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.

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 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.

Comments (9)

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  1. Willie says:

    And the people cried out for more poverty, more austerity, more inequality.

    Yes Mike you may think that the voting manipulation may be a tipping point, but I sadly fear not.

    Big Brother, I am a Celebrity, the acceptance of how it is, how it will be, are all the hallmarks of a people who really do not care. are incapable of seeing for themselves, and or simply folk who are easily misled.

    There was a huge spark during IndyRef where for a moment many people came alive, were inspired by the opportunity to make this country a better place.

    We need to get that spark back else for many, lumpen acceptance of the way it is, and will become, will prosper.

    And it will only become worse as we alienate ourselves away for the EU and beyond from dirty Johnny Foreigner.

    And who will we blame after Johnny Foreigner. Well that’s easy. The poor and the disabled of course.

    Lets redouble our efforts and relight the spark. It can be done.

  2. Somerled says:

    If the methods of Cambridge Analytica were employed to raise money towards feeding the starving millions, combatting global warming, or save the the great crested grebe from extinction, would people be so concerned?

    The whole debate is a bit embarrassing. I kinda think people who use Facebook should be dropped into volcanoes anyway, so I might not be the right man to comment.

    The real moral of the story is that people spend too much time fiddling with electronic devices and communications.

    Subscribe and like if you wanna see more..

    1. John Burrows says:

      Slightly ironic of you to share your thoughts about turning off social media, on a social media platform.

      1. True. As a group we have been discussing whether it would be better to disband our entire Facebook content, group and page.

        1. John S Warren says:

          For anyone who (albeit improbably) visited my Facebook page (why would you?), this is the only content from me they will find: “I am not here to make friends”.

          Personally, I never visit the site; why would I? While I can understand why Facebook like Facebook, I have never, even remotely, understood its attraction. I only ever find myself looking at a Facebook site because some users make it difficult to visit tnem any other way.

  3. Wul says:

    “What we should be looking at is the interface between the Conservative Party, the British State and these private companies.”

    Agreed, 100%.

    If we have, in fact, had a wake up call about this issue, we now need to demand that our elected representatives (remember, the people who are supposed to protect our interests and our precious, sacred democracy?) make damn sure that their is clear, clear daylight between the interests of rich people, corporations and secret agencies and the day to day operation of our democracy.

    We want to see sweeping, radical changes that lock out wealthy, minority self-interest from the control rooms of our nation.

    As citizens, we give consent to be ruled by law on the understanding that the country is run for our benefit and health. If those entrusted with this duty are sh***ing on our democracy, then why would we continue to be good citizens? It’s an extremely dangerous game that’s being played here.

    This is an opportunity to call foul very loudly and bring back some basic, human decency into public life.

  4. james says:

    it is interesting what a soft ride william davies gives cambridge analytica…. i am sure william davies doesn’t give all things russian the same treatment.. for me personally – who stole the usa election is much more about the uk then russia, but alas – demonizing russia is the ongoing flavour de jure at present and no change in the popular msm outlets is to be expected any time soon as we continue to ramp up towards ww3… is william davies on scl’s payroll, or is that only an indirect connection via the observer??

  5. SleepingDog says:

    “CEO Alexander Nix … can’t remember which side he pitched to”

    I suppose it is entirely possible that dopers-of-democracy-for-dollars could pitch and sell to all sides, like arms dealers chafe unless they can sell to all sides in a conflict. It’s easier when it’s confidential and if you don’t have to give binding guarantees. Assuming their stuff works, they could still lean in a preferred direction.

    In older mechanical models, money was compared to grease. But in a biological comparison, it’s more like sodium poisoning, transactions firing like crazy. Pump too much money into an election and watch the body public jerk and seize.

    Money, unlike the more restricted juice that buzzes through the veins of great-game players, seems to act like an excitatory neurotransmitter flowing through the global system, making those connections fly, without any inhibitor calming things down. A rule of law where people were sovereign and undermining formal democracy by citizens was classed as treason would be one such inhibitor, if enforced, I guess.

    If these undermining acts are seen as a violation of the social contract, then people may be ready to apply sanctions, and not just through the legal channels. The claws of the giant anteater of public opinion may come tearing through the establishment termite mound. At some point that colony will collapse. Systemic failure indeed.

  6. David Allan says:

    Universal Franchise the principle of one person one vote was hard won. ot took till 1928 for this to be finally achieved in UK . (In Scotland would have been much earlier had an Independent Scotland existed)

    That hard fought gain is now undermined completely . A mere 90 years later the Establishment again determines controls and manipulates Election outcomes.

    We have a vote, how we exercise it is now influenced by the powerful.

    People eligible to vote in future may fail to register to do so in droves if their vote becomes meaningless or subject to influence of state sponsored propaganda.

    What future for Democracy . Will it exist at all in another 90 years.

    The alternative that may evolve in Western states should worry everyone. (except the powerful of course).

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