New Digital Era

Dark times for liberty

An ominous new thought is taking over mainstream politics everywhere

On 2021-01-18 by ngc6302

Anyone that has been paying attention to the news over the last 20 years may have noticed a pattern. Something terrible happens, but instead of fixing the root of the problem, the society, or its rulers (governments and corporations) moves towards a more authoritarian standpoint. We saw this with the Patriot Act in the United States after 9/11, we saw this with the 2008 economic crisis, the collapse of some banks, and the subsequent plan to "fix" the economy with quantitative easing and the printing of an unimaginable amount of money to bail them out. There is a common here: the ones that always end up paying the consequences are the average citizen, which isn't rich or a politician. And it's that if you don't have the means to circumvent all these policies, with financial engineering in the case of rich people, or with loopholes in the case of corporations, you get fucked by the laws that were supposed to help the society -you-.

The Patriot Act was an attack not only on the American people but on everyone on Earth, as many of the agencies aren't bound by geopolitical limits. The result was that millions, hundreds of millions of people were spied on by the NSA, and other agencies part of the 5 Eyes. Under the excuse of "it's to protect America", the government started a mass espionage program that lasted more than 15 years, as revealed by leaks of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. And it's very likely that these programs are still active, under different names and less obvious than before so as to not draw the eyes of the people again. With the new revival of "national security" hat justified gigantic allocations for defense budgets, these agencies recopilated every SMS, phone call metadata, email, web history, and much more info of every person they could, with tools like xKeyscore.
WikiLeaks has been silent for a few years, but if there really is more mass espionage programs and there are anonymous real patriots that leak them, this article will only have a stronger point.

The world outside governments has also moved towards a more restricted and controlled state. We have seen the centralization of the internet, to the point where a large part of the total global traffic is controlled by just a few corporations. The social traffic, the social world has also been compressed into control by just a few corporations. We now see that the only places to make your voice heard in sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, sites that have shown a clear bias when applying their very own Terms of Service, depending on the ideology of the user. The rhetoric of corporations serving the public has paid off and now a large part of the population not only believes that corporations actually work for the common good, and not do what's best in the interest of the corporation itself, but that they should have (as the recent events have demonstrated) the power to do the job of censors and mediators of Speech, something that, in a democracy, should be exclusively delegated in the Courts and the Justice. When people accept this new role the corporations are playing, they are opening the door to giving away more and more control of their lives. After all, they agree that it is a good thing. The people that now say that "it's a private company you idiot, they can do what they want in their platform" were the same that were calling against more control by the government of private companies before. These people forget that they are being useful idiots, and some even useful intellectuals that fall in the trap of "this is happening to the people I don't like (ie: other political party, other ideologies) so this is good, and I don't actually care if we're walking a dangerous path that coud end up backfiring". I think what can sum up all this is: we forgot to agree to disagree with people with different ideas. Or maybe we never knew in the first place. Because the issues talked here affect all of us (except if you're part of the political or elite class), around the world, even if you think you're safe for now.

The final topic of today's article is the increasing acceptance of extreme ideologies as a solition to today's problems. Even more, these are often authoritarian (communism and the new right populist right), which seek to increase government control over the lives of the people in the name of justice, equality or security. The internet has inevitably created echo chambers, places where there is an overwhelming amount of speech by the same ideology, which does nothing but reinforce each other's beliefs, creating a feedback loop that radicalizes people. It's very hard to escape echo chambers once you succumb, as people become irritable when they encounter people that shares a different ideas, as they are accustomed to only being exposed to their same beliefs. We can see examples of this in discord communities, for example, where often the ideology of the owners rules over all and the people who share different ideas are slowly socially displaced until they either leave or become absorbed by it and radicalized by social pressure. At the end, it's nothing but a different incarnation of propaganda. We can also see this in social media like twitter, facebook or youtube. Humans have a flaw that, for good or for bad, makes them like a lot to being told that people agree with them. People want to feel validated, and so in social media, they surround themselves by people of their same ideas and beliefs. We can see clear examples of this in facebook, with the q-anon groups made by the american right, or in twitter with people of the left only following people on the left, transgender people only following people that validate their thoughts, the social democrats only listening to social democrats and liberals[1] only following liberals. It's crystal clear that this behaviour is only empowered by the strategies of these social media platforms, because as people want to feel validated all the time, they have to keep feeding them the same ideas. If you're a socialist twitter will not recommend you to follow Jordan Peterson, and if you're a conservative twitter will not recommend you Bernie Sanders. And this reinforcement of dangerous psychological loops will, rather sooner than later, explode in everyone's faces.

[1] Here I refer to liberalism as in the idea that the state should interfere as least as possible in the markets. The meaning of liberal is different in the United States, where it has the meaning of a socially progressive person, often associated with the Democrat Party. My opinion is that liberal[ism] should stay with its original meaning of an idea pro free markets, and instead of using liberal to refer a socially progressive person, you can use "progressive" or "reformist".