Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy

Possibly the most explosive TED talk I’ve seen, ever. Carole Cadwalladr breaks down “Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy”.


Carole Cadwalladr’s investigations may be the most important of a generation. Her work has exposed the workings of the tower at the centre of the panopticon, the machine that manipulates democracy.

For those unfamiliar, the panopticon is an idea, a circular prison with cells that have glass walls. Watched from a central tower, compliance is teased from its tenants because we never know when we’re being watched.

Michel Foucault used it as a metaphor highlighting the way power, since the destruction of absolute monarchies, has sought to hide itself from view. If there is no focus for our anger, it’s impossible to remove the cause of our pain.

If we are tenants of the panopticon, Facebook has made themselves the warders, and they’re stressing us into compliance. What I’d like to know is who pays them? Because whomever pays the warder calls the shots.

The biggest obstacle to finding that, is what we see when we look out of our cells. It’s not the looming black tower at the centre, but our own reflections in the glass.

We need to find ways to get a light into that tower.

Cadwalladr has gone some way to doing that. With the help of whistleblower Christopher Wylie, she was able to expose a small part of the tower’s mechanism, how the various platforms, stairs, landings, and corridors, link.

There are still questions to be answered. Where do the corridors lead, who is behind the various doors of the labyrinthine maze? I have theories, I’m sure Cadwalladr does too.

I just hope she keeps looking, because we all need her answers.

Once she does have more answers, we have to decide what we do with her revelations, because they will be revelations. Keep in mind that the structure we’re all part of is designed to have us stare like Narcissus at our own reflection. Do we have the will to see past our own image, to the structure of the tower, and what’s hidden within?

This will take great effort and the will to see it all? I think we must.


Propaganda of privilege

It’s interesting to me that Jim Waterson and Peter Walker give Theresa May the last word, summoning the mythic notion of the media as an impartial force, speaking truth to power, the “bedrock of our democracy”.

I do not always enjoy reading what the media in my country writes about me. But I will defend their right to say it – for the independence of our media is one of my country’s greatest achievements. And it is the bedrock of our democracy.

Theresa May – September 2018
The Guardian

The media has and will always be the “propaganda of privilege”. The media chooses what we discussed, how that discussion is framed, and who has the last word. Having the last word is important. It bestows authority, allowing the comments to sit with an audience, letting that point of view be the “truth”.

This notion, pushed by journalists, that the media speaks truth to power is laughable. The media speaks to like minded people. It is nothing more than the post-show show, a propaganda vehicle for the main attraction, a Big Brother’s Bit on the Side to main show Big Brother, a fluffer on the set of a porno, there to keep the actors aroused.

Hypnotised by television

The argument about the harm television does to children is back on the agenda.

When people start on about this, I get very uncomfortable, it’s often the precursor to a demand for censorship. Censorship won’t solve the problems they harp on about, because none of the research that tells them content caused this or that behaviour, ever takes into account the act of watching as part of the causal relationship.

I think the act of watching television causes more damage than its content. I am not denying there is some relationship between behaviour and content. We wouldn’t have adverts if television didn’t affect behaviour, but for me it’s the act of watching that has the most significant effect.

If children stare at the screen to the detriment of all other social interactions, it’s no wonder certain damaging behaviours start to manifest themselves. It could be argued that the rampant self-interest of the last thirty years is caused by watching ever more television.

Generations of us have been brought up on an increasingly mailable television services. Multi-platform, interactive, streaming, on demand, have allowed us to bend television to our individual wants. As a result, we relate to the world, the way we relate to television, in very self-centred terms.

We pick and choose what we care about, the way we pick and choose what we watch. If our primary relationship is with the screen, it’s inevitable that we treat our lives thusly. If we don’t like what we’re watching, we change the channel.

The real danger of television is not the content, but the way we interact with it, the way it hypnotises us, keeps us watching.

Think of it in these terms. It is less the sex and violence on television, and more the sex and violence of television that causes harm.

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