What’s British Democracy Worth? About £20k
So it turns out Brexit Means Doping and what we are seeing is the secret state in operation argues Mike Small.
As the DUP march against racism – and the Frida Kahlo Barbie Doll is issued, the world is crazier than ever.
British politics is broken from top to bottom from East to West from national party politics to municipal politics from the social question to the national question. From Murdo Fraser cheering on a fascist state police attacking civilians with impunity and elected politicians being jailed in mainland mainstream continental Europe, on we go.
The most important issue of our day is now painfully exposed so that the Leave team could only have won with the significant help of a covert technology for which the “conversion rates” for the campaign’s online advertising were “incredibly effective”.
Second, members of the official Brexit campaign during the EU referendum may have committed criminal offences relating to overspending and collusion, according to lawyers advising whistleblowers who worked inside the organisation. Clare Montgomery and Helen Mountfield, barristers from Matrix chambers, concluded in a formal opinion that there was a “prima facie case” that Vote Leave submitted an inaccurate spending return and colluded with BeLeave, which was aimed at students.
Whistleblower Chris Wylie is asked whether allegations of cheating “made much difference to the final outcome” of the EU referendum.
Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave deny any wrongdoing. pic.twitter.com/WP5BfVf3xZ
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 27, 2018
And the Cambridge Analytica story just spirals out and out.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower says CEO Alexander Nix pitched work during #indyref but can’t remember which side he pitched to… That’s convenient. We’ll be updating you on that soon.
This is the biggest political scandal of our time – by a long-shot. Because the ramifications are so huge and the names involved so high-up.
Mark D’Arcy, BBC correspondent and not exactly a subversive voice writes: “I think the @CommonsCMS hearing with Chris Wylie is, by a distance, the most astounding thing I’ve seen in Parliament.”
As Carol Cadwalladr puts it:
“If proven, this would be the biggest election scandal of modern times. The biggest overspend. Our electoral laws were overhauled in 19th century to stop elections being bought. But they’re now unenforceable, because: Facebook.”
“And if these allegations are proven, that the official Leave campaign, led by two government ministers, knowingly cheated, then what? Is a fine – the Electoral Commission’s stiffest penalty – in any way proportionate? The price for undermining our entire democratic process? £20k”.
But already the excuses are coming thick and fast so that even if – as looks extremely likely – there is torrent of undeniable facts about Brexit doping -the response is “Who cares?” We are in so deep to the Post- Fact world that William Davies (author of NERVOUS STATES: HOW FEELING TOOK OVER THE WORLD (Jonathan Cape 2018) writes:
“Part of the problem in claiming the Brexit referendum was ‘unfair’ is that Leave successfully harnessed a deep sense that Britain itself (its government, its economy, its laws) had become unfair.”
Tactically he may be right, and to be sure there is a real danger in using the black-ops being revealed as a panacea and an excuse for 2014, 2016 and Trumpism, as if all this can magic away right-wing populism, deep-seated rejection of political elites and a collapse of faith in the systems and structures of democracy.
But equally it won’t do to shoo-away the Dark Money and the broken democracy just because someone framed Brexit as a liberatory project and channeled three decades of xenophobia.
That’s Grade A Bullshit.
What we should be looking at is the interface between the Conservative Party, the British State and these private companies.
Compare the covert operations of the 1970s and 1980s (blacklisting, shoot-to-kill, John Stalker, the Enemy Within) and today and what you see is a reflection of the economic model: the States black-ops have been outsourced.
As Paul Mason writes:
“While huge angst is being generated, rightly, by the data breaches and opaque algorithmic control exerted by Facebook, it is this nexus of private intelligence, hacking and “black ops” capabilities that should be ringing political alarm bells. Let’s be clear about what we’re facing. A mixture of free market dogmatism plus constraints imposed by the rule of law has led, over the past decades, to the creation of an alternative, private, secret state. When it was only focused on the enemies and rivals of the West, or hapless politicians in the global south, nobody minded. Now it is being used as a weapon to tear apart democracy in Britain and the US we care – and rightly so.”
Others are less alarmed.
William Davies again writes:
“Why so much outrage? The Observer should be congratulated for its tenacity on the topic, and this story may, with luck, push us towards a tipping point on the issue of data privacy. But the fascination and shock that Cambridge Analytica is attracting suggests a displacement of horror that really stems from something deeper. Part of that must lie with Trump and Trumpism. A terrible event must surely have been delivered by equally terrible means. Passionate Remainers no doubt feel similarly about Brexit. It is clear that various secretive and underhand forces did intervene in the US election campaign. Thanks to Robert Mueller’s investigation, we know that Facebook sold $100,000-worth of advertising space to Russian ‘troll farms’, and that 126 million Americans may have been exposed to Russian ‘fake news’ over the course of 2015 and 2016. Then there is the FBI’s resurrection of the matter of Clinton’s emails at a critical moment in the election campaign. Whether any of this gets us closer to explaining or understanding Trump’s victory is moot.
Cambridge Analytica looks conveniently like a smoking gun, primarily because it has repeatedly bragged that it is one. Nix and Turnbull do for the events of 2016 what ‘Fabulous’ Fab Tourre, former Goldman Sachs banker, and Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin, former boss of RBS, did for the banking crisis of 2008, providing grotesque personalities on which to focus anger and alarm. To hear such men proudly declaring their lack of moral conscience is paradoxically reassuring to the degree that it helps explain the world’s loss of moral direction. But as with the financial crisis, the circus risks distracting from the real institutional and political questions, in this case concerning companies such as Facebook and the model of capitalism that tolerates, facilitates and even celebrates their extensive and sophisticated forms of data harvesting and analysis.”
So we are caught in this world where ‘baddies’ emerge – Fred the Shred, Putin, ‘Etonian’ Alexander Nix, Red Corbyn, Boris Johnson and even Trump, and we forget in the rush of incredulity to look at the systemic failure, the economic drivers and the collapsing institutions.
But if we can transcend this superficiality – this feels like (and is) a tipping point to understanding of our own culpability in data privacy, a new emerging secret state, the easy perversion of votes and referenda and a Britain in perpetual crisis and decline.