Trailer: Samuel Goldwyn Films: Mapplethorpe

I’m interested to see Matt Smith play Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith has the angular features of Mapplethorpe, but will he be able to capture the transgressive spirit that is at the core of Mapplethorpe and his work?

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[Facebook is not a social network, it’s a data collection machine] The Guardian: Kari Paul: Facebook launches app that will pay users for their data

This app shows anyone who wants to see that Facebook is not a social network, it’s a data collection machine.

A new Facebook app will allow users to sell the company data on how they use competitors’ apps.

How does Facebook use the data it collects? I think it’s using it against us. When I first wrote that sentence it came out as, “using it against it’s users.” I quickly realised, even if you don’t use Facebook, you come into contact with someone who does. Facebook knows something about you through them. When it says it’s connecting people it really is connecting people, mapping the many ways we brush against each other. Imagine you’re walking along Piccadilly at 3.30 in the afternoon. Someone takes a picture, and posts it at 3.31. Facebook knows something about the person who posted the picture, and the location of everyone captured in the photo. What if Mark Zuckerberg was walking along Piccadilly, and at 3.32 someone spat in his face. The picture taken at 3.30 might show the assailant. It makes everyone in the picture a suspect. Facebook gets to work cross-referencing various accounts, pulling up the latest facial recognition software. Suddenly the police are at your door, making you account for your actions between 3.15 and 3.45. You were minding your own business, but now you have to prove it. You have to prove somehow you didn’t spit in Mark Zuckerberg’s face. They’re not trying to prove you did it, you’re trying to prove you didn’t. At this point I can hear a certain section of the population repeating a mantra, throwing it in my direction like some spunk sodden flannel, “nothing to hide nothing to fear.” That’s not an argument it’s an accusation. You assume I have something I hide because I don’t want to account for my whereabouts. Now imagine the world taking a sudden turn towards the authoritarian? What if people below a certain income level aren’t allowed to walk along Piccadilly? The police are at your door, questioning you about the assault on Mark Zuckerberg, but arresting you for being too poor to be on Piccadilly. Who knows how this technology is being used, or will be used in the future? Facebook aren’t mining data because it’s fun. They’re doing it because it’s worth something. The information they collect can be used for what? Changing your purchasing habits? Telling you what you know about the world? Influencing elections? Facebook is not a benign force. It’s a data collection machine. Now ask yourself how’s it being used?

[There’s more at stake here than just blocking no deal] LabourList: Sienna Rodgers: Labour launches cross-party effort to block no deal

This motion is only needed because there have been calls to suspend parliament. The fact that there is even talk of suspending parliament should scare everyone, even those on the side of Britain exiting the European Union. Their argument was that we should wrestle back sovereignty from Europe, not give it to an elite group of self serving politicians. Suspending parliament is not acceptable under any circumstance. That’s us slipping and sliding, scrambling and scuffing, open eyed towards totalitarianism. But that’s what happens when the world gets complicated, filled with nuance, and leaders frame every argument as a binary choice. I considered exactly this “totalitarian mindset” when I was working on one of my characters for Carr-10-n. This is an extract from something I wrote in 2013.

So the question I’m really asking is; what kind of person is attracted to totalitarianism? To answer that question you first need to ask; what allows totalitarianism to flourish? The short answer is uncertainty. In his paper “How to make enemies and influence people” (2) Alfonso Montuori characterises the “totalitarian mindset” as a response to the stress of contemporary pluralism. Basically we live in complex times full of ambiguity and uncertainty. We feel threatened. And when we’re backed into a corner we have a tendency to succumb to “simplistic, black-and-white solutions.” Montuori goes on to note that “individuals all over the world have sought relief from the uncertainty of a pluralistic world in the arms of absolute belief systems of a religious fundamentalist and/or political/nationalistic nature.” 

2013/02/08

If that doesn’t describe the current mess nothing does. Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised for a “muddy” position on Britain exiting the European Union. But muddy’s what we need. We need nuance not black and white choices. Black and white choices are what got us here in the first place. There are no easy answers in any of this, but sleepwalking a totalitarian government into office is not the answer.