Tag: The Media

  1. Cambridge Analytica: A silly statement by a smart man

    Constantin Gurdgiev is a smart man who usually offers an interesting perspective. I say that despite disagreeing with him far more than I agree. He’s too capitalist for me, too “free-market”, but that doesn’t make him my enemy. He comes across as a very decent person whenever I’ve seen him interviewed, and I believe it’s vital to listen to smart, civil people with whom we disagree. That said, his latest thread about Cambridge Analytica on twitter (first post, above) is just silly I’m afraid.

    In the thread he appears to be suggesting… no, that’s not right… he explicitly states that the “main point” to take away from the “Cambridge Analytica outrage” is that we shouldn’t trust the State. He refers to it as the Deep State, of course.

    Cambridge Analytica

    But the “Cambridge Analytica outrage”, let us remember, involves an unaccountable private company financed and run by people (the Mercers, Steve Bannon) that, from my perspective are on the hard-right, purchasing user data from another private corporation (also with fairly hard-right finance in their past; Peter Thiel) and using it to subvert the democratic process in numerous countries while remaining entirely hidden from view.

    Mr. Gudgiev acknowledges (though rather weakly) that “Facebook et al might be culpable in being negligent or even greedy with our data” but suggests that “our media is complicit in fostering the culture that made Cambridge Analytica powerful.” Which may be true but conveniently overlooks the fact that the media in this case is largely made up of private corporations owned by right-wing capitalists like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, who are also doing their level best to manipulate electorates into voting for right-wing, pro-corporate, “small-State” parties.

    Your former employer: responsible for things you do for your current employer

    Mr. Gudgiev points out, correctly, that Cambridge Analytica used “ex-Deep State professionals”. But he positions that fact as a critique of the State, rather than a savage indictment of the private corporations who hired these ex-spies and used them to influence and subvert elections in pursuit of profit and a right-wing, pro-corporate, pro-free-market agenda.

    State surveillance is extremely worrying; whether carried out by the NSA today or the Stasi 40 years ago. And as technology progresses, more and more states are adopting it in what are often clear cases of over-reach and intrusion. We must guard against it at all costs.

    But to insist that the “main point” we should take away from this story, a clear-cut case of private capitalists actively seeking to disempower and undermine the State through subversion, blackmail, manipulation and propaganda (some of it illegal) is that we should be suspicious of the State? That’s “whataboutery” of epic proportions.

    Both the State and Private Capital can have a corrosive effect on our society if left unchecked. But if smart people insist we look away when Private Capital does it and focus instead on the “main point”… the State… then they risk becoming part of the problem.

  2. Being Sat Upon

    This is something I’ve often remarked upon. As an Irish person who spent a lot of time in the UK but has since returned to Dublin, it’s very noticeable how prominent the UK is in Irish culture and media, and by contrast how near-invisible Ireland is in most of the UK.

    My wife — who is neither Irish nor British — can occasionally get a bit irritated by how UK-centric the Irish media is. And I do sympathise.

    But I also completely understand it and — contrary to the original tweet — am not in the least bit surprised by it. It is fully explained by this Douglas Adams line about horses…

    It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

    – Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

    The featured image on this post (on social media shares) is copyright Brian Lenehan (cc-by-sa/2.0)

  3. A brief question to the BBC regarding “balance”

    Dear BBC News,

    While thankfully you don’t do it as often as you once did, you do still give air time to Climate Change Skeptics / Deniers ostensibly in the interests of “balance”. What’s more, these skeptics / deniers are rarely climatologists but instead tend to be politicians, ex-politicians or business people with no recognised qualification in the field; though often with ideological positions or personal agendas that are fundamentally opposed to industrial regulation.

    However, I have noticed that — when discussing the Holocaust — you fail to provide air time to David Irving so that we may hear both sides of that story (or better yet, perhaps a non-historian, ex-politician with overt antisemitic views… perhaps give Jean-Marie Le Pen a prominent slot next Holocaust Remembrance Day?) In the interests of “balance” of course.

    For the sake of clarity, let me point out that I’m not actually suggesting you give air time to Holocaust-deniers. You have quite correctly accepted that the evidence for the Holocaust is strong enough that it doesn’t merit a contradictory voice.

    What I would like to know, therefore, is precisely what standards of evidence are applied by the BBC that are passed by the Holocaust, but failed by Climate Change? Why does the BBC feel the evidence for Climate Change is lacking? What aspects of the scientific consensus does the BBC find unconvincing or doubtful? If there is doubt about the science, why doesn’t the BBC interview a climatologist on the matter rather than a politician and industrial lobbyist? And — importantly — precisely what further evidence does the BBC require before they stop giving air time to Climate Change Deniers?

    Yours, very etc.

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