Category Archives: google

Caught in a Madhouse without My Mask

Caught with their proverbial pants down? The blustery conversations tied to corona virus, lockdown, Trump LLC, Pelosi and Comp., and the failed state that is the USA are to be expected.

It is a country of nanosecond attention spans.

A country with amnesia in vitro.

A country that has sacrificed future and future-future generations for the all mighty dollar.

Dog-eat-dog?

Survival of the fittest (or in the reverse Darwinism, survival of the least fit, the least smart, the least humane, the least human).

Yeah, sure, trolls abound in the social media morass. The putridity of a buffoon on one local Facebook page can be tiring.

The King Rat in High (he is high, by all accounts of his Adderall sniffing) Office is a troll, yep.

CEO, the Apprentice Blob, the guy who made head of CBS orgasmic during the last run-up to the POTUS election – “I might not agree with Mister Trump’s politics, but Donald Trump is really-really good for business.”

The bottom line is money for nothing. With Corona Capitalism, it’s money for the bail-out queens and kings – corporations. Wall Street is bullish. Studdly, in fact.

Make that 40 million unemployed. In USA, but we know that figure is so much higher using the other Bureau of Labor stats. Like U3, U5, U6 and UB-40!

Protective mask shaming by the trolls, including King Rat Donny, and then mask illiteracy by the masses.

Yes, those valiant cloth masks with coffee filter inserts, hmm, vanity, for sure. We know the physics of a sneeze – 23 feet and a 100,000 microbes spread out in one big let-go.

Multiphase Turbulent Gas Cloud From a Human Sneeze

Yet we have these Disneyland parameters — elbow greetings and six foot circle jerks. Social distancing is the racist caste system of India, and now, alas, we have meme after meme, two bit prognosticator yammering about what it means to be, well, self-quarantining.

Call it lockdown, and it then becomes a policing issue. It always has been a policing issue — for the 80 percent. Fines, regs, fees, tolls, levies, penalties, triple penalties,  interest, laws, measures, arrests, convictions. prosecutions.

Disciplinary confinement, man — read all about it!

If you question the myriad of narratives spewed by left and right of the manure pile called USA politics, then, well, you suffer ire, de-platforming.

Called a Trumpie or Republican or Money First American if you dare question the entire idea of forced lockdown without forced government and private industry supporting people in real time; and without forced collective safety nets for food, health care, social services during this tsunami of destruction these lockdowns and falsifying narratives daily.

You gotta be consistent, the old American way, right? No counter-intuitive thinking, no systems thinking, no whole picture thinking, right?

So many “duh moments,” that each and every duh thing said by left and right of the political center dung pit are just too numerous to mention or answer.

This is no joke – United States of Amnesia, maybe on a daily diet.

Gore Vidal quote: We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn ...

Weren’t we warning about the military industrial complex in the 1930s by the general, Smedley Butler and War is a Racket? I get hammered for being a conspiracy nut, that how could there be a deep state, how could there be the big lie in such a big bad diverse country? How can I say a vaccination ID chip program could be real?

Right:

In 1934, a colossal claim reached the American news media: There had been a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in favor of a fascist government. Supposedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from a very conspicuous and reliable source: Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush. While news media at the time mocked Butler’s story, recently discovered archives have revealed the truth behind Major General Butler’s claims.  Source!

When was The Jungle written? A century and change ago, and, of course, the meat industry is so-so cleaned up?

Decades after Upton Sinclair exposed the horrors of meatpacking, radical labor organizing transformed the industry into a bastion of worker power. Now, a century later, after decades of union-busting and the coronavirus decimating workers throughout the industry, the meatpacking industry is back to The Jungle.  Source!

Try that argument with trolls on F/Zuck-err-berg or anywhere. Then you have that fourth grade level thinking King Rat, Adderall Donny, until whack a mole is more than some child’s game. It’s the SARS-CoV-2 plan, it’s the diplomacy of this Clear and Present Danger, United of Snakes? Did I say, William Blum?

This book could be entitled: Serial chain-saw baby killers and the women who love them.

The women don’t really believe that their beloved would do such a thing, even if they’re shown a severed limb or a headless torso. Or if they believe it, they know down to their bone marrow that lover-boy really had the best of intentions; it must have been some kind of very unfortunate accident, a well-meaning blunder; in fact, even more likely, it was an act of humanitarianism.

For more than 70 years, the United States convinced much of the world that there was an international conspiracy out there. An International Communist Conspiracy, seeking no less than control over the entire planet, for purposes which had no socially redeeming values. And the world was made to believe that it somehow needed the United States to save it from communist darkness. “Just buy our weapons,” said Washington, “let our military and our corporations roam freely across your land, and give us veto power over who your leaders will be, and we’ll protect you.”

Rogue State, William Blum

Point and counterpoint

So, all the evidence of USA bioweapons work, all the machinations by more than 13,000 scientists working on US programs for DARPA, Plum Island, Fort Detrick, University of North Carolina, et al, none of that counts? Doesn’t matter who might agree with the minutiae. Grand conspiracy to mess with coronavirus, and great work on bat viruses. We know that the USA is the free world’s biggest gangster, and we can go on and on about the toxins unleashed, the Japanese prisoners captured in bioweapons facilities and brought to the USA. Along with those Sieg Heil missile boys.

Does it matter if there are many opposing and counterpointing ideas? Can we not maybe entertain the idea that the USA (with help from UK and Israel) might be concocting viruses or chemicals for infertility or bombs that kill people but keep buildings intact? Depleted uranium shells? Goo that burns the skin off the bodies. Agent orange was not just a defoliant for exposing the heroes who fought the great American menace in their land. The McNamara and DOW papers state that agent orange (Your grandson’s Round-Up weed killer) would be something of the gift that keeps on giving. Papers reveal the idea was to ruin the rice crop of Vietnam. Contaminate the soil for generations.

Oh, that Round-Up Ready America. The media, the police, the finance, the insurance, the real estate, the hedge funds, the legal eagles, the university system, the chemical-fumigant-herbicide-pesticide purveyors. Big Pharma, Big Med, Big Private Prison. Big big big and too big to take on, fail, and frog march to the gallows.

Yet, this compliance for lockdown, even now, May 27. I live on the coast of Oregon, near Newport.

No industry, no shipping lanes, no stagnation, no burning coal or burning anything really, yet my mean greenie weenie acquaintances are still putting their Zoom Doom out there for environmental programs.

I have a new book – all my readings cancelled because of Corona Capitalism. But now, no light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. All those libraries? Outside parking lots, hell, I will stand away with bullhorn and read and talk.

Let the people sit outside, even with their vanity masks. The cleanest air in the world, and it circulates in an open house every ten minutes – completely new air in a house. Outside? Nope!

Tele-Zoom, man. These white great hopes, the middle and upper middle classes, they love the Zoom Doom. Tele-marketing turned into tele-ed, tele-med, tele-sex, tele-retail.

All these congealing ideas coming out now, with the absurdity of a fourth world country like USA. No clinics in every neighborhood. No dental care. No regulating polluters to not pollute zero emissions or toxins. All this colonizing of higher and lower education by the MBA’s and profiteers and for-profit investment vehicles.

All this racism and racist policies and the one hundred percent of Native American treaties broken by Uncle Sam.

I live here in Lincoln County, and the Siletz tribe has the big casino. Big attraction for addicts. But what is a disenfranchised tribe to do?

Even after all the theft and rapine, the Siletz Tribe in the 1820s was given a million acres, yet those white devils we praise as the great wagon trains of the Oh Pioneers, like a coronavirus, came into the Oregon Territory, and over time, all those deeded acres disappeared. The tribe now has 3,600 acres – fractured to be sure – in its sovereign name.

I have friends who do some amazing things looking at the numbers game, the To Die With Corona or Not to Die.  You betcha being skeptical of Gates and Vaccine Purveyors and Alex Azar and Fauchi and the Surgeon General and Trump LLC, you bet, best way to be. Davos, Rockefeller, all the pandemic planning way before Dec. 2019.

You betcha.

Unfortunately we are in some contradictory and counter-intuitive times. Yes, coronavirus, in it’s novel form, is worse than the H1N1 or Swine flu. Two times? Three? Hmm.

Locking down healthy people without safety nets —  and we know ALL the safety nets necessary for closing down the economy and day to day life, and schools – is insane.

So are meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses. So are the freaks dictating that private companies do not have to report sick employees with coronavirus. So is a country without test. So is a country that still rams its military whores into other parts of the world, still keeps those weapons deals going, yet this pathetic country can’t even amass MASH tents and hearts and minds soldiers (without weapons) to be part of the so-called coronavirus mitigation.

I read a lot as well as work a lot, and gain of function for DNA and RNA tweaking of viruses should never be allowed. But then never should there have been a patent given on seeds.

This is all pre-dating the Adderall Addict in Chief. Predates his scum lording in the Oval Office.

You can hate Donald Trump on so many levels and see him as a felon (in a long line of American president felons) and still not believe the Russian Investigation.

You can doubt lockdown and still decry armed racists and their white breed from going to state capitals with fully loaded AR-15’s.

You can decry Zoom and Facebook and parse the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rail against Internet of Things and AI and self-driving cars, and 5G, and still have pure science background in biology and ecology.

Beware of 'ZoomBombing': screensharing filth to video calls ...

You can attack the Planet of the Humans for its total lack of embracing the reality that the majority of the world – non-white, thank god – is doing many things to fight against green capitalism, carbon markets, REDD, and the other tricks of the capitalists. You can hate Michael Moore for being a multimillionaire. You can doubt Bill McKibben and tire of the Naomi Klein getting gazillion minutes of air time on the Soros Show, Democracy Now, and endless copy on the Intercept.

Yet, you can still embrace Bowling for Columbine, Shock Doctrine, The End of Nature, and rail against Green as the New Black.

It’s possible to think the lockdown is absurd on one level, and that business as usual is absurd, too.

You can be for universal health care, universal public education, for nationalizing (people-izing) industries, ending the billionaire class and still be for retail, mom and pop’s, good food, good weed and great wine.

Communists are for democracy and for the people’s rights over all rights of the business and investing class. Yes, the world is global and so is weather and so is the water cycle, winds, precipitation, and culture. Yes, we need to relocalize, but we need deep-deep ecology with deep-deep cultural survival.

Yes, peasant culture and collective enterprises, and looking at workers own their work and the industries, and yes, ending perpetual wars, any walls against people’s freedom of moment, well, call this neo-communism, or Marx-taken-to-the-next level, or Utopian?

But instead we argue whether cruise lines should come back, the value of a hair salon, and what about air traffic?

So many of the long-in-the-tooth conservative democrats I mingle with here on the coast have shit to say about the chronically homeless, the chronically one-paycheck from hell, the very people who hammer their roofs, flip their halibut steaks, clean granny’s bedpans, and the like.

They are glad the air is cleaner (that’s a big fat joke) and that air travel is curtailed. It is lockdown, and the rich still travel, and these conservative democrats who vote “green” are glad all that wasteful Disneyland travel is gone . . . while they still shuttle themselves to grand-kids across the land, go to their language immersion schools in Cuernavaca or Tibet.

Bring back the spotted owl, but screw the people. The dichotomies, the trolls on both ends, the split society, the false balancing of issues, the I-know-I-am-right pukes on all sides of the manure pile, well, they are Making America Great Again (that was Reagan’s line 40 years before another mentally-challenged foe is in the Oval office).

You see this was all predicted – shit, how many books and articles and even movies have been produced discussing a virus or other bacterial outbreak? And yet, this was not seen coming?

The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.

― Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era

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Researcher Alison Hawver McDowell: “A new global economic apparatus is being laid down that is profoundly anti-human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will dispossess people from their means of survival and replace “work” with robots and AI. Through UBI and pay for success data surveillance the masses become batteries for predatory financial deals and the data extracted from them will be used to advance the Singularity.” Source.

*–*

The FOIA document, obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was produced by a little-known U.S. government organization called the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). It was created by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its official purpose is “to consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.”

The NSCAI is a key part of the government’s response to what is often referred to as the coming “fourth industrial revolution,” which has been described as “a revolution characterized by discontinuous technological development in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, fifth-generation telecommunications networking (5G), nanotechnology and biotechnology, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing.”  Source

How do we get Americans off their high horses? Those Earth Day people I have associated with who will continue to Zoom Doom their groups, now that this is the new normal – “Oh, so easy, just open up that laptop, sit back, sip chamomile and listen to those cool scientists and naturalists without having to strap in a car and driving someplace.”

This is a time of idiotic calls for a universal basic income while not making calls to create good work, that is, grow legions of people in paid-volunteer work, community-based work; real community-based schooling; clinics in each neighborhood; gardens and food distribution in all neighborhoods. Cancelling the billionaire class. Worthy public transportation that reaches the outskirts and is 24/7. Universal Basic Bum’s Income My Ass.

That UBI (not UB40) is based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Disruptive Economies and Viral Economic and Digital models.

You know, self-driving cars, buses and trucks? Who said this was okay? And those jobs? Oh, yeah, we shall be locked up in cubicle mini-apartments and forced to receive our digital crypto currency monthly to pay for capitalism on steroids.

Foolish. And yet, the Andrew Yang’s and others call for this stupidity?

How about social security increased, total publicly-funded health care, state banks, cooperative utilities, true safety nets and creative organizations and self-organizing communities and agricultural-based intentional communities and real work.

There is a shit-ton of work to be done. Micro-homes built, foster homes visited, retirement communities to be built and energized.

But the masters of the universe and those other oddities want what? Get your pay, with your vaccination chip approved. All data and all history captured in the span of a human hair.

Some of us do not want the Trump World, the Biden World, the Gates World, the Naomi Klein World, the Goldman Sachs World, the World Bank World. Some of us imagine narratives and viewpoints that do not fit some consistent, packaged, inside-the-dreadful-lines of left-right (not really left, but right-super right) politic correctness.

It doesn’t take a million PhD’s in plethora of fields to define what works, what might work, what isn’t working, and how it works. This is common sense, and yet, we have prognosticators, idiots with Microphones and Makeup yammering pure nothingness.

I have had deeper conversations with old men halfway in their dementia while withdrawing from a weekend of meth than with a majority of people I also associate with. Or used to associate with.

Because the new normal allows for more and more sculpted venues, more Skype-up-your-ass and Zoom Doom sessions. “You can join BUT if we notice any derogatory language and counter spin, we shall pull the proverbial plug.”

The “I can’t breathe” yet again is the comment for a generation, for generations. Emblematic of the entire bullshit world of Cop Capitalism, the Police State Mentality of Bezos, Gates, F/Zuckerberg and any of the other Google and Digital Demigods.

How many times are we going to be subjected to the Blue Plague and the Green Plague – The Police State and the Finance State?

And yet, this is it for USA? Not an outcry and complete shut down of the country and the Fox News drumbeat with yet another hit-man cop running free. This cop, one of the Biden VP pick’s boys:

As Chief Prosecutor, Klobuchar Declined to Bring Charges Against Cop that Killed George Floyd; While serving as Minnesota’s chief prosecutor between 1999 and 2007, Klobuchar declined to bring charges against more than two dozen officers who had killed citizens while on duty – including against the cop that killed George Floyd.

Alan Macleod, May 27, 2019

Senator Klobuchar Police

So how do we have conversations now when the distance unlearning is taking hold not only for overpriced higher education (what idiocy is this when kids get to leave home, leave hometowns, end up on a bricks and mortar campus and end up spending 75 percent of their time in their dorms or apartments with on-line miseducation?) but for public schools.

Troll after troll want the end of childhood, they want the four horsemen of the apocalypse to come riding into their AR-1 and Glock-infested neighborhoods. They think and believe their Jesus was a Duck Dynasty aficionado. These cretins are cretins, easily flushed out in MAGA America.

It’s the greenie weenies, the ameliorating, the corrective ones – the straight democratic ticket lovers, the Hillary supporters, the ones blaming Nader, Stein and others for the victories of what they deem the more evil of the lesser evils.

Back to the future means we have Noam Chomsky again railing and lecturing us to believe his wonderful genius and vote with noses held by backing Biden over Trump. Whew, the new Hitler, uh? Is that so, Trump? Hmm, more bumbling misuse of the language and symbol.

Funny world, man, funny world. The entire mess is co-opted by the death star that is capitalism one all 12 cylinders or sputtering away in the throes of death.

Evil begotten country, evil penetrating imperialism, evil perversions of humanity, the cancer that is consumerism, the virus that is waste/waste/waste. Disease treatment so throw out preventative cures.

Until we are in Oregon, with busy signal for weeks at the unemployment office. Boosted prices at the grocery store. Entitled versus poor, and yet the poor seem entitled to believe in Yankee Doodle Dandy and their Stars and Bars.

Amazon.com: Rogue State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower ...

A Truth Commission

Since the early 1990s the people of South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and El Salvador have held official Truth Commissions to look squarely in the eyes of the crimes committed by their governments. There will never be any such official body to investigate and document the wide body of Washington’s crimes, although several unofficial citizens’ commissions have done so over the years for specific interventions, such as in Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq; their findings were of course totally ignored by the establishment media (whose ideology is a belief that it doesn’t have any ideology).

In the absence of an official Truth Commission in the United States, this book is offered up as testimony.

— William Blum, Washington, DC/ May 2005/ Rogue State

And so we do this on our people, no? Care homes, workers in confined working operations, the elderly, the physically compromised. Ya think Bill and Melinda and his cronies aren’t thinking about eugenics?

Right.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in care homes have been dying in droves.

Why is this happening? Is it simply because older adults are very vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 and therefore it’s not unexpected that many would succumb?

Or do care homes deserve the lion’s share of the blame, such as by paying so poorly that many workers have to split their time between several facilities, spreading the virus in the process?

Alternatively, could medical experts and government bureaucrats, with the full knowledge of at least the top tier of government officials, have created conditions shortly after the pandemic struck that contribute to the high death tolls while engendering virtually no public backlash against themselves?

This article shows that the third hypothesis is highly plausible. The people who created the conditions may be unaware of, or oblivious to, their implications. But it’s also possible that at least some of them know exactly what they’re doing.

After all – seeing it from an amoral government’s point of view – the growing numbers of elderly are a big burden on today’s fiscally strained governments, because in aggregate they’re paying much less into the tax base than younger people while causing the costs of healthcare and retirement programs to skyrocket.

–“Were conditions for high death rates at Care Homes created on purpose?”  Rosemary Frei

 

As coronavirus creeps into French care homes, a 'tsunami' of ...

Tech’s Labor Activism

Gig workers in California are celebrating the passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) making sure that gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits due to go into effect 1 January, 2020. Meanwhile, Google’s “shadow work force,” the masses of temporary workers and contractors (approximately 54 percent of Google’s work force), is challenging Google’s seemingly unmitigated power by unionizing. In fact, two weeks ago, the two-thirds of Google’s temp workers in Pittsburgh voted to unionize despite the firm outsourcing Google’s contractors, HCL America Inc., urging its temp workers to vote against unionizing.

What does this push by Google temporary and contract workers say about the future of tech workers who have been caught outside the elite contracts offered to the more educated and specialized workers that Google depends upon? In fact, given that these contractors hold white-collar positions yet live in a constant precarious economic state, it is more than high time that we examine the rights of workers today.

This past April, over 929 Google employees signed a petition in support of contractors who worked on Google Assistant and were let go. The contractors (TVCs) Google uses make up approximately 54% of Google’s workforce calling into question why some get contracts (meaning workers’ rights and benefits) while many more do not. It also calls into question contemporary hiring practices where in August 2018 over 3,000 security guards, contracted to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook, ratified their first union contract after raising similar problems. In fact, SEIU United Service Workers West in its press release noted that before the union contract agreement, many of the security officers were making between $12 and $14 an hour.  This is approximately between $25,000 to $30,000 a year, barely a hair above California’s state minimum wage. And when you take into account that much of the work to be undertaken by these guards is in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places on the planet to live, what these guards take home is poverty level income.

While labor laws differ often from state to state just as do certain conditions of minimum wage and other rights, there is the basic fact of employment law which, according to Hutchison & Stoy, allows workers to appeal policies they deem to discriminate against them. The bigger problem is who can afford the time, effort and risk of lost labor due to employer retaliation?  And even though Google’s shadow labor force works alongside full-time Google employees, these temporary workers are employed by third-party contractors who guarantee them none of the rights of other full-time Google workers: they earn less money and have no paid vacation time. And until this Spring when Google changed course in its policy, many in the tech sector doing contract work also have no healthcare coverage.

There are organizations battling these issues head-on such as the Tech Workers Coalition and others pushing to make existing unions fit tech workers into their agenda. And there are many pushing for the creation of a tech worker union specific to the problems unique to tech specialists that simply don’t fit into the steel worker union model, nor are these unions equipped to deal with the kinds of issues that tech workers face.

Sure, there are myriad issues of abuses of power that are common to all types of labor today as the recent Amazon victory in Sacramento demonstrates.  Yet there is an increase of consciousness among temporary and gig economy workers who are viewing their role in the workplace as compared to their contemporaries who have full-time contracts replete with perks. Certainly, they are not immune to the logical fallacies that permeate the job market today where certain individuals are allowed secure work contracts while others live in severe precarity.

While Wired declared 2018 to be the year that tech workers realized that they were workers, 2019 is the year that this nail is driven into the coffin. If anything, this is the year that people of all pay grades and levels of education are banding together to ask why one type of person should deserve access to housing, education and healthcare, while another does not.

It’s time that we all ask this question and close ranks with our brothers and sisters who are living in precarity for big tech and beyond.

The Reality Brokers (or the rise of the Automagicians)

In the case of both Big Tech and governmental surveillance agencies, undergirding a commitment to the inevitable and imminent time after-Earth is the appeal of science fiction aesthetics, concepts and projects, all aimed toward the new goal of having new places and opportunities to conquer, colonize and dominate post-Earth.
— Sarah T. Roberts, b-20, August 2019

We live in a society where capital is highly concentrated, with most commodity production carried out by companies whose fates are largely shaped by financial investors. The commodities they produce, whether material or immaterial, are made available to us in a global marketplace, delivered through complex value chains in whose operation our own unpaid labor as consumers is increasingly implicated. Information and communications technologies have so affected the spatial and temporal division of labor that for many of us the boundaries between “work and private life are inextricably muddled and few relationships are unmediated by them.
— Ursula Huws, Labor in the Global Digital Economy, December 5, 2014

It’s popular to refer to digital platforms as town squares, but the shopping mall is a more apt metaphor: they are built to approximate the participatory feel of an open market, while their corridors are ruthlessly designed for the purposes of encouraging consumption and maximizing profit. Depression, anxiety, hate-mongering, fear, and conspiratorial untruths are all acceptable outcomes so long as they are expressed, consciously or otherwise, in the service of growth.
— Evan Malmgren, The Baffler, 2018

Your whole life will be searchable.
— Larry Page (quoted in Douglas Edwards’ I’m Feeling Lucky), 2011

At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism, January 15, 2019

The endless public appetite for apocalyptic film and TV is tied into the fantasies of reconstruction. Even the various zombie franchises are really just reconstruction stories (albeit with a huge real estate porn appeal). I want to quote Sarah T. Roberts article again, because she covers several factors that seem increasingly embedded in contemporary thinking.

In the billionaire kingmaker class, Musk is not alone in his post-Earth predilection. Indeed, he is one of several of his echelon looking cynically to science fiction and the après-apocalypse, fantasizing about outlandish ways to spend–and make–profits via projects that deepen long-standing commitments to Western supremacy and colonization, albeit with a futuristic bent. At the 2016 Republican National Convention that heralded the political ascendency of Donald Trump, PayPal billionaire and Gawker/journalism foe Peter Thiel (Thompson 2018) hailed the conquest of Mars as a worthier endeavor than wars in the Middle East. In doing so, Thiel inadvertently showed his ideological hand by invoking both as equivalent games of conquest (Daily Beast 2016). Other projects in this vein include Biosphere 2 (once the province of former Trump advisor and professional propagandist Steve Bannon), HI-SEAS, Apple’s new “Spaceship” headquarters, and the NSA’s Star Trek-inspired control room, all of which posit various offworld-oriented technological solutions to a dying future. It is a future in which capitalism has already played out the dissolution of democracy and social equalities, favoring a libertarian fend-for-yourself approach for those who remain– and those who remain, according to these projects, are overwhelmingly White, wealthy able-bodied people of the Global North.
— Sarah T. Roberts (Ibid.)

Roberts also touches on Apple’s new *campus*, which is shaped like a flying saucer and seems designed mostly to keep undesirables out as much as employees in.

Roberts again…

The spaceship aesthetic and panoptic/open floor work spaces reinstate order and hierarchy through structural and embedded surveillance while suggesting freedom of movement and action. Ample amenities are designed to keep workers on-site and productive, ideally for longer than an eight-hour workday, recalling the company towns of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Not to be outdone, both Google and Facebook have announced employee housing near their expansive campuses (Stangel 2017), in partial response to extraordinary housing costs in Silicon Valley (created by the demand from their own workers).

There is also the new NSA control room, which merges sci-fi aesthetics with Benthamesque practicality and Biosphere 2 which borrows directly from science fiction. This is a long sort of introduction to what I see as an increasing anger and frustration in western white populations that is born of the unshakable sense that white modernity is coming to an end. There is an increasing global awareness that U.S. (and EU..but the EU is hugely divided in this respect) hegemony is unravelling. The global ruling class share the same goals but have mostly allowed or been served by U.S. leadership in terms of international financial institutions and the U.N. and just by U.S. military dominance. But today there are growing areas of the planet that are openly rejecting the white supremacist capitalism/imperialism of the U.S. (and its proxies, Saudi Arabia and Israel primarily. Yes I know there are huge contradictions in that, but I will get to those). The effects of Hollywood in all this are almost incalculable. The future is built with Hollywood image and narrative, and increasingly so is the present. Narrative thinking today is tied in with Hollywood screenwriting in a near total manner.

And the effects of the internet, social media, and in general screen addictions and indoctrination have yet to be fully calculated. And this segues into the realities of content moderation. And, again, a crash course on this is to listen to a lecture of Roberts here or watch here.

And remember, too, what Andre Damon at WSWS wrote in 2018:

Social media is monopolized by a few gigantic corporations. And that concentration of control is going to obviously be exploited for more profit.

…let’s start with a shocking fact: bad behavior happens on the internet. It occurs in real life, too, of course. But there is a special quality to the depravity exhibited on social media that is particular to that domain. On the one hand, it is unthinking, and in the case of Twitter, this goes along with the character limit. But it also demonstrates a psychopathic character contradiction: an obsession with self-perception by others in combination with a disturbing lack of empathy toward many of those same others from whom one is seeking, implicitly or explicitly, validation. For many researchers, this behavior is not merely expressed on but actively shaped by social media. In a meta-analysis of seventy-two studies, the psychologist Sara Konrath and her research team found that empathy levels among college students are 40 percent lower today than they were twenty years ago — a development they attribute to, amongst other things, the “rising prominence” of “media use in everyday life”: “With so much time spent interacting with others online rather than in reality, interpersonal dynamics such as empathy might certainly be altered.
— Benjamin Y. Fong, Jacobin, 2018

There is a correlate here, found in that same Sarah Konrath study:

One especially relevant program of research finds increasing levels of narcissism in American college students from the mid-1980s until late into the first decade of the new millennium, using similar cross-temporal methods as in the current study (Twenge et al., 2008; Twenge & Foster, 2008,2010).Dispositional narcissists have inflated self-views, especially on agentic traits such as power and intelligence (e.g., Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikides, 2002). Although narcissists are extraverted, they think of others primarily in terms of their utility rather than as interdependent relationship partners (Campbell, 1999). When narcissists’ egos are threatened by rejection or an insult, they tend to aggress against the source of the threat (e.g., Bushman & Baumeister, 1998; Konrath, Bushman, & Campbell, 2006).
— Sarah Konrath, et.al., Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta Analysis, Personality and Social Psychology Review 2011

Whether it’s Twitter or Snapchat or whatever, the overriding quality associated with each platform is limited space for expression and impermanence. Snapchat is designed to literally disappear before your eyes. Twitter is particularly pathological in that it is all but impossible to have discussions, or debates there, but excels at individual declarations of fact — the users own sense of ‘fact’, that is. It has been noted by several studies about social media that those who engage in prolonged use tend to increasingly feel real life face to face interaction as persecutory. My own experience of Twitter and Facebook is that it directly breeds paranoia. And for dissident or radical left voices that paranoia is already well established, usually. It’s hard to be a socialist in America and not feel paranoia.

The first configuration is what I came to call the Vampires’ Castle. The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd.
— Mark Fisher, Vampire’s Castle, 2013

Now Fisher is a contested figure, and with good reason (for all this insight he remained a strangely reactionary voice, and that contradiction may have been impossible for him to live with). But what he describes in Vampire’s Castle is very much to the point here. And one of the tactics of social media attacks is to stigmatize in isolation (a sort of form of essentialism). And this is akin to the bullying that high school students suffer from, too, a bullying that has led to spikes in suicide and self harm. It is ridicule that borders on arbitrary. One is tried and convicted on social media for crimes of the past, often, and, of course, often for crimes that never took place, and often for non-crimes. Mischaracterizing one’s opponent is the classic technique of the fascist right, but today it is cropping up more and more often on the left. But the new essentialism is also perilously close to conspiracy theory at its very worst. I know people, very smart people, in fact, who literally believe that entire outlets or groups or institutions — having hundreds of members — are in the grip of secret cabals of fascists. A thought mechanism that mirrors classic antisemitism. And speaking of antisemitism, the rising and continuing anti-semitism on the left is meeting with less and less resistance from the left who feel encouraged to conflate zionism and Jewishness.

Now the new aesthetics of the new doomsday scenarioists of online polemics, and in real life (the doomsayers who are billionaires) are the aesthetics of 1970s science fiction, if not 1950s science fiction. It is remarkable how durable the style and codes are of stuff like The Day the Earth Stood StillRed Planet Mars, or the original War of the Worlds. And more, 70s films like Andromeda Strain or Dark Star. Even very good and rather un-Hollywood films such as Man Who Fell to Earth have shaped the current sense of what the future means, and more, what apocalypse looks like. Just look at the art/design layouts and images used in stories about global warming or the fear mongering of the overpopulationers. Tell me it’s not nearly always from science fiction and/or is not racist. That a global environmental crisis is being packaged by media as if it were an early John Carpenter film should cause concern.

So three things I sense are related here. One is the damage of screen addictions, and, perhaps more specifically, social media. And the manner of expression that is wed to the alarmist’s sense of environmental crises. To deal with the real and material crisis would require a capacity to think in ways that social media and screen habituation have discouraged if not erased. The psychological affect of decades (now) of internet coercions and indoctrination — overt and incidental — and the very damages of just over-exposure to the technology itself are huge and perhaps nearly irreversible. Internet societies are more rigidly hierarchical than society itself. It is just masked better. The second issue is the issues of synthesizing time, narration, and loss of literacy. And the third is the dying death throws of global capital and its desire to perpetuate itself even if it means mass death, and the fantasies of this capitalist ruling class, expressed in regressive tropes of kitsch science fiction and space colonialism.

There is also a strange inversion, one that is nearly dialectical, actually. On the one hand the so called advanced West, the hyper capitalist neo-liberal West and its major telecom and digital corporations, are at work 24/7 in surveillance and data gathering. And both of these activities are usually illegal. Those same mega corporations (with intimate ties to western governments) are in the business of *hiding* the production processes that build those smart phones and lap tops on which, and with which, the bourgeoisie of the west amuse themselves. The devices that these corporations spy on and steal from — these devices are not the product of immaculate technological conception. The mythology of the information age has, as one huge factor, maybe THE hugest factor, the presumption that all of this digital technology was just divinely created and fell to earth. The invisibility of the draconian assembly lines and factories of the global south that produce and assemble these mythic devices is both an intentional practice and one those firms know is deceitful. They hide it because it would be offensive to the consumers of these products. A consumer base increasingly exhibiting a green awareness (sic). Not to mention the even more draconian waste sites where disposal of these devices take place, in countries such as Philippines, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Indonesia.

This does not even touch on the mining and earth extraction of rare earth minerals such as coltan (from which niobium and tantalum are taken), yttrium, lanthanum, and terbium.

According to the Minerals Education Coalition, a baby born in the US today will use up 539 lbs of zinc, 903 lbs of lead and 985 lbs of copper during his or her lifetime, not just in phones but in other gadgets and appliances too. In terms of environmental drain from every smartphone that’s made, you can add the oil used to produce plastics, the sand used to produce glass, and so on. ( ) Of the 83 stable and non-radioactive elements in the periodic table, at least 70 can be found in smartphones. According to the best available figures, a total of 62 different types of metals go into the average mobile handset, with what are known as the rare Earth metals playing a particularly important role. Of the 17 rare Earth metals, 16 are included in phones.
— David Nield, Tech Radar, 2015

My sense is that most Americans could be convinced to give up nearly everything to ensure a livable safe future…everything except their screen gadgets.

Larry Page of Google has used (and coined) the word *automagical*. It’s the perfect word for contemporary thought. The west thinks automagically. But that sounds benign, and nothing about the trends in contemporary behavior or thinking is benign. Zuboff quotes John Searle about the nature of *declarations*. Searle wrote:“A declaration is a particular way of speaking and acting that establishes facts out of thin air, creating a new reality where there was nothing.” This is highly relevant to the social media user. This is, in fact, that on which Twitter is based. It is the speech of Kings and overlords, of pharaohs. It is also how cops talk to suspects (i.e., everyone not a cop). Most importantly it is the speech of institutions. It assumes authority.

Zuboff also notes that this sort of authoritarian speech and grammar is the province of Google, and of Google’s unprecedented power. That said, it is power of a unique and perhaps unprecedented kind. For if conquistadors issued declarations that indigenous peoples were to be vassals…WERE already so…the threats behind such declarations were made clear. Google doesn’t have to do that. No giant information and telecom giant has to do that. The threat is assumed. The threat is implanted.

Google’s stores of behavioral surplus now embrace everything in the online milieu: searches, e-mails, texts, photos, songs, messages, videos, locations, communication patterns, attitudes, preferences, interests, faces, emotions, illnesses, social networks, purchases, and so on. A new continent of behavioral surplus is spun each moment from the many virtual threads of our everyday lives as they collide with Google, Facebook, and, more generally, every aspect of the internet’s computer-mediated architecture. Indeed, under the direction of surveillance capitalism the global reach of computer mediation is repurposed as an extraction architecture.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism

Everything one does is turned into code. And that code is returned to the user (as Zubhoff writes) through the filter of *intelligent algorithms*. And if that sounds like *smart bombs*, it’s because it is, and that is, to put it mildly, disquieting. Anytime intelligent or smart are used in titles or branding, the opposite is usually true. Much as the use of *freedom* in any NGO title signals State Department front group. But the issue that runs alongside the literal monitoring of everything one does is the now third generation effects of the information age on the young. The bullying of social media is only one symptom. Mental illness is now almost expected of teenagers. In the U.S. and U.K., in particular, the anxiety, paranoia, and feelings of hopelessness are endemic. And, of course, this cannot be treated by the institutions that have caused it. At best the establishment simply finds new warehousing drugs to give them. The burden to conform is enormous for teenagers and made worse by the pathologies of social media and internet habituation.

Deleuze and Guattari saw schizophrenia as the presentation of capitalist illness as it approached the 1980s, and later Christian Marazzi suggested bi-polar disorder as the new inner logic of financialized capitalism. Then today the post post modern new feudalism presents as autism, a condition first brought to awareness by a Nazi doctor. If teenagers today suffer debilitating anxiety, and a generalized fear of ‘doing’ anything lest it appear in Snapchat later in the afternoon, the result is an increasing cognitive paralysis. One teacher I know said several different high school students have confessed their inability to act or speak, answering questions etc, that even that inability and low grades is better than internet shaming and stigmatizing. Older twenty somethings, out of school and usually unemployed, wander their American neighborhoods in what amount to semi conscious trance states. Another teacher, in suburban LA, said his small college has decided to let student homeless sleep in their cars at one end of the school parking lot. After the school board passed this measure they were startled to learn that over 20% of the student body were, in fact, living out of their cars and sleeping in the school lot.

The western economies, and this is certainly true of the U.S., are propped up by militarism, stock market manipulation, and the ongoing theft of public funds and social services.

Cutting across this are the pathologies and social violence of social media.

Social media is designed for comparisons and coupled to the narrowed limits for written expression, the function of image becomes disproportionately important. But the interpretation of image is equally or more important. The idea of popularity is implanted in the system by the owners and operators of that system. The capture of eyeballs is also the capture of consensus. This is particularly true for the young.

The empty debate on the spectacle – that is, on the activities of the world’s owners – is thus organised by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the exten­sive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media’. And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial ‘professionalism’ would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media – a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is commu­nicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.
— Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1967

Orders, declarations. The desire to punish, the desire to be right. The isolation and atomization of social media users contributes to this sense of priesthood and specialness — by which I mean that when one writes, for publication or just as a diarist, the activity is hugely different than writing for social media. The isolation and contemplation of the writer at his keyboard becomes a manic anxious isolation, a cruel imposed isolation that sits in stark contrast to contemplative creation. The rapidity and constant reinforcements that are built into social media are there to keep the attention of the user, for such attention is money, is profit.

What is interesting is how so much of the opinion expressed by the left today is expressed in terms of masculine power or just a replication of militarism’s scorched earth policies. Carpet bombing — from what is now North Korea, terror bombing Belgrade, shock and awe, or bunker busters in Tora Bora, or the war crimes of Fallujah, the endless atrocities inflicted on the global south — the war zone sensibility of racist domestic police forces in the U.S., this is all mirrored and reproduced on social media. Social media has become a laboratory for aggression. But in tiny ever shrinking platforms. Carpet bombing in 280 characters. The sense of shrinkage and enclosure, of foreclosure and agitation, these are design elements. (Why do Silicon Valley CEOs not allow their children to use smart phones? Why do those children go to device free schools?)

The only way that socialist and radical political voices can engage on social media — it seems to me — is to find ways to disrupt the hegemonic orders of the Spectacle. Social media is designed to create a craving for attention. At any cost. Unconscious cravings. This is why the tribalism of likes and blocking and *friends* is so constantly reinforced.

In one sense the mega corporate owners have insured that class is replaced by individualism, identitarian relations and presentation.

When Twitter began the limit for a tweet was 140 characters. The average tweet at that point was 34 characters. Twitter increased the tweet count to 280 characters but the average tweet is now only 33 characters. I suspect this reflects the trend toward inarticulate semi-languages. The trend toward quick scans rather than patient reading.

Critical theory’s effort to restore subjectivity and resist domination rightly leads to the search for and rejection of all tendencies that cause the subject to introject and reproduce his own domination.
— Amy Buzby, Subterranean Politics and Freud’s Legacy, August 14, 2013

Social media, perhaps above all else, encourages obsessive repetitions. Obsessive compulsive disorder is expressed in pure form as Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook. The repetitive behavioral action of keystrokes mimics something industrial, something also nearly manic. And in this sense the bi-polar metaphor remains rather apt. But the emptiness of the screen, the temporal limits, the erasure of lasting meaning, all feel autistic. The social media addiction eventually neutralizes meaning altogether. Trump is oddly the perfect Twitter user. Lies, contradictions, more lies, repeating the lies, and on and on. All without meaning.

All social media rage is reproducing personal pain — at one level. It is also, on another level, reflecting the trauma and violence of the society in which the users live. The compulsive Twitter user, or Facebook troll — and in a sense perhaps everyone shares troll like characteristics simply by virtue of using these platforms — are caught in a habituation cycle of need and pseudo gratification. But addiction metaphors miss the broader point here. Internet use is often likely compulsive, and perhaps constitutes a habituation, but rarely reaches the level of addiction (addictions must produce serious real world consequences for the addict). What is the most disturbing aspect of social media and internet use overall is ideological and educational. The internet, and in particular social media, have damaged cognitive abilities, and have incrementally created two (now) generations (if not three) of people who cannot think outside very narrow cyber structures. Ideologically because the internet is in the business of constantly grabbing your attention and trying to keep it; and information is dispensed via attention grabbing mechanisms and strategies. No internet platform is free of the profit motive, remember. And cyber profit is based on an attention economy. The click bait model can be expanded to anything. And the repetitive nature of social media usage reinforces a tendency already present in western capitalist societies. And, of course, class enters in this discussion exactly here. The loss of employment opportunity and social mobility encourages a recourse to social media and the internet to replace community.

It is also important to distinguish between the attention economy and newer participatory attention economy or what Boutgang labeled Cognitive Capitalism. (see Mackenzie Wark’s analysis here

Cognitive workers are in a sense entrepreneurs, are in a sense people who invest their knowledge, who invest their singular ability and in this sense the relationship, the integration between work, cognitive work and enterprise; and enterprise has a materialistic foundation. But at the same time this kind of integration has produced an ideological effect and a kind of psycho-pathogenic effect on the social forces of cognitive labor. ( ) The Prozac economy and the Prozac crash. The integration of cognitive work and recombinant capital has produced a kind of euphoria, of hyper-excitation and has produced a demotion, an erasing, a forgetting of the physical, the erotic and the social body of the cognitive worker. We have been taken in this kind of irrational exuberance and we have forgotten that we have a body – that we are a body. So the cognitive worker in this kind of hyper-excitation completely or partially has been forgetting the relationship to the society and the relationship to the physical body.
— Frano Berardi, Market Ideology, Semiocapitalism, and the Digital Congitariat,

Berardi’s (Bifo) article is worth reading in its entirety here.

In 1995, 10 years into the history of mobile phones, penetration in the UK was just 7%,” according to Professor Nigel Linge, of the University of Salford’s Computer Networking and Telecommunications Research Centre. “In 1998 it was about 25%, but by 1999 it was 46%, that was the ‘tipping point’. In 1999 one mobile phone was sold in the UK every 4 seconds.” By 2004, there were more mobile phones in the UK than people – a penetration level of more than 100%. ( ) The way that handsets themselves were marketed was also changing and it was Finland’s Nokia, which had been fighting hard with Motorola and Ericsson for dominance of the market, who made the leap from phones as technology to phones as fashion items with the Nokia 3210 device.

“The Nokia 3210 is iconic because it is the first phone that deliberately did not display any sort of external aerial,” explains Linge. “Nokia in the late 1990s cottoned on to the fact that the mobile phone was a fashion item: so it allowed interchangeable covers, you could customise and personalise your handset.”

In 1999, the film The Matrix was released, which featured Nokia’s 8110 handset prominently. Nokia followed it up with the 7110, which was also the first device to fully exploit the new WAP mobile data service, the fore-runner of the 3G services of today.
— Richard Wray, Guardian, 2010

Hollywood again. The future again. One might argue The Matrix is the most influential film in history — not because it’s any good, it’s not, but because it consolidated several threads of style and futuristic fantasy and presented them in an appealing package, one that also appealed to the new automagical thinking. The reality today is that global capital can draw upon a reserve of global labour regardless of national borders. As Ursula Huws notes in Labour in Contemporary Capitalism, 2019:

Even when casualised labour is not carried out by their direct employees, it is carried out within the scope of the increasingly elaborated value chains which these companies control.

And this casualization and global context has generated enormous resentment against migrant workers, especially in areas of industrial decline (per Huws). Hence the rise of the far right parties across Europe today. And the theft of social benefits, stuff like unemployment payments, are increasingly hard to actually receive and when received are provincial and conditional. The point is that the internet has transformed human life in its entirety. And often, maybe nearly always, for the worse. Shoshana Zuboff (Ibid.) has the final word here, for this is what all of this discussion is trending toward:

The prospect of guaranteed outcomes alerts us to the force of the prediction imperative, which demands that surveillance capitalists make the future for the sake of predicting it. Under this regime, ubiquitous computing is not just a knowing machine; it is an actuating machine designed to produce more certainty about us and for them.

This is largely what Debord saw happening too. The profit from reliable forecasting and prediction means that creating the future is the best strategy — if you make the future you can predict it with some certainty. People need to realize, I think, that EVERYTHING online is manufactured reality — it’s not real, it’s pseudo real. And marketings job is to convince you that pseudo real is REAL REAL. And if the result of this is increased mental illness and pathological degrees of aggression, and industrial levels of anti-depressant use, well, so what? Global servitude is the dream of the new reality brokers. The ruling class believes in their own fantasies (courtesy, it seems, of science fiction movies) but they are determined to control our dreams and aspirations. And unless one starts to examine all of this in terms of class, there is little hope to stop this dream of global hegemony. The mantra must be, *question everything*.

Questioning the Extremely Online

This essay is in regard to a crime that too often goes unmentioned when the conversations turn towards political analysis, the contemporary journalistic scene, and broader social critique: the crime of being extremely online.

What does it mean to be extremely online? It mostly is as straightforward as it sounds. Generally, activities such as spending too much time on the web, scrolling through social media feeds out of habit, checking email or notifications dozens of times a day, all are symptoms of the extremely online person. Particularly, too much smartphone use is a devastating problem.

There is also a more specific version, which both mainstream journalists and alternative media commentators employ on both the right and left: constantly posting every news update; sharing a gazillion times every day each and every version and opinion on a current event/post/tweet about the lead news stories of the day, whether it is something interesting about global warming or something as ignorant and banal as the president’s tweets; prognosticating about the presidential election a year and a half before it happens;  using dubious polls or statistics to bolster weak arguments; and basically reacting to every media spectacle with behavior including, but not limited to, juvenile tantrums, posturing, faux outrage, jaded cynicism, pompous virtue-signalling, ironic detachment, and narcissistic self-aggrandizement.

Quite a few alternative media commentators tend to replicate and mimic the 24/7 spectacle that is mainstream news. That is to say, many have internalized the messaging style; the hyper-fast response time to current events…generally speaking, the norms of mainstream commentary and thus bourgeois values are being internalized. The more time spent posting for an online following on social media, the stronger the pull of an affinity to a certain type of power. Digital hierarchies become hardened, and the bourgeoisification of the web intensifies. As we shall see below, even those who identify as anti-capitalist or socialist are not immune.

The types of online behaviors regarding political debate exhibited above may be the exception, but with the expansion of social media along with its hyper-stratified tendencies, it may soon become the norm.

What research has shown is that digital literacy creates a path towards more open attitudes towards digital technology, which can be called Technophilia.1 This research points towards entertainment as one of the key drivers in promoting positive emotions and behavior when using digital technology, which results in a positive feedback loop leading to more intense and rewarding use.

If you extrapolate from this a bit, I’d suggest that the top online influencers in various political schools of thought will be more predisposed towards promoting digital technology, simply because they are benefitting from it financially. We have a situation where the most popular commentators are economically tied to social media, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that their naïve optimism regarding the power of digital media will not stop there, but rather, the naivety extends to industrial society as a whole.

The social media environment creates a logic of its own, just as most modern technology does. One obvious materialist analogy is to the medical industry. As long as for-profit companies are allowed to dominate pharmaceutical and research endeavors, the logic of the system will mean that more people are made sick, anxious, depressed, etc., to make more money for corporations. With social media, the logic of its internal dynamics precludes nuanced, informed, lengthy public deliberation in favor of sound-bite quotes, sloganeering, and focusing on personalities, along with the most shallow forms of identity politicking. Its logic depends on divisive, sensational, hateful, and ultimately fascistic rhetoric dominating political discourse.

Since the scope of Technophilia broadens and intensifies with continued use of labor-saving devices made under exploitative conditions, it ultimately results in many self-proclaimed anti-capitalists falling under the sway of propaganda emanating from mainstream technological society, as we shall see below.

Class is never taken seriously in our society. In many rural areas around the USA broadband internet access is still out of reach, and is expensive for many poor urban Americans as well, creating a digital divide. Thus it is no wonder that the rich and middle-classes are more “open” towards the web and smart-phone use. They derive more pleasure from them in terms of entertainment, increased digital literacy, and monetary success. The flip side of being more open is being more immature and blind to dangers, however. In contrast the poor and working classes respond to the digital life-world with more skepticism, as the above study indicates.

My contention here is that this digital literacy creates a new form of “digital spectacle” for technophilic Westerners on both the political right and left, especially for the middle classes. The elite implicitly understand that in a society based on artificial scarcity, only a certain amount of online influencers can vie for position in digital media. The professional and managerial classes, and their children ensconced in privilege, all too easily fall under the sway of the competitive forces in online media as well.

The poor and working class understand that in regarding to digital media, they are getting crushed under the weight of start-up costs, social capital which is either unobtainable or sleazy to get, and various online fees and hurdles to make it in a new rigged game of digital society. The digital divide is becoming a chasm, because it too it based on market forces.

As alluded to above, election cycle mania, the fascination with polling data, as well as fixation of GDP, job growth, and many other factors which the mainstream media focuses on are now internalized across the political spectrum, included much of Western Left analysis. This isn’t to say that socialists overly reliant on statistics and polling are wrong; simply that it’s mostly ineffective, as the tone is technocratic, academic, and is filled with the jargon that turns off the average citizen, even some of what is written here. I am not immune, this is a self-criticism as well, as the lack of engagement and overly analytical framework extends throughout journalism and academia across the entire social body.

Most of this behavior has been internalized and learned from mainstream media, which creates a market and manufactured interest in nonsensical statistics and banal news trivia, as Neil Postman points out:

Statistics create an enormous amount of completely useless information, which compounds the always difficult task of location that which is useful to a culture. This is more than a case of ‘information-overload.’ It is a matter of information-trivia, which has the effect of placing all information on an equal level.2

Once data becomes transmuted into a sort of holy substance, it is wielded by both the political Right and Left as a weapon: statistics back their cause and any deviation from the issue is irrational and illogical. This sets the table for false binaries and political polarization across the spectrum of political thought.

What being extremely online has done is given the very few big “influencers” in mainstream media as well as alternative spaces huge egos and warped their ability to think critically. This is most clearly seen in our “troll in chief”, Donald Trump. Time, space, and perception are distorted and it has led to a predictable and unimaginative online discourse.

When a post appears on social media, often if you know the contributor and some of the followers/friends, you can glean and predict what the reaction is going to be and who is going to say what. Depending on the news of the day, I can guestimate what the “takes” will be of my various friends and those I follow. I admit this can be sometimes comforting given the horrendous news we deal with daily. However, it also kind of implies that real people are reacting, thinking, and forming commentary algorithmically, as if our thoughts now mimic apps like Spotify and Pandora which play tracks from one’s favorite musicians; or at least similar artists which won’t offend the listener’s taste. How banal and horrifying all at once.

With podcasts or Youtube videos, as well as message boards, one can see political commentary forming a script, where individuals rattle off reels of their “greatest hits” of points, observations, and reflections, rather than engaging with the subject matter. No matter how hard we try, social media can never replicate oral traditions and real-life conversations. Dysfunction is baked into modern capitalist-based digital communication.

How being extremely online works to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many is easy to ascertain. We are told we are living in an “attention economy” and the extremely online predicate their behavior on this premise, even those who ostensibly identify as anti-capitalist. The extremely online mimic the 24/7 blather of mainstream media discourse, because nothing is too insignificant not to post, nothing too small not to get out in the lead as being “on top of” any given issue or current event. This is the sort of competitive striving absolutely essential to capitalism.

Outrage, shock, compassion, repulsion, empathy, and even “rational, objective” sober media analysis vie for our attention spans, and the extremely online prey upon those among their followers who due to loneliness, emotional issues, or escapism already spend too much time online, and are thus more vulnerable to screen addiction, sensationalist appeals, fear-mongering, gossip, consumer trends, etc.

Of course, the mainstream outlets have been deeply complicit, as it suits their financial interests. As seen by the CNN executive during the 2016 election gloating that the insane coverage of Trump was horrible for the country, but good for their bottom line, or something to that effect.

As for the reaction time of news sources, and thus political commentary, it may strain one’s memory to recall, but only twenty years ago any major news stories that broke after the evening news broadcast did not appear until the next morning, nearly an eight to twelve hour delay

Now, every media outlet is constantly bombarding us with every update and crisis in real time. The main reaction to this (notwithstanding the many sincere alternative media, community-level, and individual critiques) in the collective consciousness is shock and numbness, and it only compounds daily.

Now, many leftists tend to unconsciously mimic the same tendencies of mainstream media. This is done by copying the tactics of mainstream online influencers who use marketing, PR, and advertising firms to get ahead. This is done by pandering to the crowd and reacting to every Trump and establishment faux pas, whether Democrat or Republican. This is done by opportunistic virtue signaling and online activism viewed as a substitute for in person organizing. The virtual becomes more real than the real. Egos become more tied to the digital social environs, a derivative of a derivative.

Apparently the twisted logic is that if the extremely online use social media as a way for exposure and fame, it’s worth it. Social media becomes a tool, a means to an end to uproot the system. The downside tends to be that we become instruments of social media itself, not a new phenomenon in Western Civilization.

Posting dozens of times a day on social media simply is not in anyone’s best interest. It is in the best interest of capital, however. Why else would one post 30, 50, a hundred times a day if not to create an attention economy around oneself, to gain digital “followers” whose gaze will be diverted from possibly more important issues closer and dearer to their hearts…as well as to one’s family and friends, one’s material reality and ability to help the vulnerable and those in need close to them.

What should be obvious is every moment spent online is time away from the natural world and thus a huge time-suck where we exist as zombified, trance-induced crazy people for more information, useless updates, more drivel-data and bits of trivialities that do not change a thing.

Being online means being on the grid and the computing power needed to keep our information superhighway running is increasing like a runaway train. Despite the relatively low cost of powering one’s individual smartphone and computer/laptop/tablet etc., the internet via server farms, cell towers, etc. uses approximately 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption and the total energy use for the web increases by about 20% each year. The rollout of harmful 5G technology and internet of things only will accelerate the technological dystopia we’re enmeshed in.

Regardless of what technophiles and delusional people want to think, modern industrial civilization is a fad. We are going to have to go through an extended period of degrowth and lowering our power consumption and that will have to include less internet use. Most especially, too much smartphone use must be addressed head-on. Smartphones need to go away, for good, and it’s not too hard to imagine a workable society without them. It existed twenty years ago.

This should be simple enough to understand, but again, chronic habitual internet use and social media creates a form of addiction which leads to denialism. For those that do partake in nuanced forms of online discussion, in message boards or even in comment sections, yet limit, self-reflect, and moderate your use, congratulations. This is not directed at you. This is written is response to the serial social media addicts. For those in this group, I’ll posit that one of the root reasons for this malady is that our addict-Left comrades unconsciously identify with the system.

This isn’t meant to sound callous, these people are suffering to different degrees, and I do empathize. Boredom, loneliness, and lack of in-person human connection are endemic to our culture and these factors shouldn’t be minimized when understanding addictive behavior.

Part of the problem is the speed of society now. It’s understandable, people want to keep up with events and chime in with their two cents. It’s a human reaction. Part of the problem is also that the people who have convinced themselves they are part of the solution remain part of the problem. Mainly, because they are unable or unwilling to critically examine the technophilic ideology at the heart of the capitalist-based internet.

The “Left-opinion makers”, as the Situationists were wont to call them, thus fall hopelessly further into the spectacle.

Caveat

Social media use is not a horrible thing in and of itself. Although much of its use tends to replicate competitive and hierarchical relations, there are alternative visions of what the web could be like. Internet and social media companies could have been, and should be now, directed through public funding and non-profit models decades ago to engage and educate working class people, to provide jobs and new opportunities, and to raise the consciousness of the public sphere. This could easily be done even within the confines of a social-democratic system.

What we have now is a web and social media landscape that is largely, but not completely, irredeemable. Again, this does not mean one should completely ignore it, only that social media should be seen as a vessel to get people out of their homes and into the streets: like we saw in Tunisia, in Egypt and many other nations during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know if this metaphor is useful at all, but social media could be used as a sort of liberatory portals or gateways, networks to awaken the masses from their slumber, to take them out of the virtual and into the “natural” world. Web and social media technology can be used to “tune in” people to serious movement-building, to Marx, to environmental protests, to issues like climate change and nuclear war, through digital communication; but eventually there has to be a period when citizens step through to the other side and “drop out” to take the struggle onto the public squares. The thing is, many of those involved in just such struggles seem hopelessly “addicted” or too enamored with the power of internet technology itself, much like what has happened with the fetishization of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, the personal computer, and many other examples.

The Professional Bloviators

Sadly, quite a few self-professed anti-capitalist public intellectuals seem to be ensnared by bourgeois ideology today. Many rightly view our political and economic systems as hopelessly corrupt, yet still cling to the privilege, perks, and soapboxes offered by their academic positions (tied to student and faculty exploitation, which is either conveniently unmentioned or under-emphasized), viewing their own credentials as somehow a basis for a true and fair meritocracy, as if academia is somehow above the vagaries of blind chance, sheer luck, white privilege, and jockeying for power.

Any academic worth their salt should be either heavily insinuating, or outright stating to their students, that college is a huge waste of time and money, depending on how much “free speech” they can actually afford to say without getting canned. Universities function today as huge indoctrination camps to train the next generation of good “liberals” (or good Germans, it might be more appropriate to say) who will never question or threaten to overturn the system: the professional-managerial upper-middle class technocrats, financiers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

Thus, even some dissident academics manage to paint themselves into a corner with ineffectual arguments backing the college system, turf wars, theatrical posturing, lack of engagement with the working class, etc. This has all been said before, but again, it may be worth repeating. For instance, in 2011 in the US there were some “socialists” and “anarchists” supporting the US/UK/French bombing of Libya, and a few who equivocated and vacillated, citing the responsibility to protect civilians, parroting State Department propaganda. Oy vey.

The internet and social media has accelerated this trend, making things worse among the wider population, as even those with core anti-capitalist ideas fall into internecine bickering. This is peak aspersionary politics, or passive-aggressiveness if you prefer, which apes wider bourgeois culture. To recast Allen Ginsberg’s opening line of Howl for today, and I only mean this half-jokingly, we can think of something like: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.” Some Left twitterati self-identify as being “extremely online”: brazenly, unashamedly, and unreflectively revealing the depths of their own screen addictions.

Aldous Huxley described the brain as a “reducing valve”, yet I’ve not heard a fully-encompassing phrase for the situation created by a digital milieu where web algorithms which reinforce harmful beliefs and behavior, prey on our addictions, amplify hatred, sow discord, polarize media and community; by devices that seize and sustain our attention long after we realize it no longer serves our interests; by neurotransmitter hijacking, empathy-deadening, critical-thinking atrophying smartphones and media built explicitly to mine us for money, use our thoughts/photos/creativity/etc. as free content while social media companies and those who advertise on the platforms make billions, and generally to simultaneously distract, outrage, and numb us. “Limbic capitalism3 is the closest term I’ve come across, but perhaps the more brutal, if less artful, phrase is more apt: mind control.

There is less and less nuance and space for radical dissent as many left-leaning alternative media and social media influencers close ranks and offer only very mild criticism of social democratic policies. Again, the striving is self-evident, is it not?

These are symptoms of unhealthy minds, formatted/manipulated/brainwashed to choose between false binaries no matter what contradictions follow from the starting premises of whatever topic is at hand. For instance, take the so-called socialist opportunists who offer very mild public criticism of the Green New Deal, or those who don’t mention the huge cuts in military spending needed to give the deal teeth, so as not to seem confrontational or radical, or perhaps to save what’s left of their perceived (yet, worthless) reputations. In other words, their take is: we don’t have time to build real socialism. Let’s form a coalition with the new social democrats, as if that didn’t end in complete disaster over 100 years ago.

Paths Forward

Now, of course it’s true that reform can indeed broaden and deepen the prospects for revolution, and it is not an either/or proposition, as Rosa Luxembourg explained so well. Yet, we cannot let the crass opportunism and striving for attention on digital media to enact important reforms derail us from steeping workers, students, minorities, and women in the rich intellectual tradition woven by the anti-capitalist Left.

Right in the introduction to the Social Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg states: “The entire strength of the modern labor movement rests on theoretic knowledge.” Despite big advances in the last three years, clearly there is a need for the deep type of work involving the framework for constructing and advancing a truly emancipatory Green New Deal, as well as fighting for open borders, the abolition of prisons and police, and the military-industrial complex.

Anything less than a systematic and intersectional approach will do a huge disservice to the movement and will replicate the cloistered, privileged milieu which unduly benefits the extremely online and their techno-utopian backers.

Reform is welcome because it can lead to tolerance, and its eventual byproduct, solidarity. Solidarity is a radiating emotional, behavioral, and intellectual stance from which flow social bonding and necessary healing mechanisms for our culture. The main ideals of environmental, social, and economic justice revolve around solidarity. Which gives us space to breathe, and here I’m reminded of Eric Garner’s last words. The minorities and the poor in this country have been suffocating for centuries. With no mass base, even the good intentions of those in Congress, such as the “Squad” who advocate for redistributive measures, will be for naught.

If some of today’s US socialist “thought leaders” are so spineless to feign from even mentioning how the prospect of renewable energy corporations left in the hands of private control will end in utter disaster, or to simply pretend it won’t, there’s not much left to say to these people. Then there are US socialists who advocate insanely for nuclear power. Forget theoretical knowledge.  This is basic common sense.  Nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If there is intimidation by peers, or simply self-censorship, or to maintain a lifestyle by promoting such anti-life policies on the Left, well, it’s entirely understandable, predictable, and wretched. It’s also an abdication of responsibility: clearly these are bourgeois stances.

To sum up, pointing fingers at the ruling classes’ blatantly obvious sociopathic tendencies provides the convenient scapegoats and diversionary tactics from confronting the holes in many of our own thinking

Back to theoretic knowledge for a minute. First, we have to take into account the anti-intellectual climate here in the US. One encounters quite a few semi-influential figures, especially on the right but increasingly in anti-capitalist outlets, which are quick to criticize French postmodernists, or the Frankfurt School, or various strains of thought which are deemed too obscure or weighty.

There’s no time for theory is one of their complaints, because it is too time-consuming or turns off too many people. So whatever is too complicated for the gate-keeping digital left-liberal editors is thrown by the wayside, but it ain’t clear where this process is headed other than an even more dumbed-down society. What is clear is we are dealing with lightweights.  It’s pretty paternalistic too, because the subtext seems to be that regular people are just too dumb to be introduced to “Theory” and serious academic work.

The other side to this is that many of the same people who are wonderful at explaining theory or offering political critique, many of the “the Left opinion makers”, have absolutely no environmental or ecological knowledge base. You wouldn’t trust them with a shovel; never mind on a factory floor, a communal farm, starting an activist movement or union, or organizing a cooperative. The materialism part of the equation never kicked in. It’s a function of middle-class squeamishness that needs to be squashed.

Another point I want to mention is the US and UK analytic preference for social critique and philosophical investigation, in contrast to the continental style. And I cannot emphasize enough that the dominant Anglophone trend is to turn socialism into an equation, a formula. Put another way, to offer models of governance and even to organize in the technocratic style. Not only that, but to uncritically accept a model for the future based on unrestrained use of technology, with very little understanding of environmental impacts,  conservation, or basic ecology in general.

We see this techno-fetishism in some of the ideas floating around such as “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, notably Aaron Bastani’s recent work of the same title. Bastani is close to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. And look who gives a plug for the book, Bhaskar Sunkara. And if you follow these connections down the rabbit hole you’ll see Sunkara’s most recent work gets a plug from Ezra Klein of Vox. So there are all these ties from UK socialists to US democratic socialists to elitist technocratic liberals. And what is in common is a shared naivety regarding technology.

Again, ideas around degrowth are never discussed by the automation admirers. It’s clearly a total dismissal of the idea to preserve their own affluence. Total energy use in the West will have to decrease immensely. The economy, which is inexorably tied to energy use, will have to contract. Nearly all large buildings will have to be retrofitted to remain cooler in the summer and warmer in winter using natural insulation methods. Many large office buildings, skyscrapers, malls, etc. will simply have to be abandoned because there is no way to heat/cool them even remotely efficiently. Modern agriculture will have to be dismantled and converted to decentralized permaculture community-worked gardens.

None of this is even mentioned by the automators. This is because their thinking, their ways of being online, have already started to slip into the manner of the automaton. Which many people acknowledged, where Brzezinski dispassionately saw it as an inevitability of modern life, and famously Marcuse saw it as a downright horror in his One Dimensional Man.

The majority of the world can see through all of this talk of AI, robot, quantum computer, 5G drivel. Most people understand, even if they cannot quite communicate their ideas as coldly or eloquently as the technophiles, that the mind cannot be reduced to a mechanical device or a computer processor. As below, so above, society cannot be viewed or treated as a factory floor for renewable energy powered robots to bring us to some Jetsons or Star Trek lifestyle.

The opportunities for control and manipulation of minds have already grown at a frightening pace in the past fifty years. Even further automation would simply open up more avenues for alienation and exploitation. Here’s how. A pro-automation society would be more open to new hierarchies created by divides among the digitally literate, could empower the pharmaceutical companies to create dangerous new drugs to control moods and perception, could open up more geo-engineering of the planet, to more spying and tracking of individuals, and generally more of the full-spectrum digitization of our lives.

This isn’t to suggest that those among the extremely online don’t have any good ideas, or that the FALCers don’t either. It’s simply a reminder that some of these people are being very naïve in regard to the future of technology, some are materially benefitting from the current toxic social media environment and are therefore biased, and others do not realize the internal logic of the system which engenders some of the very barriers they wish to destroy. In most cases high technology acts as a drug, with an intelligence of its own, and once you’re on the ride you don’t control where you’re going to get off.

  1. Ronit, Purian, “Technophilia: A New Model For Technology Adoption” (2011), UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings 2011, Paper 41.
  2. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New York, 1992.
  3. Courtwright, David. “How ‘Limbic Capitalism’ Preys on our Addicted Brains”, Quillette, May 31, 2019.

Tulsi Gabbard vs Google Goliath

Introduction

The Tulsi Gabbard presidential campaign has filed a major law suit against Google.  This article outlines the main points of the law suit and evidence the the social media giant Google has quietly acquired enormous influence on public perceptions and has been actively censoring alternative viewpoints.

Tulsi Now vs Google

Tulsi Now, Inc vs Google, LLC was filed on July 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The attorneys demand a jury trial and seek compensation and punitive damages of “no less than $50 million”. Major points and allegations in the 36 page complaint include:

* Google has monopolistic control of online searches and related advertising.

“Google creates, operates, and controls its platform and services, including but not limited to Google Search, Google Ads, and Gmail as a public forum or its functional equivalent by intentionally and openly dedicating its platform for public use and public benefit, inviting the public to utilize Google as a forum for free speech. Google serves as a state actor by performing an exclusively and traditionally public function by regulating free speech within a public forum and helping to run elections.” (p. 22)

“Google has used its control over online political speech to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate millions of Americans want to hear from. With this lawsuit, Tulsi seeks to stop Google from further intermeddling in the 2020 United States Presidential Election….. Google plays favorites, with no warning, no transparency – and no accountability (until now).” (p. 2)

* At a critical moment Google undercut the Tulsi Gabbard campaign.

“On June 28, 2019 – at the height of Gabbard’s popularity among internet researchers in the immediate hours after the debate ended, and in the thick of the critical post-debate period… Google suspended Tulsi’s Google Ads account without warning.” (p. 3)

* Google has failed to provide a credible explanation.

The Tulsi campaign quickly sought to restore the account but “In response, the Campaign got opacity and an inconsistent series of answers from Google… To this day, Google has not provided a straight answer – let alone a credible one – as to why Tulsi’s political speech was silence right when millions of people wanted to hear from her.” (p. 4)

Google started by falsely claiming “problems with billing”.  Later, as reported in the NY Times story  a Google spokesperson claimed, “Google has automated systems that flag unusual activity on advertiser accounts – including large spending changes – to prevent fraud….In this case, ‘our system triggered a suspension.’ ”

* Google has a corporate profit motive to oppose Tulsi Gabbard.

“Google has sought to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a presidential candidate who has vocally called for greater regulation and oversight of (you guessed it) Google.” (p. 5)

“During her career in Congress, Gabbard has moved to limit the powers of big tech companies like Google and has fought to keep the internet open and available to all. Gabbard has co-sponsored legislation that prohibits multi-tiered pricing agreements for the privileged few, and she has spoken in favor of reinstating and expanding net neutrality to apply to Internet firms like Google.” (p. 8)

* Google’s Actions have caused significant harm to the Gabbard campaign and violate the U.S. and California constitutions and California business law.

“Through its illegal actions targeting Tulsi Gabbard, Google has caused the Campaign significant harm, both monetary (including potentially millions of dollars in forgone donations) and nonmonetary (the ability to provide Tulsi’s important message with Americans looking to hear it).” (p. 6)

“Google engages in a pattern and practice of intentional discrimination in the provision of its services, including discriminating and censoring the Campaign’s speech based not on the content of the censored speech but on the Campaign’s political identity and viewpoint.” (p. 27)

* The public has an interest in this case.

“Unless the court issues an appropriate injunction, Google’s illegal and unconstitutional behavior will continue, harming both the Campaign and the general public, which has an overwhelming interest in a fair, unmanipulated 2020 United States Election cycle. (p. 34)

Google Explanation is Not Credible

The Tulsi Gabbard Google Ads account was abruptly suspended at a crucial time. The question is why. Was it the result of “unusual activity” triggering an “automatic suspension” as claimed by Google? Or was it because someone at Google changed the software or otherwise intervened to undermine the Tulsi campaign?

Google’s explanation of an “automatic suspension” from “unusual activity” is dubious. First, the timing does not make sense. The sudden rise in searches on “Tulsi Gabbard” began the day before the suspension. Gabbard participated in the first debate, on June 26. Her presence and performance sparked interest among many viewers. Next morning, June 27, media reported that, “Tulsi Gabbard was the most searched candidate on Google after the Democratic debate in Miami“. The second debate took place in the evening of June 27. With discussion of the Democratic candidates continuing, Tulsi Gabbard continued to attract much interest. Around 9:30 pm (ET) on June 27 the Google Ads account was suddenly suspended. If the cause was “unusual activity”, the “automatic trigger” should have occurred long before.

Second, Google was fully aware of the “unusual activity”. In fact, Google was the source of the news reports on the morning of June 27.  Reports said: According to Google Trends, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the most searched candidate heading into the debate… After the debate, Gabbard vaulted into first.”

Third, it is hard to believe that Google does not have any human or more sophisticated review before suspending a major Ads account on a politically intense night.  It should have been obvious that the cause of increased interest in Gabbard was the nationally televised Democratic candidates debate and media coverage.

Fourth, the changing explanation for the sudden suspension, starting with a false claim that there were “problems with billing”, raises questions about the integrity of Google’s response.

Google Secretly Manipulates  Public Opinion

Unknown to most of the public, there is compelling evidence that Google has been secretly manipulating search results to steer public perception and election voting for years.

Dr. Robert Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, has been studying and reporting on this for the past six years. Recently, on June 16, 2019 he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Constitution. His testimony is titled “Why Google Poses a Serious Threat to Democracy, and How to End That Threat”.

Epstein has published 15 books and over 300 scientific and mainstream media articles on artificial intelligence and related topics. “Since 2012, some of my research and writings have focused on Google LLC, specifically on the company’s power to suppress content – the censorship problem, if you will – as well as on the massive surveillance the company conducts, and also on the company’s unprecedented ability to manipulate the thoughts and behavior of more than 2.5 billion people worldwide.”

As shown by Dr. Epstein, Google uses several techniques to manipulate public opinion. The results of an online search are biased. Search “suggestions” are skewed. Messages such as “Go Vote” are sent to some people but not to others.

Epstein’s written testimony to Congress includes links to over sixty articles documenting his research published in sites ranging from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to Huffington Post. Epstein’s testimony describes “disturbing findings” including:

“In 2016, biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton”. (Epstein notes that he supported Clinton.)

“On Election Day in 2018, the ‘Go Vote’ reminder Google displayed on its home page gave one political party between 800,000 and 4.6 million more votes than it gave the other party.”

“My recent research demonstrates that Google’s ‘autocomplete’ search suggestions can turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split without people’s awareness.”

“Google has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide since at least 2015. This is because many races are very close and because Google’s persuasive technologies are very powerful.”

Google is Censoring Alternative Media  

In August 2017 TruePublica reported their experience and predictions in an article titled The Truth War is Being Lost to a Global Censorship Apparatus Called Google“. The article says:

60 percent of people now get their news from search engines, not traditional human editors in the media. It is here where the new information war takes place – the algorithm. Google now takes 81.2 percent of all search engine market share globally…. Google has the ability to drive demand and set the narrative, create bias and swing opinion.

In 2017, the World Socialist Web Site (wsws.org) reported that:

In April, under the guise of combating ‘fake news’, Google introduced new procedures that give extraordinary powers to unnamed ‘evaluators’ to demote web pages and websites. These procedures have been used to exclude the WSWS and other anti-war and oppositional sites. Over the past three months, traffic originating from Google to the WSWS  has fallen by approximately 70%…. In key searches relevant to a wide range of topics the WSWS regularly covers – including the U.S. military operations and the threat of war, social conditions, inequality and even socialism – the number of search impressions …has fallen dramatically.

In essence, Google has “de-ranked” and is screening searchers from seeing alternative and progressive websites such as truepublica, globalresearch, consortiumnews, commondreams, Wikileaks, truth-out and many more. WSWS reported numerous specific examples such as this one: “Searches for the term ‘Korean war’ produced 20,932 impressions in May. In July, searches using the same words produced zero WSWS impressions.”

“The policy guiding these actions is made absolutely clear in the April 25, 2017 blog post by Google’s Vice President for Engineering, Ben Gomes, and the updated ‘Search Quality Rater Guidelines’ published at the same time. The post refers to the need to flag and demote ‘unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and conspiracy theories’ – broad and amorphous language used to exclude any oppositional content…. “The ‘lowest’ rating is also to be given to a website that ‘presents unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or hoaxes as if the information were factual.'”

Tulsi Gabbard has not only called for much stricter regulations on high tech and social media giants. She has also challenged the Democratic Party and foreign policy establishment.  In late February 2016 she resigned as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee to support candidate Bernie Sanders against the establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton. Gabbard has issued sharp criticisms of US foreign policy.  Recently she said:

We hear a lot of politicians say the same argument that we’ve got to stay engaged in the world otherwise we’ll be isolationists as though the only way the United States can engage with other countries is by blowing them up or strangling them with economic sanctions by smashing them and trying to overthrow their governments. This is exactly what’s wrong with this whole premise and the whole view in which too many politicians, too many leaders in this country are viewing the United States role in the world.

Conclusion

Did Google take the next step from silently censoring websites the corporation does not like to undercutting a presidential candidate the corporation does not like?

This is a David vs Goliath story. Google/Alphabet is the 37th largest corporation in the world with enormous political influence in Washington. Whether or not the law suit succeeds, it may serve the public interest by exposing Google’s immense monopolistic power and illustrate the need for much more regulation, transparency and accountability.  It may also generate more interest in Gabbard’s message and campaign in the face of efforts to silence her.

Raging Against the Algorithm: Google and Persuasive Technology

The founder of Netscape said software is going to eat the world.

— Tristan Harris, Centre for Humane Technology, June 25, 2019

Monsters and titans share the stage of mythology across cultures as the necessary realisations of the human imagination.  From stone cave to urban dwelling, the theme is unremitting; kept in the imagination, such creatures perform, innocently enough, benign functions.  The catch here is the human tendency to realise such creatures.  They take the form of social engineering and utopia.  Folly bound, such projects and ventures wind up corrupting and degrading.  The monster is born, and the awful truth comes to the fore: the concentration camp, the surveillance state, newspeak, the armies of censorship.

The technology giants of the current era are the modern utopians, indulging human hunger and interests by shaping them.  One company gives us the archetype. It is Google, which has the unusual distinction of being both noun and verb, entity and action.  Google’s power is disproportionately vast, a creepy sprawl that cherishes transparency while lacking it, and treasuring information while regulating its reach.  It is also an entity that has gone beyond being a mere repository of searches and data, an attempt to induce behavioural change on the part of users.

Google always gives the impression that its users are in the lead, autonomous, independent in a verdant land of digital frolicking.  The idea that the company itself fosters such change, teasing out alterations in behaviour, is placed to one side.  There are no Svengalis in Googleland, because we are all free. Free, but needing assistance amidst chaos and “multitasking”.

People have what the company calls “micro-moments”, those, as behavioural economist Dan Ariely describes as “on-the-go mobile moments” where decisions are reached by a user while engaged, simultaneously, in a range of tasks: hotels to book, travel choices to make, work schedules to fulfil.  While Ariely is writing more broadly from the perspective of the ubiquitous digital marketer, the language is pure Googleleese, smacking of part persuasion and part imposition.  “Want to develop a strategy to shape your consumer decisions?” asks Google.  “Start by understanding the key micro-moments in their journey.”  Understand them; feed their mind; hold their hand.

The addiction to Google produces what can no longer be seen as retarding, but fostering.  A generation is growing up without a hard copy research library, a ready-to-hand list of classics, and the means to search through records without resorting to those damnable digital keys.  Debates are bound to be had (some already pollute the digital space) about whether this is necessarily a condition to lament.  Embrace digital amnesia! To Google is to exist.

What is undeniable is that the means to find information – instantaneous, glut-filled, desperately quick – has created users who inhabit a space that guides their thinking, pre-empting, cajoling and adjusting.  One form of literacy, we might kindly say, is being supplanted by another: the Google imbecile is upon us.

Given the nature of such effects, it is little wonder that politicians find Google threatening to their mouldy and rusted on craft.  The politician’s preserve is sound – or unsound – communication; success at the next election is dependent upon the idea that the electors understand, and approve, what has been relayed to them (whether that material is factual, or not, a lie or otherwise, is beside the point: the politician yearns to convince in order to win).

The old search engine titan supplies something of a snag in this regard.  On the one hand, it offers the political classes the means to reach a global audience, an avenue to screech and promote the next hair-brained scheme that comes into the mind of the political apparat.  But what if the message stymies on the way, finding delays in the means of what is called “search engine optimisation”?  Is Google to blame, or bog standard ordinariness on the part of the politician?

US politicians think they have an answer.  Only they are permitted control of the narrative, and disseminating the lie.  Of late they have been trying to sketch out a path they are not used to: regulating industries once hailed as sentinels of freedom, promoters of liberty.  Their complaints tend to lack consistency. On the one hand, they find various Google algorithms problematic (preference for alt-right sites, conspiratorial gruel as damaging), but their slant is wonky and skewed.  Had these algorithms been driving favourable search terms (conformist, steady, unquestioning, anti-Trump), the matter would be a non-starter.  Our message, they would say, is getting out there.

This week, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation tried to make sense, in rather accusing fashion, of “persuasive technology”.  Nanette Byrnes furnishes us with a definition: “the idea that computers, mobile phones, websites, and other technologies could be designed to influence people’s behaviour and even attitudes”.  The Pope does remain resolutely Catholic.

The committee hearing featured such opinions as those of Senator John Thune (R-SD), who wished to use the proceedings to draft legislation that would “require internet platforms to give consumers the option to engage with the platform without having the experience shaped by algorithms.”  The Senator is happy to accept that artificial intelligence “powers automations to display content to optimize engagement” but sees a devil in the works, as “AI algorithms can have an unintended and possibly even dangerous downside”.  This is tantamount to wanting a Formula One Grand Prix without fast cars and an athletics competition in slow motion.

Facing the senators from Google’s side was Maggie Stanphill, director of Google User Experience.  Her testimony was couched in words more akin to the glossiness of a travel brochure with a complimentary sprinkling of cocaine.  “Google’s Digital Wellbeing Initiative is a top company goal, focusing on providing our users with insights about their digital habits and tools to support an intentional relationship with technology.”  Google merely “creates products that improve the lives of the people who use them.”  The company has provided access that has “democratized information and provided services for billions of people around the world.”  When asked about whether Google was doing its bit in the persuasion business, Stanphill was unequivocal.  “We do not use persuasive technology.”

The session’s theme was clear: oodles and masses of content are good, but must be appropriate.  In Information Utopia, where digital Adam and Eve still run naked, wickedness will not be allowed.  If people want to seek content that is “negative” (this horrendous arbitrary nature keeps appearing), they should not be allowed to.  Gag them, and make sure the popular terms sought are white washed of any offensive or dangerous import.  Impose upon the tech titans a responsibility to control the negative.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) complained of those companies “letting these algorithms run wild […] leaving humans to clean up the mess.  Algorithms are amoral.” Tristan Harris, co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Humane Technology, spoke of the competition between companies to use algorithms which “more accurately predict what will keep users there the longest.”  If you want to maximise the time spent searching terms or, in the case of YouTube, watching a video, focus “the entire ant colony of humanity towards crazytown.”  For Harris, “technology hacks human weaknesses.”  The moral?  Do not give people what they want.

The rage against the algorithm, and the belief that no behavioural pushing is taking place in search technology, is misplaced on a few fronts.  On a certain level, all accept how such modes of retrieving information work.  Disagreement arises as to their consequences, a concession, effectively, to the Google user as imbecile.  Stanphill is being disingenuous for assuming that persuasive technology is not a function of Google’s work (it patently is, given the company’s intention of improving the “intentional relationship with technology”). In her testimony, she spoke of building “products with privacy, transparency and control for the users, and we build a lifelong relationship with the user, which is primary.”  The Senators, in turn, are concerned that the users, diapered by encouragements in their search interests, are incapable of making their own fragile minds up.

The nature of managed information in the digital experience is not, as Google, YouTube and like companies show, a case of broadening knowledge but reaffirming existing assumptions.  The echo chamber bristles with confirmations not challenges, with the comforts of prejudice rather than the discomforts of heavy-artillery learning. But the elected citizens on the Hill, and the cyber utopians, continue to struggle and flounder in the digital jungle they had seen as an information utopia equal to all.  For the Big Tech giants, it’s all rather simple: the attention grabbing spectacle, bums on seats, and downloads galore.

GDPR and Big Tech: The Cookie Monster Versus Joe Public

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation which was implemented last summer has far-reaching privacy rules. Commonly referred as the , this is now the standard which has forced most tech companies to rethink not only data collection practices but also how data is collected or they risk high fines. Where the US lacks a similar regulation to protect privacy of Internet users, many characterize Europe’s GDPR as hurting privacy instead of protecting it while others accuse the EU of policing across its own borders.

The Washington Post announced last week that France has fined Google almost $57 million for the first major violation of the GDPR and tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond are paying close attention. Accused of  failing to disclose the collection and use of personal information to users, Google also failed to obtain permission from these users to do things such as to expose them to personalized advertisements. To most North Americans, such regulation are almost joke-worthy, but that is because most internet users are completely unaware as to how Google harvests the information it uses, which does involve accessing private data. Yet, there is cause for concern when Android users set up a new mobile phone and followed Android’s setup process.

Two nonprofit organizations, None Of Your Business (noyb) and La Quadrature du Net originally filed a complaint back in May 2018 but noyb filed its complaint against Google and Facebook. Under the GDPR regulations, complaints must first be transferred to local data protection watchdogs so France’s top data-privacy agency, CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés), took the case in hand and started its investigation 1 June, 2018. Concluding that Google did not comply with the consent and transparent aspects of the privacy law, it pointed to specific areas of non-compliance such as how information is not easily accessible and that information is not clear or comprehensive. Of particular note is how data is processed:

Users are not able to fully understand the extent of the processing operations carried out by GOOGLE. But the processing operations are particularly massive and intrusive because of the number of services offered (about twenty), the amount and the nature of the data processed and combined. The restricted committee observes in particular that the purposes of processing are described in a too generic and vague manner, and so are the categories of data processed for these various purposes. Similarly, the information communicated is not clear enough so that the user can understand that the legal basis of processing operations for the ads personalization is the consent, and not the legitimate interest of the company. Finally, the restricted committee notices that the information about the retention period is not provided for some data.

So what is the information that can be accessed by Google and other tech companies? Take browser cookies, for instance. While “cookies” sounds like a cute word, these small files store a lot of private data: where you have browsed, information you have filled in online forms, even information you have entered into highly personal online financial sites, free website builders, and basically everything you have done on your browser, everywhere you have browsed.  Tracking cookies are used for advertising purposes, specifically involving what is called retargeting, a tactic that depends upon tracking cookies to show ads to people who have previously visited a specific site or shown interest in a particular product. If you’ve ever looked up something on Google or on Amazon and then saw it or a similar item on a popup advertisement while browsing, this is no coincidence. You’ve simply been retargeted.

The information cookies contain is set and accessed by the servers of the websites that you visit and cookies allow servers to identify you and remember things about you.  So, while a cookie might be considered to be no big deal by some people, imagine that any website having access to your cookies would potentially have access to anything you have typed into your web browser. Silktide founder, Oliver Emberton explains cookies like this:  “The problem is that those same cookies can also be used to track people, and do things that many people don’t like, like deliver targeted ads. And this has got a lot of people understandably concerned.” The GDPR means that users are to be asked for consent before cookies can be accessed. You can read the CNIL summary of their report here.

Google is now fined for violating France’s General Data Protection Regulations to the tune of US$57 million. When the GDPR was first announced, many claimed that this would be bad for business. But on the other side of the argument, privacy groups have firmly stood behind the necessary privacy measures to be observed by all companies to include tech giants like Facebook and Google which have come under scrutiny in recent months.  And earlier this week, Poland, the UK and Ireland were implicated in not safeguarding users with regard to “how ad auction companies, including Google, unlawfully profile Internet users’ religious beliefs, ethnicities, diseases, disabilities, and sexual orientation.”

Ultimately, there is a clear contradiction between what’s good for big business and what is good for privacy protections of individual. The real question is what will give in first–our human right to privacy or big business’ desire for profit?

The Root of the Internet’s Disrepute

In all the mounting media coverage of problems with the Internet, such as invasion of privacy, vulnerability to hacking, political manipulation, and user addiction, there is one constant: online advertising. Online advertising is the lifeblood of Google, Facebook, and many other Internet enterprises that profit by providing personal data to various vendors. Moreover, the move of tens of billions of dollars from conventional print and broadcast media continues, with devastating impacts, especially on print newspapers and magazines.

But does online advertising work for consumers? The Internet was once considered a less commercial medium. But today consumers are inundated with targeted ads, reviews, comments, friends’ reactions, and other digital data.  Unfortunately for advertisers, consumers are not intentionally clicking on online ads in big numbers.

Google’s search ads tackle people when they search for a product or service. A controlled study by eBay research labs in 2014 concluded that Google was greatly exaggerating the effectiveness of such ads—at least those bought by eBay. eBay’s researchers concluded that “More frequent users whose purchasing behavior is not influenced by ads account for most of the advertising expenses, resulting in average returns that are negative.” This is the “I-was-gonna-buy-it-anyway problem,” says an article in the Atlantic.

The Atlantic notes:

Whether all advertising—online and off—is losing its persuasive punch…Think about how much you can learn about products today before seeing an ad. Comments, user reviews, friends’ opinions, price-comparison tools…they’re much more powerful than advertising because we consider them information rather than marketing. The difference is enormous: We seek information, so we’re more likely to trust it; marketing seeks us, so we’re more likely to distrust it.

Some companies like Coca-Cola have cooled on using online advertising. But advertising revenues keep growing for Google, Facebook, and the other giants of the Internet. These companies are racing to innovate, connecting ads to more tailored audiences, which tantalize and keeps hope springing eternal for the advertisers. The Internet ad sellers also provide detailed data to advertise themselves to the advertisers staying one step ahead of growing skepticism. This is especially a problem when there is inadequate government regulation of deceptive advertising. It is the Wild West! Online advertising revenues are the Achilles’ heel of these big Internet companies. Any decline will deflate them immensely; more than public and Congressional criticism of their intrusiveness, their massive allowed fakeries, their broken promises to reform, and their openings to unsavory political and commercial users. If they lose advertising revenue, a major revenue bubble will burst and there goes their business model, along with their funding for ventures from video hosting to global mapping.

After reviewing the many major negatives attributed to the Internet, the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo writes, “So who is the central villain in this story, the driving force behind much of the chaos and disrepute online?… It’s the advertising business, stupid.” He adds, perhaps optimistically, “If you want to fix much of what ails the internet right now, the ad business would be the perfect perp to handcuff and restrain.”

Randall Rothenberg, who heads a trade association of companies in the digital ad business, urges advertisers “to take civic responsibility for our effect on the world.” Then he shows his frustration by saying that, “Technology has largely been outpacing the ability of individual companies to understand what is actually going on.”  All of this even before artificial intelligence (AI) takes root. Meanwhile, Facebook, Google, and Twitter keep announcing new tools to make their ads “safe and civil” (Facebook), open and protective of privacy. At the same time matters keep getting worse for consumers. The backers and abusers keep getting more skilled too (see Youtube Kids ).

In a recent report titled “Digital Deceit,” authors Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott wrote:

The Central problem of disinformation corrupting American political culture is not Russian spies or a particular media platform. The central problem is that the entire industry is built to leverage sophisticated technology to aggregate user attention and sell advertising.

If so, why isn’t more public attention being paid to this root cause? Not by the mass media which is obviously too compromised by the Congress, by academia, or by more of US before “We the People” become the conditioned responders that Ivan Pavlov warned about so many years ago.

Augmenting Brains: Google Turns Twenty

Eventually you’ll have the implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you an answer.

— Larry Page, co-founder of Google

The Verge starts with a statement that has become commonplace, the compulsory nod to power one has come to expect when engaged with that whole mammoth enterprise known as Google.  “No technology company is arguably more responsible for shaping the modern internet, the modern life, than Google.”

The story of Google is all minted Silicon Valley: the modest research project birthed in computer lingo and networking, the serendipitous meeting of graduate students, and the finding of auspicious and enormously productive garage locations.  The names tell a story: fresh, childish but hopeful.  Alphabet spawned Google, and so forth.  These were the products of scorned Jonathan Taplin in his sharp Move Fast and Break Things, spoiled, ignorant brats.

In a sense, the Google experiment is all homage to behavioural tendencies writ large, an attempt on the part of the founders less to control than predict. (This distinction, it must be said, has been lost.)  How do people search for what is important?  Who tells them?  The PageRank algorithm of Google is moderate blessing and heavily laden curse, reducing the conduct of human searches to a dimension of repetition and faux enlargement of knowledge.  But the paradox of such behaviour is not so much a broadening of mind as a reconfirmation of its narrowing. You are fed results you expect; in time, you are delivered the results you expect.  Variety is stifled within the very system that supposedly promotes a world of seamless access.

But there it is. The Google search engine commodifies and controls choice, thereby leaving you with little.  The impression of a world with abundance is essential, and draws out the curse of plenty:  your choice is pre-empted, and typing in a search term generates terms you might wish to pursue.  Even the traditional library is hard to retreat to in certain respects given that librarians are becoming allergic to matters of paper, covers and book spines, a catalogue outsourced beyond its walls. The modern library has become the product of such market management fetish as knowledge centres, which is far more in line with Google speak.

Google has also reduced us to phone-reaching idiocy, an impulsive dive into the creature of all knowing answers that lies in the pocket and is procured at a moment’s notice.  Few conversations go by these days without that nasty God of the search engine making its celebrated entry to dispel doubts and right wrongs.  Not knowing a “fact” is intrinsically linked to the rescue of finding out what Google will tell you.

Larry Page has made little secret of its all-conquering, cerebral mission manifested through the all-powerful search engine.  It verges on the creepily totalitarian, but more in the fashion of Brave New World seductiveness than 1984 torture and stomping.  “It will be included in people’s brains,” he explained to a veteran observer of the company, Steven Levy.  “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information.”  Similarly for fellow founder Sergey Brin, Google is viewed “as a way to augment your brain with the knowledge of the world.”

There is the other side: company concentration, exquisitely vast power that has wooed critics, and a self-assumed omniscience that crushes competition.  It is such characteristics that determine Google as a sovereign exception that seems to trounce the prerogative of many states: there are regulations made by elected officials, but these can, and will be subverted, if needed. But there is another side of the Google phenomenon: calculated compliance, and collaboration verging on the obsequious.  Business remains business, and having such a concentrated entity exerting dominion over the Internet and the market is the very thing that should trouble anti-trust specialists.

This very fact struck the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry as relevant. If Google was to be dealt with in any feasible way, it would have to be through the traditional weaponry of the anti-trust suit (think, he reminds us, of Standard Oil 1910).  “This can’t be fixed legislatively,” suggested Landry to Baton Rouge’s The Advocate. “We need to go to court with an antitrust suit.”

The European Union has already taken up the matter, fining Google $5 billion for antitrust violations relating to its Android market dominance, notably its bundling of the search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system while also making “payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators” to exclusively bundle the Google search app on handsets.

The suggestion for some form of antitrust action against Google and other technological giants in the US itself is now being lost in the political opportunism of the Trump Whitehouse.  On Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions convened a gathering of various officials to consider “a growing concern” about how certain companies might “be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms”.

The problem here is not the premise Sessions is pursuing.  What matters is the reason he is taking such an interest, pressed by the sledgehammer approach advocated by President Donald J. Trump.  That ever sensitive leader of the confused free world claims that the search engine has developed a bias against him, yet another rigged entity in action.

Trump’s critics also have issues with social media sites and Google’s search engine.  Like Hillary Rodham Clinton, they argue, conversely, that such entities promoted the forces of reaction.  Had they not been so easily susceptible to those wicked Russians in spreading misinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump would never have gotten the keys to the White House.  That proposition has been given some academic ballast with Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President – What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know, though it remains qualified at best.

Reaching the age of 20 has certainly brought Google to the summit of criticism and a certain pervasive idolatry. There are those who feel erroneously slighted (Trump and Clinton); there are those who wish their records erased from the search engine in an effort to make their lives anew (the right to forget the foolish error); and then there are those who simply could not be bothered to do a bit more digging for something that is so effortlessly available.  “Google is the oracle of redirection,” claims James Gleick.  In due course, its own influence will, in time, require redirection, and the brats may have to be disciplined accordingly.

Social Networks as Dead Ends for Activists

There was a time when the internet was an experiment in anarchy, but it is increasingly becoming an experiment in “stateness”, meaning police-order. Social networks are in crisis. Our governments are losing patience with them, grilling geek after geek to demand they be more loyal to the nation-state and take a more active role suppressing apparently foreign points of view.

The unplugging of the entire internet by NATO countries to stop vaguely defined “Russian trolls” – a nationalistic smear for rebellious social media users living not in Russia but our own countries – cannot be ruled out. As laughable as this possibility may seem to internet users, Western leaders are dead serious about the issue. They consider users who mock them online as existential threats. That they may eventually give up and unplug everything will be touched on here, but it also needs more consideration at a later date.

For now, the focus must be on what might happen to the major social networks. If they are profoundly reshaped by geopolitical tension and paranoia, will they be of any continued use for publishing anti-establishment slogans and views? How will the new Cold War affect the freedom of writers and independent creators to express themselves through social networks?

Lawmakers in the US, the UK, the EU, and other NATO-aligned political structures are wrathful towards social networks due to the influence they indiscriminately offer anyone who signs up to them. Since the US election of 2016, we have watched staff from Twitter, Facebook and Google get grilled by screaming American and British lawmakers. The ageing lawmakers, not willing to take any chances in the “neuland” of the internet (so described by Angela Merkel) treat social networks with the utmost disdain and hostility. For them, the internet is a war-fighting domain, a battlefield of states with fixed front lines, a red zone where insurgents snipe at them. For them, the objective must be to silence anyone who disagrees with them and glorify anyone who does agree with them.

According to the traditional paranoid geopolitical mindset, social networks have to even be regarded as unwitting hostile actors. By offering people the chance to choose their own sources of information and even reproduce those sources and share those sources to others, social networks undermine loyalty to the nation-state, making it harder to spread Nineteenth Century ideas of loyalty and incite new petty wars with other nation-states. Our fossilized politicians, longing for the day when every young man had to complete mandatory military service and longed to die for the flag, seek to lobotomize the youth and restore nation-state loyalty to execute warlike aims against geopolitical foes Russia and China.

While hostility of ageing politicians towards social networks may be worrying, their complete intellectual failure and lack of understanding of what they are dealing with is encouraging. Their obsession with the current major social networks – Twitter and Facebook – suggests that they regard social media in the same way that they view news media. In their view, social networks are just some other big companies that need to be reined in. Just one or two big actors need to be forced to conform to the regime’s ideology, like the well-behaved top news journalists broadcasters, and the politicians’ authority will be restored. The “trolls” will be defeated. The youth will start to respect the bleary-eyed generals and politicians who were kept awake at night by them.

Unfortunately for every internet creator, the reactions of Twitter, Facebook and Google have been cowed. All are eager to prove their nationalist loyalty, particularly to the US state, because their websites’ physical infrastructure is based on the territory of the US state. They have the American regime’s gun to their heads, just like the television stations. Google serves the Pentagon loyally, but may be incapable of preventing its platform’s exploitation by the Pentagon’s enemies and critics due to the sheer number of targets flooding their scopes.

It is possible that the frail politicians so concerned about “trolls” will be able to cower in safety very soon behind a wall of new media enforcement, but it will not last forever. If the power of individuals to express themselves freely at major social networks, chiefly Twitter and Facebook, is sabotaged, communities will move gradually to other social networks and continue their activity there. The centre of media attention will shift away from dullness and conformity to somewhere more interesting once again.

A major consideration for alternate media when selecting social networks has likely been the presence of third party applications that can amplify one’s views across social media by providing automated posting services. These upset the traditional dominance of the wealthy and the powerful over the press. Very low overhead is required to establish a publication using various automation and aggregation tools to create feeds that offer a wide different spectrum of news and commentary than the mainstream. Attacks against automation under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “bots” are therefore an excuse to hamper small and independent media projects that lack the staff to manually post every item of content to the social networks. This assumes that the social networks are really going to fight automation.  The BBC and its supporters are mindless bots, if we look seriously at Twitter’s rules, and yet the people whose accounts get suppressed by Twitter are not bots but real people targeted by the British regime for holding dissident views.

Perhaps the flight of dissenting users to some future alternative social network should settle the battle between politicians and trolls. But it would probably only anger Western politicians even more, as they regard all alternative media as extremist, so the counterinsurgency would rage on. Not able to pressure the alternate social networks, politicians may resort to the brute force of the law, seeking court orders to block every app or social network being used to hurt political egos or express disloyalty to the state. But websites can be cloned and mirrored, and insurgent networks would be continuously made available again, as is the case with the various “putlockers” endlessly springing up to avoid the court orders that are always too slow and ineffective to counter free streaming.

There is every reason to think that many of the most effective anti-government critics would still be able to thrive even on the mainstream social networks, merely by altering their choice of language and modifying aspects of their behavior to evade the automated tools being used to remove them. Resistance can vary between passive and active forms, and rejection of national loyalty and lack of support for war will always be possible in any forum even if everyone else is a bloodthirsty and rabid nationalist. Advocacy for the removal of censorship and the destruction of the yokes used to enforce conformity and faith on a social network would always be considered a moderate and neutral view, making it possible to support more rebellious creators without joining them.

The inevitable failures of an online counterinsurgency described above could eventually prove too much for some governments to bear, and the result would be the complete destruction of the internet – something states will always be able to do. They might first attempt “balkanization”, forcing users to only register for accounts at social networks if they reside in the country where the social network is based. If that occurs, websites like Twitter and Facebook would fall into the geopolitical space of NATO, and support of NATO war aims and propaganda would become a compulsory requirement of all users, with everyone lobotomized to be docile supporters.

Balkanization would fail to achieve anything. As recent hunts for “trolls” have demonstrated, they are not actually foreign, nor are they automated. The alleged Russian enemies, “trolls” and “bots” are real people. They are not hackers from Russian spy agencies, but independent authors, journalists and creative people – civilians located inside our own countries who hold anti-war and anti-colonial views on foreign policy. Such innocent people look like they will be the new targets in the next “accidental” rampage by our incompetent regimes against perceived anti-state threats.

If they pursue and yet fail to achieve anything against trolls through political pressure, court orders, and geopolitical militarization of the social networks, politicians who view trolls as a true threat to the state will inevitably advocate a total ban on the internet. It is for this final contingency that independent writers and serious activists must prepare themselves.

It is not enough to have a collection of friends and followers on some top social networks, and even a robust email list may not be enough to sustain one’s writing. Real contacts and a real publishing history outside the social networks, even in print, are a requirement to sustain anti-establishment momentum and the propagation of balanced views. Anything less, and the paranoid regime can delete you and all its other critics with the push of a button. The conservation of social media-based activists on lists and their transformation into published authors is one way for them to save themselves from simple bans, at the same time amplifying their voices ever more.

The development of the Mont Order society to connect and preserve dissenting influencers on social networks can only help. It may be that teaming up to use a variety of applications, technologies and email clients based under different geopolitical poles of influence (the US, the EU, Russia and China) may be the only route towards independent political writing and advocacy under the suffocating conditions of the new Cold War. Such a strategy, pursued early on before it is even necessary, would allow dissident gatherings on social networks to survive purges, hostility, court orders, balkanization and even the plug being pulled completely by these paranoid regimes we have tolerated.

Much of what is forecasted here is dark, and perhaps too dark. Perhaps the internet isn’t really doomed to die at the hands of paranoid and vain politicians trying to defoliate it to fight their critics. Perhaps police-order is not achievable across the internet. It could be that many of the stages of counter-insurgency would require so much legal reform and such a high budget that most of the politicians concerned will die of old age and be replaced by a more tech-savvy and relaxed generation before their aims are even close to being achieved. Nevertheless, it is prudent to seek out and imagine counter-strategies to survive even the most heavy-handed actions by politicians against critics.