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Facebook, Russia and Us: We the Stupid?

Facebook has been selling our data, using sophisticated mining software to intrusively gather our online activities and censoring independent media by way of news feed suppression and algorithmic exclusion for more than ten years. Outside of a few stories here and there about their lack of transparency and their laughable privacy policies, Mark Zuckerberg and Co. have been given a free pass as they continued to act with impunity and in total disregard of user rights.

After a decade of malfeasance and arrogance, what finally gets the attention of mainstream media is a story of a British firm called Cambridge Analytica emulating the technology and practice that Facebook perfected. All the sudden, corporate media journalists are tripping over themselves to express shock! shock! that the world’s largest social media company is dabbling in behaviors worthy of Augusto Pinochet.

Yet, for all their hue and cry, the new found courage of corporate media pundits is vacuous and meaningless. Instead of reporting on Facebook’s institutional imperialism, mainstream “journalists” are presenting this narrative through the prism of partisan politics as they further corporate-state propaganda. What we are witnessing in real time is a concerted effort to elevate a non-story of Russia interfering in our elections by presenting multiple strands of half-truths and outright lies in order to fit a predetermined agenda.

The other day, E.J. Dionne wrote an Op/Ed in the Washington Post in which he noted that it was high time for Facebook to be called to the carpet. In the article, E.J. did his level best to make it seem like he was a concerned citizen who is leading the charge for truth and justice for all of us. After detailing how Russia nefariously meddled in our elections, E.J. then states:

“The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal takes our paranoia to a whole new level. But paranoia, implying psychologically unhealthy delusions, is the wrong word. There is nothing disordered about the outrage created by the invasion of an estimated 50 million Facebook accounts for the ultimate benefit of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Cheats tell lies, professional propagandists like E.J. speak half-truths. The former are easy to spot, it’s the latter liars who most cunningly tell parts of a story in order to obfuscate the whole truth. Facebook is a platform where data is continuously mined and aggregated; our life experiences and personal information is being harvested and auctioned to third party businesses and individual purchasers ad infinitum. This is why Facebook has a market cap of over $475 billion. A company that makes no products and only sells online ads is only worth that much because we the users are the inventory that other businesses covet. Click To Tweet

It’s not only 50 million Facebook accounts that were invaded; all 2.2 billion account holders are subjected to privacy violations on a daily basis. Don’t believe me? Do a web search for a condo in Hawaii or a Japanese restaurant in the nearest city and then observe how suggestions are made to you on Facebook over the next couple of days that fit those search parameters. This level of prying by Facebook and their affiliates like Cambridge Analytica is getting more and more flagrant; Facebook is now mining our phone conversations and text messages in order to tailor ads that cater to our indulgences.

It’s not just paying customers who have access to this massive dredging of our information; three letter agencies in DC and foreign governments throughout the world aggregate metadata that allows them to monitor us on a macro and micro level in ways Orwell could never have dreamed of. The Patriot Act effectively deputized telecom carriers and IT companies to become private eyes for big government. On a continuous basis, our data is being sucked up and stored in vaults hundreds of terabytes at a time. These unconstitutional practices give federal entities and private companies alike real time and retroactive access to our lives—we have become the United Stasi of America.

Did E.J. and the rest of the yellow journalists in mainstream media talk about this? Of course not, to do so would mean to implicate themselves. Corporate “news” sites like the Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post and the rest of mainstream media companies are engaging in this same level of data mining and information snooping. This is the danger of being dependent on ad revenues to sustain a business model; corporate news is a monetized venture and a glorified infomercial where sensationalism and outrage are used to drive profits.

The line between propaganda and corporate news has been blurred to non-existence, the overriding aim of mainstream media is to drive profits and disinformation.

To distract us from this truth, they gin up this most idiotic narrative of Russia meddling in our elections. For the record, as I’ve noted in the past, I’m not disavowing that Putin and his thugs tried to interfere in our elections. Of course they did! As we keep trying to interfere in the affairs of Russia and every other nation throughout the globe—it’s called geopolitics for a reason. But to infer that a $100,000 Russian Facebook ad buy tipped the outcome of an already rigged election and to suggest Russia’s limited funding of political groups in America was more influential than the billions of dollars corporations spend to compel our government by way of lobbying, donations, and outright coercion is a most insidious lie.

Thing is, pundits like E.J. Dionne and the rest of the corporate minions in mainstream media think we are stupid. They are following the Joseph Stalin dictate, they really do believe that if they repeat a lie a thousand times and with enough velocity that their lies will become the truth in our minds. The sad thing is, they are being proven right daily. It saddens my heart observing people I know and people who are otherwise smart being duped by this most insipid charade.

I’m not writing this to defend the septuagenarian toddler who is currently occupying the White House. But to pretend like our politics has been irreparably damaged by the actions of Cambridge Analytica requires either a most severe bout of dementia or a truly remarkable case of cognitive dissonance. After all, the Obama campaign was lauded by the same pundits who are currently denouncing Trump for leveraging Facebook to gather user information and congratulated for building a sophisticated data gathering apparatus.

Carol Davidsen, who was Obama campaign’s director of data integration and media analytics, tweeted that Facebook allowed the Obama for America campaign to access their data “because they were on our side.” So it’s perfectly fine for campaigns to cull user data if Facebook allows it but it is problematic if a third party uses Facebook to do the same thing? We have truly entered a zone of the absurd; outrage is being spun up out of thin cloth in order to hide the truly outrageous actions of corporations and people we entrust with power.

There is an additional layer to this whole Facebook kerfuffle that is truly pernicious. The same way the meme of #FakeNews was used to silence independent media and censor voices who diverge from “accepted” mainstream narratives, opinion leaders and shills of the status quo are drumming up public outrage to yet again attack our freedoms. The whole notion that Russians influenced the 2016 election is built on the premise that we the people are too stupid to decipher information by ourselves. The fake concern of pundits is really paternalism where they offer to be our minders and the deciders of what is and what is not news—1984 is happening in 2018.

The term ‘useful idiot’ was coined by the Soviets to describe how people can be used as patsies to further the politburo’s agenda. In 2016, Donald Trump traveled to Iowa and said “how stupid are the people of Iowa”. Iowans said “thank you sir, may I have another” as they delivered the Hawkeye State to the first orange president. This is the danger of putting politics above reason and the perils of elevating personalities above we the people. If they keep treating us like we are stupid, it’s because we keep asking for it. #WeTheStupid

“People get the government they deserve.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville

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Check out the latest Ghion Cast where I discussed the ways the politico-media complex collude to drive false narratives and distract us from understanding the truth.

DMV Event: How Overcome Can Overcome Oppression

 If we are to bend the arc of history towards justice, we can only do so through inclusiveness and by speaking truth to power without political, identity or ideological blinders. That is the aim of the event I’ll be hosting next Wednesday, April 4th, at Kaldi’s Social house.  The event was inspired by one of the most widely read articles here at the Ghion Journal titled “Greater than Wakanda”Click HERE or on the picture below to RSVP.

Teodrose Fikremariam
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Teodrose Fikremariam

Writer at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal.
Teodrose Fikremariam
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