxious troll. But the really unsettling thing, I think, is that these questions are being decided by such flawed human beings as Neil Gross. That people who set out only to “disrupt” or only to make money or only to solve an interesting technical problem are now the only people who have the power to judge the complex balance of free speech against the safety and freedom of the minorities being attacked. These random CEOs, sometimes well-meaning, but by no means always, are the people we as a society have put in charge of deciding weighty ethical questions whose answers affect so many people. Yet there is no mechanism but the capricious power of public perception to have checks and balances over them. It’s scary. When the lawyers fuck up, there is a bar association to hang over their heads—even if, as with the cunning Mike Kresteva, the bar is always two steps behind. When Neil Gross fucks up, there’s no one breathing down his back, no checks and balances at all.

Meanwhile, Lucca plays the dumbest romantic game of all: declaring she hates games immediately before creating giant amounts of unnecessary drama (something about her going on a date with another guy and accusing Colin, falsely, of trying to get in the way of her side piece). It’s totally transparent and a painful cliche. The one thing I can’t tell is if the show knows it’s a cliche. But—after some reverse psychology jujitsu on Colin’s part—it leads to her almost giving Colin road head on the way out to his place in the ‘burbs, so at least Colin’s OK with it.

But the really painful part of the episode is Maya learning that there’s basically no trust left in her family. Her uncle tells her that her father is going to wear a wire and try to sell her out—and the next time she sees him, he starts gently probing for information. So Maya records herself feeding him false information, and soon enough, Colin repeats that exact same information to Lucca. Lesson learned: everyone betrays everyone. And if blood is thicker than water, self-interest is the thickest thing of all.

Speaking of betrayals, Julius is so angry at being accused of the leaks before they find out that it’s Gross, that he calls Kresteva himself and offers up his services. So, even in the utopian world of Reddick Boseman, where people support each other and don’t play stupid power games, there is the element of backstabbing and intrigue.

I am in the curious place of enjoying what this show is doing intellectually, without being very invested in it from one episode to the next. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to finding out the endings or answers to various threads. But I am looking forward to whatever dark, mordantly satirical view of human nature we will be treated to next week.

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