(Via The Guardian)
When Jonathan Taplin’s book Move Fast and Break Things, which dealt with the worrying rise of big tech, was first published in the UK in April 2017, his publishers removed its subtitle because they didn’t think it was supported by evidence: “How Facebook, Google and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy.”
When the paperback edition comes out early next year, that subtitle will be restored.
“It’s been a sea change in just six months,” Taplin said. “Before that, people were kind of asleep.”
In the last year, barely a day has gone by without a scandal placing technology companies in the spotlight, whether for sexual harassment, livestreamed murder, Russian influence operations or terrorist propaganda.
Tech’s annus horribilis started with calls to #DeleteUber, but the way things are going it will end with calls to delete the entire internet.
“2017 has definitely been a year when tech has found there is a target painted on its back,” said Om Malik, a venture capitalist. “The big companies have been so obsessed with growth that there’s been a lack of social responsibility. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.”
The surprise election of Donald Trump acted as a catalyst for scrutiny of the platforms that shape so much of our online experience. Even so, it’s taken many months for the enormity of their role to sink in.
Perhaps the biggest wake-up call has been the showdown in Washington. Congress summoned representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify over their role in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election. All three companies admitted that Russian entities bought ads on their sites in an attempt to skew the vote.
In Facebook’s case, fake accounts pushed divisive messages in swing states; Google found similar activity across its paid search tool and YouTube; and on Twitter, armies of bots and fake users promoted fake news stories that were favourable to Donald Trump. Similar patterns were identified around the Brexit vote.
“The election shows the stakes involved here,” said Noam Cohen, author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball. “In the past, to be a critic of Silicon Valley was to say the smartphone is making us dumb. Now it’s incompatible with democracy.”
It’s not been the only example of technology companies monetising and distributing unpalatable content and acting surprised when it’s uncovered.
In March, the Times of London revealed that YouTube had paid, via an advertising revenue share, Islamic extremists to peddle hate speech, leading to a boycott from many major advertisers. A second boycott started this month after brands discovered that their ads were appearing alongside content being exploited by paedophiles.
In May, the Guardian’s investigation into Facebook’s content moderation policies revealed that the social network flouted Holocaust denial laws except where it feared being sued. Four months later, Pro Publica discovered that Facebook’s ad tools could be used to target “Jew haters”.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, later said she was “disgusted” and “disappointed that our systems allowed this”.
Taplin finds the technology companies’ standard response of “Oops, we’ll fix this” frustrating and disingenuous.
“Come on! What were you thinking?” he said. “If I can target women who drink bourbon in Tennessee who like trucks, then of course I could use it for dark purposes.”
The deepening pockets and growing influence of companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple has raised concerns that they have become Goliaths, threatening the innovation Silicon Valley was once known for.
You only have to look at Snap to see what happens when you nip at the heels of a tech titan like Facebook: first, it makes an offer to buy you – a strategy that worked with Instagram and WhatsApp – and, if that fails, it eliminates you.
In Snap’s case, this meant watching Facebook clone all of Snapchat’s features – awkwardly at first, but relentlessly until Snapchat’s potential slice of the advertising market shriveled to a sliver.
“[The Snap CEO] Evan Spiegel is having his hat handed to him,” Taplin said, noting how Snap’s stock had plummeted since the company went public in March.
As power consolidates into the hands of a few, the best a startup can hope for is to be bought by one of the tech giants. This, in turn, leads to further consolidation.
So the five largest tech companies – desperate to avoid the kind of antitrust regulation that disrupted IBM and Microsoft’s dominance – are flooding Washington with lobbyists, to the point where they now outspend Wall Street two to one.
“Regulation is coming,” said Malik. “We have got to prepare for that. Everybody has figured out that we are the enemy number one now because we are rich and all the politicians smell blood.”
It doesn’t help that there’s a rising number of former Silicon Valley engineers and business leaders who have morphed into tech dissenters, complaining about the addictive properties of the platforms and call for people – particularly children – to unplug.
In November, Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, said the social network knew from the outset it was creating something addictive, something that exploited “a vulnerability in human psychology” – a damning critique somewhat undermined by the fact that it was being delivered from the top of an enormous money pile generated by that exploitation.
The vast wealth on display in Silicon Valley – in the private commuter buses, sprawling campuses and luxury condos – does little to endear the companies and their employees to the rest of the world. Like it or not, tech workers have become the shining beacons of prosperity and elitism, shining a bit too brightly at a time of increasing income inequality.
The fact that $700 internet-connected juicers can raise $120m in funding before folding adds to the sense that Silicon Valley has lost its grip on reality.
“Silicon Valley at its core wants to solve problems. I just think we’ve lost touch with the types of problems that actual people need solving,” said Ankur Jain, who set up Kairos Society to encourage more entrepreneurs to solve problems where everyday people are being financially squeezed, such as housing, student loans and job retraining in the face of automation.
“People are so removed from the rest of the ecosystem in Silicon Valley that these problems feel more like charity issues rather than issues that affect the vast majority of the population,” Jain said.
For Malik, many of the problems stem from the fact that Silicon Valley companies have remained “wilfully ignorant” of the fact that “at the end of every data point there is a human being”.
All the problems to have arisen over the last year are particularly jarring given the tech companies’ continued insistence that they are doing good for the world.
“It’s a form of gaslighting to have these companies doing so many harmful things telling you how great they are and how much they are helping you. It’s another form of abuse,” Cohen said.
Malik agreed. “Silicon Valley is very good at using words like empathy and social responsibility as marketing buzzwords, but they are terms that we need to internalise as an industry and show through our actions by building the right things,” he said. “Otherwise it’s all bullshit.”
No Nation Is An Idea
The concept that “America is a timeless placeholder of ideas” is a common talking point that has been in circulation from both Conservative Inc., and the broader American Left for many years now. This saying is typically used as a divergence from addressing important policies as they pertain to mass immigration. Often, it is also used to stifle the growth of an American National Populist movement. Clearly, the unelected elites calling shots around the Western world seek to undermine valid and critical debate of the role of National Populism. Rather than emphasizing the importance of health, stable families, community, housing, and wages, our leaders have an obsession with growing GDP, doing the bidding of predatory crony capitalists who are constantly pushing to import cheap labor, and retaining power for generations to come.
The fact of the matter is, Americans (and humans in general) seek more than cheap, 4k television sets, quirky tupper-ware for last night’s leftovers, and salad shooters that break after a few uses. We are innately spiritual beings who long for community, order, and social cohesion. The United States of America is not an idea… actually, no nation is an idea. As further disorder ensues among the population, the elites have made sure to use their corporate-funded foot soldiers as a means to promote a very new, Neo-Liberal agenda. This agenda is the concept that the beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes of our Nation would mean absolutely nothing without this arbitrary term of “ideas.” The blood, sweat, and tears American workers shed producing automobiles in Michigan, the early mornings for the farmers of Iowa, and the dedicated fishermen of California, all mean nothing if this is but a plot of land where the British came to talk about the importance of small government.
Although we can appreciate the writings of philosophers like John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Adam Smith, the “marketplace of ideas” means absolutely nothing to people who see the world completely different than you. It is apparent that the philosophy of our ancestors and founding fathers have changed the world. In an American context, the very concepts of things like liberty, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms should be held in the highest regard. Among Conservatives and the American Right, these values are not even up for debate. Unfortunately, much of Conservative Inc. (who are just liberals who want to keep more of their money) do not recognize (or are blatantly ignorant to) the sacrifices made by the ones who came before them.
To put this into perspective, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk previously stated, “I have loyalty to ideas.” Kirk says, “Of course I love the Grand Canyon. I love the Rocky Mountains. And I love Boston. And I love Chicago. But if all that disappeared, if all I had was ideas, and we were on an island, that’s America. That’s Israel. And that’s what people have to realize, America’s just a placeholder for timeless ideas. And if you fall too in love with, oh, the specific place, and all this…that’s not what it is.” What Kirk fails to recognize is that the physical reality of a Nation is what manifests those very ideas he holds so dear.
Nations are unique, with celebrations and folktales that those who inhabit the land feel relation to. Nations are made up of a people. Nations are traditions. Nations are land, resources, and landmarks. Nations are history – the good, the bad, and the ugly. No Nation is an idea.
The ‘Alt-Lite’ Has No Answers For Real Conservatives, Ask More Questions
As was with the answer to my Demographics question by Charlie Kirk on October 23rd (the third “Groyper” question of them all), insufficient, so is the entire ‘grifter right’ and gateway keepers answers on the right to legitimate concerns of Americans across the spectrum, left or right. Global, corporate, and government sponsored legal immigration, mass migration, demographic changes in Western Countries, the destruction of the Christian Religion, the Family, and the decrease in the value of labor.
— Pop Wire (@populist_wire) October 24, 2019
— Pop Wire (@populist_wire) October 24, 2019
Charlie Kirk embodies the 21st century establishment Libertarian side of the Republican party, being an ex-libertarian I can see how it’s appealing. However, as much as it is appealing it is even more destructive to our culture and politics than perhaps progressives. Giving up on key issues such as abortion, morals, religion, demographics, free trade, and open borders.
This is a fairly new hive-mind of new and old Republican talking points, however this ‘Corporate’ or ‘Conservative Inc.’ style control over the conversation on the right is leading us back into the same problems with middle of the ground “Conservative” leaders like John McCain and Mitt Romney, you can see the Alt-Lite gearing up to endorse Nikki Haley or Dan Crenshaw to be President in 2024. Attempting to usurp and hop on the Populist Wave Trump rode in on.
The same host of Never-Trumpers who now play ball as Trump supporters only to not be completely tarnished by Trump’s Populist base, are seething at the idea that the actual Conservative Right, who wishes to actually conserve Western Culture & Christian Values in America, instead of making this a “place holder” for Wood Stock and Wall-Street Culture, to continue to sacrifice the American Middle Class. This is also the same class of people who endlessly call for Wars in the Middle East at the behest of Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc, and criticize Trump on a regular basis of his “liberal” handling on the Middle East, aka withdrawing our Troops, and as Trump declares, “without a drop of blood.” Something that must really get the blood boiling of the Neo-Con Establishment.
— ZOA National (@ZOA_National) November 1, 2019
It is ever imperative we make sure this establishment force within the Republican Party is shut out and completely shunned into the corner of Politics, along with failed trade deals, endless overseas wars, bail outs of the elites, and a slew of other misguided policies. The only way to keep these sell outs on their toes is to always ask them questions that can ultimately either continually expose their hypocrisy, or open their eyes to the truth, otherwise they will attempt to continue to use the “leftist” tactics of smear campaigns, silencing you, get you fired, etc. It is not so different from the Antifa tactics that are used of the far left.
why does everyone who hates nick fuentes look like this pic.twitter.com/Vutu1dYZRx
— SNOWpai~ ⛄🎄 (@stembrandt) November 3, 2019
We’ve posted the graphic below of the continued “Groyper Wars” events and will be continuing the coverage of this:
Bill Maher Defends Kavanaugh
On his show Friday night, Bill Maher and his panel got into a heated debate over the “new” allegations about Brett Kavanaugh – yes, the ones even his accuser can’t remember. Maher even turned on his liberal comrades, adopting the position that rehashing events from when Kavanaugh was 17 years old hurt the Democrats in 2018… and could hurt them again.
Citing polling from 2018, Maher said that Democrats could have done better in the midterm elections had it not been for the Kavanaugh hearings: “People did not like going after a guy for what he did in high school. It looked bad and now Democrats are talking about impeaching him again?” Maher said.
Guest Andrew Sullivan seemed to agree. “He probably did some shitty things in high school drunk,” he said.
And when liberal guest Heather McGhee tried to jump in, asking “May the woman please speak about what this felt like?”, Sullivan shot her down immediately: “Please don’t play that card. You’re making my point.”
When Kavanaugh’s temperament was brought up, Sullivan responded: “You try maintaining a good temperament when you’re being accused of something, you had no idea it was coming at you, came at the last minute, and that happened years and years and years ago.”
As McGhee tried to make the point that being a Supreme Court justice isn’t just a “normal job”, Maher immediately fired back: “So you’re saying at 17 you have to have your fully formed character?”
He continued: “Live in reality, man! That’s who they put up. We don’t have the votes, and now we lost seats! Are we gonna do it again? Ruth Bader Ginsburg said glowing things about him… What were you like at 17?”