In the campaign for the EU referendum inter-connected Leave lobby groups lied relentlessly and brazenly, hid their funding and ignored election rules and law. Such behaviour was unsurprising: The Leave campaign was led by functionaries working for disaster capitalists and, thus, it was bereft of integrity or honesty; most of the protagonists were disreputable, tax-dodging lowlifes.
Carole Cadwalladr’s investigations helped to expose some of the tactics used by Leave campaigners including their adept use of social media platforms, particularly Facebook. Such exposure was informative and interesting but it had no effect on the result of the referendum and it cast doubt on the intelligence of Leave voters by suggesting they were misled easily.
Gradually, and deliberately, Cadwalladr’s focus moved from the Leave campaigners’ tactics to social media platforms that they used. Yesterday, at a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, she blamed social media for breaking democracy.
“Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey, and your employees and your investors too. We are what happens to a western democracy when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology. What the Brexit vote demonstrates is that liberal democracy is broken, and you broke it.”
There are a few problems with the above comment.
- Remain campaigners had the option of using the same tactics on social media platforms as Leave campaigners used
- None of the social media platforms has or had functionality designed to “break democracy“
- On every day during any election campaign newspapers try to direct voting via use of false information and libel, mostly from a right-of-centre perspective
- Social media helps people to share information and to organise; that is, it assists democracy
Carole Cadwalladr’s focus on social media as the “breaker” of democracy, rather than newspapers, TV or the plethora of secretly funded right-wing think-tanks, was knowingly deceptive. Her lament for democracy was hypocritical: She has stated her support for Independent Group/Change UK whose entire existence is based on stealing parliamentary seats from voters who voted for other parties.
Her descent down the rabbit hole concluded with a sermon from the centrist knoll.
“It is not about left or right, or Leave or Remain, or Trump or not. It’s about whether it’s actually possible to have a free and fair election ever again. As it stands, I don’t think it is. And so my question to you [social media companies] is: Is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you? As the handmaidens to authoritarianism that is on the rise all across the world? You set out to connect people and you are refusing to acknowledge that the same technology is now driving us apart.”
The key comment in her mini-sermon was “not about left or right but about free and fair elections.” Centrists fear any social activism, online or elsewhere. To attract attention and sympathy they initially express that fear as fear of the right; subsequently, as shown by Cadwalladr in the above quote, the fear is presented as conflated fear of left and right. The next step down the rabbit hole is fear of socialism.
For Cadwalladr, the problem is loss of control of the narrative ahead of elections. If people are able to exchange information, ideas, opinions and stories online and are able to use social media platforms to organise or to express solidarity then the newspapers, radio and TV are being bypassed and the directional propaganda from governments is being set aside.
Fear of the success of use of social media platforms as political activism is a fear that exists in the Tory government and throughout established media outlets.