The Britain I live in today is one in which it seems anger is easy and consensus is hard.
Anger is for the righteous, the passionate, the ones who care deeply.
Consensus is a plot by the latte-drinking neo-liberal metropolitan elite to make sure the angry don’t get what they want.
Five years ago, the EU was a topic most people knew little about and cared about even less. Now, Brexit has become a fault-line with Leavers and Remainers unable to do anything but shout their anger at each other for destroying the country.
The Tory Party has moved to the right. The Labour Party has moved to the left. The people in the centre are seen as traitors by both sides.
The people in the centre are portrayed as the few who refuse to listen to the angry will of the many and who insist on patronising them with elitist facts and alarmist forecasts instead of embracing opportunity and believing in the power of the British people to conquer the world and or remove poverty.
I believe this erosion of consensus is a planned outcome of an attack on Western Democracies carried out by weaponising social media.
Ok, I know that sounds like paranoid, tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theory nonsense. That’s the problem with the truth, you can’t pretty it up and have it stay true. It is what it is so, please give me a few minutes to explain before you write me off.
I believe social media is driving the False and the Furious to keep us anxious about the future, disempowered in the present and angry at each other.
The first step is to destroy our belief that there is a factual basis for making a decision by drowning us in The False.
The people driving today’s attack learned a lot from Adolf Hitler. He demonstrated that if you repeat a big, simple lie often enough, it will be believed. Effective as this approach was, Goebels was aware that it created a problem. He said:
“Truth is the enemy of the state and needs to be repressed.”
In today’s digital environment repressing the truth is difficult so the people attacking us came up with anew strategy: discrediting all sources of truth and making false or FAKE the norm.
The guys seeking consensus tend to operate on the basis that telling people the truth, backed up with facts and expert analysis, will win the arguement.
Those attacking us decided to skip the argument. They counter everything said by the consensus seekers with “alternative facts”. The aim isn’t necessarily to have the alternative facts believed by everyone but to undermine the concept of fact. This neuters experts and spreads doubt.
The purpose of Fake News is to make all news fake. It discredits experts and amplifies confirmation bias, It moves us from “I know or I know who to ask”, to ” I know I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone else knows”. This makes us feel helpless.
Feeling helpless for a long time will either make us apathetic or angry. If we are apathetic then we’re easier to manage: we don’t vote, we don’t organise, we just get on as best we can.. If we’re angry then our anger can be channelled by social media using manufactured outrage to keep us at each other’s throats. Either choice, anger or apathy, leads to us feeling powerless.
For me, the murder of Jo Cox, a serving MP, in 2016 marks the point where I could see that the political climate in the UK had been pushed into angry tribalism.
Neither the anger nor the tribalism are accidental. They have been created and sustained by the skilled use of the press and social media to keep us too furious to reach a consensus.
Of course, this is not the first time the right has used propaganda to shape the will of the people. Dr. Joseph Goebels was the father of propaganda. He’persuaded the German people to grant supreme power to Hitler in the referendum of 1934, and to approve the invasion of the Rheinland and the move to a single party democracy in the referendum of 1936.
He saw propaganda as the:
“means of building and keeping power.”
He understood that good propaganda requires:
“a complete knowledge of the soul of the people”
It seems to me that the people driving the Brexit propaganda understood that triggering bloodyminded conflict was the way to get their hooks into the soul of the British people.
Consensus is only possible when we are not angry, when we are not split into sides that become our identity, when we are faced with choices that allow compromise.
Brexit removes the possiblity of compromise. You can’t both leave and stay in the EU. You have to choose.
Brexit by-passes the traditional identity-based divisions that our political system is driven by: North vs South, Left vs Right, Rich vs Poor, and creates a new unbridable division Leave vs Remain.
This division was sold by and is sustained by the use of social media and the press as a propoganda tool.
The “national conversation” is not a real dialog that the BBC, Facebook and Twitter provide the platform for. It’s as scripted and curated as reality TV.
The biggest game changers have been Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has become the platform of choice for manipulating opinion. It enables the use of Big Data to target specific groups of people with micro-advertising tailored to produce an emtional response.
Watch this video and hear Alexander Nixs, former head of Cambridge Analytica, who were instrumental in getting Trump elected and making the Leave campaign sucessful, explain how it works.
Twitter has also become a platform for provoking and sustaining fury and preventing consensu building. Troll factories and bots fire the memes and the flaming hate-soaked button-pressing dog-whistle tweets and we all start fighting with each other.
The hashtag is a tool for solidifying anger while stifling discussion. Facts and numbers are absent or fake. We exchange memes with one another that entrench us in our positions and make our positions our identities.
Social Media is about managed identities, selfies of the soul. It’s being turned into a fun-house mirror that distorts how we see ourselves and each other.
Lies and Fury destroying democracy
Lies create belief, shape identity, neutralises experts/facts and amplify emotions
Fury sustains belief, creates conflict, avoids dialogue, prevents consensus.
Lies and Fury are the two blades of the scissors being used to attack democracy