Theresa May’s Photoshopped Democracy


By Jason Michael

At a time when more of the population are politically active and engaged than ever before, it seems ironic that debate and politics at the top has fallen silent. Our politicisation is a threat. So the system has been hacked.


We do “Happy Food” when we have something to celebrate. It’s a rare and, considering our limited incomes, expensive treat. A cook your own Chinese spicy hotpot in an authentic Chinese restaurant on a street predominantly occupied by similar Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese eateries. We call it “Happy Food” on account of the often hilarious Chinglish on the menu, priceless gems like “happy sunshine mother’s lung” and “spicy grandma.” On a couple of the walls in this joint there are gargantuan mounted flat-screen television sets always tuned to Xinhua, Chinese state news; China’s infinitely more balanced answer to the BBC and Sky News.

We don’t understand a word the news casters are saying, but it is strangely addictive nonetheless. Every so often there is a segment where some government minister in a Mao suit – yes, they’re called Mao suits – and sporting what would appear to be standard issue Communist Party spectacles is doing a walk about tour of a new factory or a labour camp. Always it is a variation of the same. The state official is always framed centre shot, flanked by secret police bodyguards, a ranking soldier or two, and a rabble of nervously grinning members of the management committee. Each detail is carefully and meticulously stage managed. Not a hair is out of place. It’s propaganda.


It is obvious something profoundly bad has happened in British politics when we watch the Prime Minister on the general election campaign trail and are reminded instantly of these performances on the Chinese state news. The dumb-down foxification of news and politics has been happening both in the United States and the United Kingdom for a good while, since at least the media savvy New Labour 1997 general election campaign that got Tony Blair to Number 10. It has not improved since. We have come through the spin doctors, the sound bites, to the slogans; where the debate and discussion has thinned and deteriorated in each new phase until now – the silence.

Debate has died. Mrs May will meet neither journalists who are not hand-picked relatives of Conservative MPs and party members nor the public whose support she hopes to win. On the Scottish leg of her tour of the nations she was whisked to a secluded wood, to an empty prefab reminiscent of the Wolf’s Lair at the Eastern Front, to perform an utterly artificial town hall meeting surrounded by security and bussed-in, grinning campaign staffers and volunteers for the sole benefit of a picture perfect press release.

Time and again it is the same thing, in factories all over the place; photoshoots designed to give the impression of movement and purpose where in fact there is none. We don’t even have a message anymore. This is what we mean by the silence. But, and what is most worrying, is that she knows she’ll get away with it. She has this general election in the bag. She and her handlers know that all they need is the right image. Big data will do the rest. Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ, the multi-million dollar information analytics firms behind Trump and Brexit are working their magic. Using the gains of government mass surveillance, harvesting everything the internet knows about every voter and by using psych and dark ops techniques perfected against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, these shady operations know the science of shaping public opinion.

Theresa knows something that we have to start learning fast, that she doesn’t need to follow the old formula of beat cop politics. She knows that it is already redundant. All she has to do is let the cyber analytics people create the better-than-perfect illusion for just enough of the right category of voters that all is well. That is the reason for the silence. Her talking only stimulated debate, the presentation as a whole falls from the optimal pitch for achieving maximum likes and shares. Democracy has been hacked, and, unless we can find a solution fast, it will soon be dead.

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