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By Jason Michael

Western democracy has been hacked by a ruling élite determined to keep its hands on power in the face of the cyber revolution. They have subverted and broken democracy, and if left unaddressed this will kill our democracy completely.

It is simply not possible that I am alone in my misgivings about democracy. It has always struck me that, no matter the country, supposed democratically elected national parliaments and governments never represent the social, economic, or gender make up of their electorates. Surely one would think, in a fair and open democracy, that the elected government would resemble a miniature of the state; a microcosm of the society. But this is never the case. Western governments invariably and overwhelmingly represent the interests of rich white men.

As such western democratic governments have always represented the interests of the wealthy ruling class and the corporate interests of that class. People on lower incomes; the poor, the wage workers, and what have you, vote for these rich white men not because they know they will be better represented through this political cadre of the ruling establishment, but because – through such things as the media – the ruling establishment has convinced them that this is the case. Thus ordinary working people have always voted, in the main, against their interests and have helped to keep the wealthy in positions of power.

“If voting changed anything,” runs the quip often attributed to Russian anarchist Emma Goldman, “they’d make it illegal.” The internet and social media have fundamentally changed politics. Around the world, with access to greater amounts of information and with the endless possibility for communication, more people have become politically engaged; a seismic socio-political shift that has set alarm bells ringing in the halls of power. Sensing the danger, the powers that be have not made democracy illegal. They have broken it.

No one can be surprised that the election of Donald Trump was gamed by sophisticated systems of data analysis and targeted psychological manipulation on a terrifyingly gargantuan scale. Neither can we be shocked that the people behind this used these same weapons against the electorate of the United Kingdom during the EU referendum. The World Wide Web has made it impossible for the old political establishments to maintain their grip on power without some special advantage, and “Big Data” companies like Cambridge Analytica give them just that.

Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of the SCL Group, is in the business of harvesting data from social media and from right across the internet, building databases that include thousands of bits of information on hundreds of millions of people. This massive trove of data enables CA and companies like it to understand people in a highly detailed way; allowing them to construct complex, individually tailored, psychological models of individual voters. This information is then used to target specific ads at individuals, using military grade PSYOPS to influence their decisions. Done over the course of an entire election campaign and over a whole country it is not difficult to imagine how this can be a significant and deciding factor in the outcome of democratic elections.

SCL Group – or Strategic Communications Laboratories – is an English company with connections to the highest levels of the British establishment and the intelligence services. The psychological tools it weaponises were developed by the British and US Armies in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and were crucial in the “Battle for Hearts and Minds;” a programme of manipulation targeting civilian populations through various forms of media into cooperation and pacificity.

Looking at the timeline, from the US Presidential Primaries to the Presidential Election in November 2016, to the Brexit vote of June 2016, it is altogether likely the British government deployed this kind of cyber weaponry against the people of Scotland in 2014. Given the evident complete lack of ethics in the Conservative Party around election laws and what we know of the use of Big Data in the US and the UK, it would be naïve to imagine the Better Together campaign was not using similar nefarious tactics to undermine Scotland’s democracy. We have to assume this happened; this is how Britain has shown itself to behave.

This has to cause us some concern if we intend to pursue another independence referendum. The British establishment – Project Fear 2 – will cheat and we now know the weapons it has at its disposal. We have to be prepared for these kinds of dirty tricks and we had better be prepared to use some of our own. Whatever shape the next referendum takes, we know it is not going to be a fair or a clean fight. The gloves will be off from the start, and we had best start disabusing ourselves of any notions of fair play before it begins.

Democracy is utterly broken. Knowing that data can be used, and indeed is used, by powerful and wealthy actors to coerce voters corrodes the foundation of trust we must have in the democratic system before we can take part. From now on we have to assume that the “democracy” part of our political system is a fairly meaningless ritual that has been hacked by forces with the power and the means to do it. What this means for us is that the campaign for independence is also a campaign to save the democracy of Scotland. No democratic system can long survive this level of wholesale abuse before ultimately coming apart and becoming something else.

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DW Cambridge Analytica Documentary


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5 thoughts on “Democracy is on Life Support in the West

  1. So how do we fight this? Can we fight it, in fact??

    Seeing as the method bypasses the thinking rational mind and manipulates the irrational subconscious urges that are in us all? Of course politicians have always done that, at least the worst sort have. But in the past it always had to be a broad-brush approach, aimed at the public in general or at best some vague easily-identified and usually self-identifying section of the public. But now skilfully tailored messages can be directed almost individually. This type of fine-grained manipulation is the PR/propaganda equivalent of a curse missile, or rather a whole fleet of cruse missiles, each one customised to hit its particular chosen target.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sense of things was that social media was solid ground for ‘yes’ in 2014 because it operated below the radar and control of the mainstream establishment media. I also think it functioned in a way that on balance enhanced democracy because the connections were largely personal. Okay that maybe naive but it seems to me broadly how it was back then – seems such a long time ago

    But I think since then (from 2016 onwards I would say), power has woken up to the threat to itself. It has now learned to hack and control democracy. We spend a lot of effort and angst on daily mail headlines but this is much more sinister. Orwell – right again. Social media has become the opium of the people.

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  3. If we’re very much aware of how Cambridge Aanalytica have manipulated and influenced election results then I’d expect the Scottish Govt will be too. It’s possible the recent exposure of, and subsequent reports into the workings of CA have put our second independence referendum on a back-boiler. Think about it; I very much doubt we’d launch our battleships at our optimum time if we suddenly learned the opposition had a new, hi-tech sub lurking; at least, I hope they wouldn’t.

    Having said that (and at the risk of wandering into the realms of Craig Murray), if the UK government reckoned Scotland would soon be lost, and wanted to buy more time, what perfect way to do so than to concoct a covert body, data-mining for guaranteed election results?

    While we’re on the subject, tell your old mammy and your grandda’ to ditch that bloody Postal Vote*. Are we really expected to rely on the veracity of it’s operating company – Idox – whose board is populated by members absolutely determined that Scotland remains part of the UK? Have a deek at Lord Peter Lilley; he’s on the board, he’s a former Conservative Cabinet minister during the Thatcher years. Read his Wiki profile – it’s horrific. How about Sir John Beckwith, Idox’s single biggest shareholder? educated at Harrow, Johhny’s one of the Conservative party’s biggest donors. Johnny’s a nice lad with a kind and benevolent nature. Just-kidding, btw..
    Get a grip.

    *Apply for a Proxy vote. If your family are unable to attend a Polling Station, you can represent them yourself, it’s relatively straight-forward. a) it guarantees someone’s vote who’s perhaps never previously voted. b) it guarantees a non-Postal Vote.

    Liked by 2 people

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