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Re: <nettime> Troll factories in some shitty St Petersburg office?
Jonathan Marshall on Sun, 18 Mar 2018 22:53:42 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Troll factories in some shitty St Petersburg office?


Eric writes:

"Naw. Neoliberalism is not really an institution-conceived and -directed thing like you seem to think. To the extent that the term usefully describes anything, it would apply to a more or less improvised set of policy and political responses to both the economic downturn of 1973-82 and worldwide resistance and refusal. "

I'd say some of the players were institutions, and those institutions were connected to other institutions, and sources of income. And they promoted ideas and solutions and panics that were attractive to other institutions and players. They worked together, and tried to win influence, even if it was on an adhoc and somewhat fragmented basis.

"I know apres Harvey the left thing to do is draw a straight line from the Chicago School to Chile et al., as if all 'ruling elites' had to do was devise a program and administer it on the world. But that's bad history as well as bad theory and is closer to rightwing conspiricizing ("inter-elite conflicts") than Marxist analysis."

The history seems to be good, as far as I can see, and there is nothing in Marxist analysis which says that sections of the ruling elites cannot conspire together to attempt to reinforce their power (that supposedly is the role of the State) - they probably won't remove the inner contradictions of capital, even if they want to, but they have options, and they can strike against those they consider their enemies. Class struggle is a struggle, and the struggle is political and ideological, not a simple and inevitable 'plain-sailing' dialectical movement to revolution.

"Just as the intellectual/philosophical reasonings behind neoliberalism came only after their policy tenets were implemented, so left conjunctural analysis tails popular movement, but usually does it poorly and misses the point."

Not sure this is good history either, as far as I can see the ideology of neoliberalism developed as it won financing, won institutional struggles in universities and think tanks, and won political sway through capturing politicians, corporations and reactionaries. This is also what we might expect from a theory of praxis. It develops, it is not born completely well thought out.

"It is remarkable, though, that you can write mellifluously about Russia and Trump and psy-ops etc., but end up not having a single word to say about the fact that the fascist US president and his coterie are working on many fronts with the Russian state and its offshoots on reviving a pan-Western traditionalism that is racist, sexist, antiqueer, and eugenicist. That stuff is less sexy than brainwashing is, but it hits people where they live and comprises the actual content that's being whispered into people's ears."

I agree, that these formulations seem to arise from institutions working in tandem towards similar aims, through a "conspiratorial" control and promotion of information. In both cases it distracts from the actual policies, and it would probably be wrong to think this hostile identity politics is accidental, coincidental or less important.

jon

On Sun, Mar 18, 2018 at 2:23 PM, Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com<mailto:bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com>> wrote:
Kremlebots roll over:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-whistleblower-we-spent-1m-harvesting-millions-of-facebook-profiles-video

Voice of Christopher Wylie, the 28 year-old hipster data scientist:

"We spent a million dollars harvesting tens of millions of Facebook profiles, and those profiles were used as the basis of the algorithms that became the foundation of Cambridge Analytica itself...

"We would know what kinds of messaging you would be susceptible to, including the framing of it, the topics, the content, the tone, whether it's scary, that kind of thing.... what you would be susceptible to and where you're going to consume that, and how many times do we need to touch you in order to make you change how you think about something.

"In addition to having data scientists, and psychologists, and strategists, they also have an entire team of creatives, designers, videographers, photographers.

"They then create that content, that gets then sent to a targeting team, which then injects it into the internet. Websites will be created, blogs will be created. Whatever it is that we think this target profile will be receptive to, we will create content on the internet for them to find. And then they see that, they click, and they go down the rabbit hole - until they start to think something differently.

"Instead of standing in the public square and saying what you think, and letting people come and listen to you, and then having that shared experience as to what your narrative is,  you are whispering into the ear of each and every voter, and you may be whispering one thing to this voter and another thing to another voter. We risk fragmenting society in a way where we don't have any more shared experiences, and we don't have any more shared understanding. If we don't have any more shared understanding, how can we be a functioning society?

"If you want to fundamentally change society, you first have to break it. And it's only when you break it that you can remold the pieces into your vision of a new society. This was the weapon that Steve Bannon wanted to build to fight his culture war."

***

All this was done by a London firm, with money supplied by arch-conservative algotrading meister Robert Mercer. What's more it was done with data harvested from Facebook by a Cambridge-based Russian academic who actually does have an office at some shitty St Petersburg university, and it's not yet known whether the data or even the algorithms ended up there.

I am aware the above has been partially known for months, yes, I read all that. It is still not completely known but the above declarations by a core developer link the major dots and mark a turning point in global history. Either social media is regulated (see Allan Siegal's post) or we knowingly concede entry into a post-democracy of continuous psy-ops and civil information warfare. Where the biggest guns reap all the rewards.

The additional question of whether Trump, Nigel Farage and others can be directly linked to Russian psy-ops programs and/or prosecuted for the use of these techniques raises the specter of intense inter-elite conflicts spilling over into civil unrest, with the further possibility of the US president launching global-scale shooting wars as a diversionary excuse for state-of-emergency tactics.

This is the endgame of the neoliberal program for the total makeover of society, which began in the early Seventies with the Powell memo and the Trilateral Commission declaration on "too much democracy." I think it will be defeated and at least partially purged from both the state and civil society. But obviously nothing assures that outcome.


Also see: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1036 ("Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans")

And the articles:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/17/facebook-cambridge-analytica-kogan-data-algorithm?CMP=share_btn_tw

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

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