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Skwawkbox Spreads Panic on Coronavirus, “Johnson’s aim is to allow the virus to spread until at least 90% of the UK’s population has been infected – which will involve a huge death toll.”

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Fake News Site Says, “Johnson’s aim is to allow the virus to spread until at least 90% of the UK’s population has been infected – which will involve a huge death toll.”

 

The fake news site says:  JOHNSON’S HERD-IMMUNITY PLAN WOULD MEAN LETTING 90% OF UK CATCH COVID-19 – AND A MILLION OR MORE DIE

Johnson’s ‘herd immunity’ plan appears to mean a decision by the Tory government to stand back while – in the most optimistic scenario – hundreds of thousands of our people die.

To Johnson, Cummings and their fellow fans of eugenics, that might just mean ‘the herd’. But to you and me, that’s our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues – if we’re lucky enough to survive their plan ourselves.

The people the government says its first duty is to protect – and under that kind of a government, there is no reason at all for such optimism.

Postscript: Johnson’s refusal this afternoon to close schools, when Ireland will do so from tomorrow, is entirely in line with his ‘plan’.

Conspis are already commenting on the site,

Johnson, Cummings and the string pullers are revealing their true nature. What a tragedy that the ” moderates, centrists” Blairites, Labour first, Starmer, Thornberry et al all have played a part in these hideous people having the levers of power.

Another,

Bet those pensioners that selfishly voted Tory didn’t realise they were volunteering for a far right eugenics experiment with them as the guinea pigs.
Bet they are foaming at the mouth over their Daily Bile.

Not too long ago Swawkbox restricted itself to publishing stories attacking Keir Starmer, and Lisa Nandy , giving a platform to poor old  Richard Burgon, “by far the outstanding candidate in that contest”,  and this kind of piece,

REVOR PHILLIPS SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXPELLED WELL BEFORE NOW – BUT HIS CASE ILLUMINATES CENTRIST DOUBLE-STANDARD

 

Now it’s a return to the old days with scaremongering to the fore: endless stories about Coronavirus.

What old days?

 

These old days:  “DISABLED CLAIMANTS TOLD: 2 YRS TO GET JOB OR BE SANCTIONED FOR A YEAR.”  17th of July. 2017

And this, also in 2017.

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

This was followed by a screenshot of an entry from Wikipedia, which defined a DA-Notice as “an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security”. The Skwawkbox article then continued: “In effect, although voluntary, this amounts to a gag on the mainstream media — and note that it is applied for for reasons of national security only.”.

….

Faced with the collapse of its story, Skwawkbox was forced to back off and post a grudging retraction: “EDIT: the SKWAWKBOX is now satisfied that no D-notice was issued. No plain answer to this blog’s question of other restrictions on information about lives lost at Grenfell has yet been provided, but a ‘D-notice’ (or DSMA-notice as they are now termed) was not.”

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2020 at 6:27 pm

The Twittering Machine. Richard Seymour. From Internet Addiction to “post-Truth” politics.

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The Twittering Machine. Richard Seymour. The Indigo Press. 2019.

This month Benjamin Griveaux, candidate for Paris Mayor from President Macron’s party, La République en Marche, stood down. Peter Pavlinski had posted on the Internet a video of the Macronist stalwart having ‘virtual sex’. Images of the candidate tossing himself off in a previous online exchange with the Russian exile’s girlfriend, Alexandra de Taddeo, had been taken, without, he claims, her knowledge, from her computer. Published on Paveninski’s site, Pornopolitique, it looked like a victory on the Web for those challenging what Richard Seymour in the Foreword to his new book calls the monopoly “formerly enjoyed by media and entertainment companies”. Pavlinski called it a blow against the “hypocrisy” of politicians.

The Twittering Machine is “an attempt” “to work out a new language into what is coming into being” in this “new techno-political system”. The title is short for the whole range of digital platforms. The book is a sustained critique of the “techno-utopians” dream of “creative autonomy” that has gone with the rise of the “bloom of the web”. Beyond being an “addiction machine” it has important political effects. Nobody is any doubt that the Affaire Griveaux would not have happened without the Net’s “ubiquitous publicity. This may be added to the growth of what Seymour calls “cyber-cynicism”.

Debate has raged over making public these “sextos”, and more online regulation, with some defending the confidentiality of intimate relations ( Griveaux scandal revives France’s will to regulate social media). For others it illustrates how “connectivity” can become the fantasy of sharing solitary pleasure. Others relate it to the  #MeToo movement, ,#BalanceTonPorc, and the way sexual issues, from harassment, and rape to infidelity, are no longer considered private in France.

Political Twilight Zone.

Less noticed internationally is the presence of Juan Branco. The author of Crépuscule (2018) and self-styled leftist he is one of the lawyers for Julian Assange. The advocate now represents Pavlinski and is, in effect, part of his public voice (Le Monde. Derrière la chute de Benjamin Griveaux, enquête sur le rôle d’un trio sans foi ni loi.)

Announcing the twilight of President Macron, the book (initially available for free on the Net) has been fiercely criticised on the left for its portrait of high-society plots, the international ‘Gotha’ of the international, elite schooling, moralism, dislike of ‘degenerates’ and venom against homosexuals. Crépuscule is studded with lengthy passages on the networks and manoeuvring of one gay man, Gabriel Attal, charged with organising Macron’s youth wing. For at least some this would-be Revolutionary Prosecutor looks more at home in the world of far-right ‘anti-globalists’ and 4Chan than the left. It comes as no surprise that Branco vaunts how, on Twitter, he had exposed media cover-ups of the oligarchs’ activities. (1)

Richard Seymour offers a way of looking at how figures like Branco and Pavlinski have become political players. Some readers will be disappointed at the absence of discussion about Lenin’s Tomb, Race-play BDSM and the merits of poking fun at people with severe facial injuries. But they will find that the author puts such “anti-celebrities”, the “propagandists of human failure” in their place. Seymour has also written a thoroughly readable thoughtful book.

Trolls and Trolling.

Many of the stories set out in The Twittering Machine, are more tragic than the fate of Benjamin Griveaux. Between our addiction to the instant rewards of ‘like’ on Facebook, the ‘community’ run for profit, the surveillance capitalism, we have the space where trolls gloated on young people’s plight and helped drive them to suicide. The taunting of Océane, her death in front of a high-speed train, her “protest” against an ex-boyfriend’s rape, her remote father, “a profiteer in the sex industry”, and society, made us weep. Seymour, in a sensitive account, talks of the yearning for popularity, for renown, and puts charge of self-regard in its place, “complaints about narcissism are almost always, as Kristin Dombek writes, about the ‘selfishness of others’.” (Page 94) In this world of intense self-promotion come moments of pack hunting. Vigilantes react against the baiting. “Trolling, and the backlash against trolling, is for the most part good money.” (Page 123)

Citing Jean Baudrillard it becomes clear that in a world of simulacra there is a “darkly dystopian potential”. In “post-truth politics” “new fascisms are emerging round micro celebrities, mini-patriarchs and the flow of homogenised messages.” Racist propaganda has “compensatory, antidepressant effects”. The Islamic State, ISIS, another “far right social movement” based on religious-racism spread on the Web with “snuff videos”, “It self-consciously incarnated the antithesis of everything liberal modernity stood for” (Page 187) These “collective hallucinations” have real effects, far-right murders, Daesh’s genocidal state. And there is the first “Twitter President” Donald Trump….

Digital Democracy? 

Can the Internet still have progressive potential? The Twittering Machine cites the role of the early pre-Net French system, Minitel a videotex online service. Seymour says that this played a role in student protests way back in 1986 – although while present out of solidarity at many of them, including the most violent, I failed to notice its impact. Have its successors now become a “sub-hegemonic practice” keeping us in line to the “emerging techno-political regime”? This is at least is certain.

Yet, it was not the technology used but that anti-democratic folk politics principle of “consensus” decision-making that hampered movements like Occupy, accelerating their own lack of a political strategy that could have an effect. The scope of “digital democracy” remains open. Parties organised digitally, like La France insoumise, have their own ways of blocking dissenting voices, by prohibiting any organised opposition. It is impossible to imagine the modern left without social media platforms, Blogs, YouTube, web sites, even Instagram, and the use of Twitter during protests.

In its opening chapters  The Twittering Machine speculates on the “subterranean” drives that attach us to a world in which “we are all scripturient”, writers of texts. The seemingly detached cyberspace in which letters are typed is equally one where we work “without remuneration the better to sell us as a product” (Page 215) Behind lies a taste of B.F. Skinner’s behaviourist ‘utopia’ for business, as surveillance capitalism shadowing the Twitter Machine. Behind the digital revolution and the time consuming Monster, the ‘Chronophage’, is profit from human lab rats. .

The Twittering Machine raises more questions than than it offers plausible conclusions. No left activist in the heat of a political struggle is going to leave behind her mobile, tablet, laptop, or PC and stroll in “the park with nothing but a notepad and a nice pen”. Nobody who wishes to express his or her views is going to rely on speaking or the postal system. Perhaps the “post-Baudrillard” writers, Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serrory are onto something when they write that amongst the promotion of the self, and the aesthetic capitalism on Facebook and the Net, may also inspire people to see in themselves their own artistic desires, that it may also allow personal creativity outside of mass consummation and simulacra. This leaves a place for a “utopia”, not exclusively of writing, but certainly fit to occupy the “dreamspace”. (2)

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(1) Crépuscule ou l’erreur de la confusion. À propos de l’idole BrancoAjoutez aussi –- car tout y est — ses pulsions homophobes, qui transparaissent dans une note où l’effondrement de notre civilisation est associé à deux figures gay — Gabriel Attal et Edouard Louis — si dissemblables qu’on se demande ce qui peut les réunir si ce n’est l’homophobie de l’auteur et le vieux thème de la décadence homosexuelle.

On the alt-right use of the Internet see: Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right Angela Nagel. 2017 Zed Books.

(2) Pages 479 – 480 Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serror. L’esthétisation du monde. 2013. Folio.

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See also, RS 21.

Review: The Twittering Machine Mark Murphy

Notably,

It is important to note that the last major book ‘left-wing’ book that gave an account of the impact of social media on our politics was Angela Nagel’s Kill All Normies. The problem with her writing is that it is less a description of the material circumstances of our current digital predicament and more of a moralising screed against the current state of left-wing politics. Likewise, before Nagel, we had Exiting the Vampire Castle by Mark Fisher, who began tracing the jouissance (toxic pleasure) laden tendencies that social media brought out in the left. He tells us that the Vampire Castle – his metaphor for the horror story of social media – is driven by a ‘priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd.’ The problem with Fisher and Nagel’s work, in short, is that they have both become a resource for those who moralise against moralism rather than explain our addiction to moralism.

Seymour’s work is vital because he refuses to be drawn into any form of moralising. The psychoanalytic insight, which underpins Seymour’s work, therefore resists externalising, moralising and fetishising the return of the writing repressed. Instead, he argues that it needs to be looked at honestly as we are a part of it whether we like it or not. Against the all too common ‘techlash’ theme, he argues that social media does indeed bring out fascistic and conspiratorial impulses, but it has also given a voice to the marginalised. Moreover, even if the Twittering Machine does give the marginalised more voice, it does so at the expense of handing power to huge corporate entities like Google that monetise our attention.

 

This is Not Propaganda. Adventures in the War Against Reality. Peter Pomerantsev. Review: The Internet and the Liberties of the Moderns.

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This is Not Propaganda. Adventures in the War Against Reality. Peter Pomerantsev. Faber & Faber. 2019.

“L’information, le surcroît d’information sur nous-mêmes, est une sorte d’électrocution. Elle produit une sorte de court-circuit continuel où l’individu brûle ses circuits et perd ses defences. ” Information, the overabundance of information, is a kind of electrocution. It creates a kind of continuous short circuit, in which the individual burns up its circuits, and loses its defences. Jean Baudrillard. La Gauche Divine. 1985.).

“The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism” wrote Peter Pomerantsev in Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Adventures in Modern Russia (2005) is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as has been the case with twentieth century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting them and rendering them absurd.” The son of Russian dissident exiles he was struck then, and in the present work, by the way that “facts” has ceased to matter.

In this new book on “influence campaigns”, “what might be causally be referred to as ‘propaganda” Pomerantsev explores “the wreckage”, the “dark corners of the Internet where trolls torture their victims”. “We are” he writes “becoming subjects of our own data, as if the data is rearranging our relations and identifies with its own logic”. On a wider canvas than Putin’s Russian Federation, whose “social media squadrons” still haunts the landscape, the writer’s adventures take him to where politics has become a “struggle to control the construction of identity.”

This is not Propaganda comes amongst other studies of how what Jean Baudrillard called the “simulacra” of information in today’s social media. Far from burning out identity it is claimed that the world of hyper-reality has come to play a key role in politics, and, above all, elections. Richard Seymour, it is said considers that this planet, the Twittering Machine, is managed by ‘fascist technology’ that cuts people off from society, a “stand in” for community. By showing the political effects of social media, Pomerantsev both indicates that Seymour would be out of his depth in a puddle, and that Baudrillard’s prediction that postmodern hyper-reality – the digital society – would absorb political passion into ‘post-politics.’ (1)

In the Philippines Pomerantsev finds that that political use of social media illustrates something very different to a mass escape from the material world. Visiting Manila he meets Maria, the creator of Rappler, the Philippines’ first Internet-based news site. For reporting the extra judicial killings ordered by the country’s president, Duterte, they began to receive death threats, at the rate of ninety an hour. A cascade of smears followed. An organised form of warfare, with the real menace of being killed, was conducted through cyberspace.

Efforts by the Kremlin to stir up civil war, an even more flagrant case, in the Ukraine draw Pomerantsev. It was “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg.” This fight, in which Corbyn adviser Andrew Murray participated on the Russian side, portrayed the 2014 Ukrainian Orange Revolution and protests in the Maidean as a “neo-fascist US-orchestrated conspiracy”. This “information war” was an important part of “next generation warfare”.

Syria is another front-line. The activist Mary Ana who ran humanitarian medical aid to the country, along with human rights groups, like the White Helmets, and the Syrian Network for Human Rights, illustrates the way Assad regime used the Internet, “When she punched ‘White Helmets’ into YouTube” she found “wall-to-wall coverage claiming that they were actually terrorists, or that they were actors and everything they did was staged, or that they were a British secret service psy-op, or that they didn’t actually exist at all..” (Page 178) Assad’s murders are hidden behind these torrents of lies, propaganda treated with indulgence by political figures such as the former British MP Chris Williamson.

Populism and Identity.

After the disinformation spread by genociders This is not Propaganda turns to “Pop up Populism”. The transformation of the many and “the people”, he argues, can be seen in the Brexit vote. Against a “well-identified enemy”, the EU, not just the hard right who initiated the Leave project, but, one could add, parts of the British left adopted the “guiding fairy tale” of taking back control. Meeting Chantal Mouffe, and without academic deference for her and Ernesto Laclau’s theories of populism, he is struck by how flexible her claim that “identities are the result of political construction” can be. Playing in this game – a play in which ‘charismatic leaders’ can be an instrument of ‘left’ and right politics – Génération Identitaire, the language of “freedom of speech, democracy, openness to new ideas” can be used to bolster right wing fringe parties. It is the basis for national populism, a far from a marginal force.

At the forefront of this politics stands, Russian “political technologists”. Gleb Pavlovsky, the author recounts, has been able to “unite utterly disparate groups around a rotating enemy; oligarchs ar first, then metropolitan liberals, and more recently the whole outside world” (Page 223). Putin can, “stimulate global influence by purposefully leaving the fingerprints of his hackers and information operations all over the world”.

Will companies like Cambridge Analytica, who study “behavioural change” through social media, determine the political future? Are left and right being washed away by using people’s Facebook and Google preferences to harness them to new identities? Is China’s heavily controlled Internet and model of how identity can still be shaped and controlled by a one-party state in the age of technological innovation?

Modern and Ancient Liberties.

The 19th century French liberal Benjamin Constant, (De la liberté des anciens comparée à celle des modernes. 1819) claimed that in the ancient Roman and Greek world people led public lives, that as citizens they were free, in at least the sense that they decided on war and peace, while as private individuals they were subordinate, watched, and oppressed. In modern times, he claimed, it was the private sphere that was free, the site of individual independence. One can doubt the liberties of ancient republics, and efforts to replicate them following the French Revolution. But he offered an important insight. To simplify, in today’s liberal societies have been seen to offer a “private” domain, separate from public politics. Constant equally  warned, two centuries before theorists of “post-politics”, that in a commercial society people could become so absorbed in their private lives that they would neglect public duty.

One of the main political effects of social media has been to abolish the distinction between public and private politics. Not by making the “personal political”, but by breaking down the space between our emotions, identity, and politics. This is not the full story, since neither is everybody absorbed in social media nor is it without a liberating potential in networking politics from the ground up. It is equally not proven that the “political technologists” like the far right  ‘Bot-herders’ in Nizhny have mastered the art of shaping everybody’s electoral choice. Boris Johnson’s Get Brexit Done cannot be put down to Internet influencers, nor is it clear that the Conservatives are now about to use identity populism to rule by.

Can these forces wash away the push for autonomy and human rights that has also marked the ‘modern’? The latest book by “rooted cosmopolitan” Peter Pomerantsev, which should have as many readers as possible, should firmly indicate that there are many out there with a different story to tell.

 

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(1) Oliver Eagleton. MIND-FORGED MANACLES? Review. Richard SeymourThe Twittering Machine. New Left Review No 120.Nov/Dec 2019.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2020 at 1:26 pm