Written by schuftan@gmai.com   
Sunday, 29 September 2019 16:47
-The title of this Reader comes from Big Brother, the character in George Orwell’s novel 1984. It was written as a utopia, a conceptualization of a world as seen by the author. Despite portraying an undesirable world, it became a forewarning for our times. 1. As examples of controls, Big Brother talks about the manipulations of/by the press and other media and by mainstream literature. Our current world has actually surpassed Orwell’s imagination… As regards social controls, what is being prepared for the future (other than a bunch of falsehoods) is a great perversion directed at controlling individual thought at its deepest level --and that will, eventually, destroy humankind. The real objectives of this manipulation are neither declared nor transparent, especially in the private sphere. On the contrary, information is particularly tampered-with to make the majorities believe that they are in agreement with the desires and needs of the minority --for that, counting on the rightly assumed attitude that it is an easier way out/way forward just leaving to ‘others’ the effort to think and decide about thorny issues. The explanation of this also rests on the enormous manipulation pressure of the official press and of the international news and marketing agencies. These groups ‘format’ the information for us following the editorial line of the big financial interests behind them thus allowing neoliberalism to impose its truth.* It is through such a consciousness raising that they attempt making us see a false reality actually hiding the ongoing systemic crisis of neoliberalism. (Mario Briones) *: Most media speak with ‘their master’s voice’. They are in the payroll of the most powerful consortia that have gradually annihilated the response capacity of a drifting civilization. (Federico Mayor Zaragoza) The orgy of opinions (Boaventura de Sousa Santos) 2. It just so happens that, in the last 30 years, society at large has been expropriated of its own opinion and we have become renters of the opinions of others. Since we did not really realize how this happened to us, we continued to think that we had an opinion and thought it was ours. A whole caste of legal and illegal manipulators of the public opinion sprang up (not forgetting the emergence of consumerism and the marketing of conservative political ideas). Prominent examples of this are Facebook and Whatsapp that so often use dis-information tactics, particularly during electoral periods.** Add to this the increasingly prominent use of Big Data and of algorithms to reach every individual according to her/his tastes and preferences. The consequence of this is that we use the criteria of authority and not of truth to accept or reject this information. **: Five things we all need to know about dis-information: -It feeds off our fear and it travels fast. -It thrives on social media and reaches billions. -It is being weaponized against us. -It is killing people and poisoning democracy. -No one is immune. (Avaaz) 3. If what we accept serves the interests of the political leader that happens to be in charge, the people are praised as finally having an opinion of their own. (Any erroneous policy can thus be accepted blindly if we follow the pack). If people disagree with the leaders’ opinions though, they are labeled ignorant or trouble makers. Can you see here the roots of the emergence of populism? The media and particularly the internet*** have transformed politics into a spectacle --and this erodes democracy. This is the communicational soup in which politics is radicalized creating the ideal climate for polarization, for hate and for demonization of the political enemy --without the need of putting forward convincing arguments and only falling back on apocalyptic phrases (or tweets…). This being so, a tectonic change of the public opinion is nothing short of what is needed! ***: You may not know, but more people have a mobile phone than a toilet …2.3 billion people lack adequate sanitation. (Gay Palmer) Or, if you prefer, ponder: Two hundred years ago, 99 percent of human idiocy went unrecorded. Now we have the Internet. (Errol Morris) 4. The fact that the heavy users of the Internet --the willing victims of the commercialization of the Net, have started to doubt Google, Twitter and other and are now using the Net as citizens and not as consumers is a significant emerging trend; they are now ignoring (but yet strongly enough opposing?) advertisements and cheap propaganda. (Roberto Savio) Gramsci summarized cultural hegemony as a dominance achieved via a consented coercion (Komal B. Patil) 5. For a social class to dominate and flourish, it must establish and exert moral, as well as intellectual leadership/pressure. In recent times, hegemony has becomes a foundational part of the mass media. The media is purportedly (and not innocently) viewed as an independent and impartial entity. However, media broadcastings within a state have to follow a set of guidelines and a protocol while ‘producing’ any form of news. Since these establishments are inherently commercial in nature, they must follow these given rules in order to do business and survive. Bias is introduced that is favorable to the state and the political system that licenses the media establishment. Therefore, a partially untrue version of events is put forth for assimilation by the public. 6. Furthermore, mind the overwhelming widespread use of English as the language in the internet. To me, the most common example of hegemony can be observed in the franchising and globalization of world cuisine, which involves franchises like KFC, Starbucks, McDonald's, etc. 7. As we all know, the transnational food and beverage corporations mount colossal mass-marketing campaigns to co-opt policy makers and health professionals and to lobby politicians and public officials to oppose public regulation. They fund and promote biased research, media stories and ‘infomercials’, and press citizens to oppose public health regulation of their industry. (Carlos Monteiro, Geoffrey Cannon) Phantom NGOs are not all that rare in this endeavor… The terms of service of social media represent an unreasonable restriction and violation of users’ rights 8. Terms of service of social media, and the systems that implement them, including the most popular social media platforms, do determine what users see, access and share --and what they do not. This poses a problem for users’ rights, as terms of service currently provide lower free speech protections than those guaranteed by the international human rights framework. (Maria Luisa Stasi) 9. Bottom line, the internet has simply gone wrong. Instead of being the new instrument for horizontal communication and sharing, it has become a creator of fragmented and virtual worlds, where people group along partisan lines no longer exchanging views and ideas. It is an arena for insults and hate, run by false identities with fake news, and where citizens are sold as consumers by a number of algorithms, based on maximization of profit. (Roberto Savio) 10. If all this does not impinge on human rights, then what? Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City Your comments are welcome at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it All Readers up to 490+ are available at www.claudioschuftan.com Postscript/Marginalia -The problem with many self-wrapped, and centrally wrapped small packages is that the wrapping is the essence, not the package.
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