Reports from Great Britain this week indicate that Brits check their cell phones once every twelve minutes, and that on average, they spend some twenty-four hours on social media each week.
For some those figures may be little more than another obvious and boring piece of data. For others, like this scribe, they are nothing short of astounding, when we put them up against the notion, also in the report that, although we are more digitally connected, we are also more lonely than we ever were. Can anyone really be surprised by these cultural smoke signals?
There is a profound difference between actually speaking face-to-face with another and texting them, or “visiting” on Facebook or twitter. And reports indicate that many are coming to this realization and are opting out of both digital platforms. Designed as a for-profit business, how could anyone, including especially their designers, not recognize that from the get-go, they would both be manipulative. Generating an audience on behalf of advertisers, the source of their revenue, they are like mini-billboards, on which anyone and everyone can put their mark. Even that anachronism, the telephone had (and still has) the advantage of at least being able to listen to the voice on the other end. Sighs, pauses, pitch and volume of the voice, (and the obvious downside of listening when the other person sloops soup in you ear!)
Elevating gossip to the social “status” that it is now embedded in the sands of time, for any and all to witness, to supplement, to excoriate and to deride but never to delete is, perhaps, a triumph of the marriage of technology and for-profit capitalism. It is certainly not a supplement or a complement to the social, mental, intellectual or physical health and well-being of their users. There was literally no “orientation” from the producers; there was no training in how the technology might be helpful, without being detrimental. There were no “clinical trials” as there could and should have been.
And there still has been little if any leadership from governments to offset the negative impact of this massive, even revolutionary, incursion into the fabric of the culture of the world. Because “business” comes up with some new “thing” does not mean that the governments do not have to make both preparations for and cautions against those things. Drones, for example, are another of the “things” that business (and the military) have “fired” into the global economy, without adequate gate-keeping on their initial entry, parameters on their use, and sanctions for endangerment of the public including passing private and commercial airplanes.
The “marketplace” presents dangers and threats different from and perhaps even more dangerous than “weed” but because we have a history of “prohibitions” on alcohol and a history of ginormous health bills resulting from smoking cigarettes, governance is more “ready” (not necessarily able) to take precautionary steps prior to the launch of the public sale of marijuana. Not only our history, but also the prospect of truck loads of tax cash available to governments pave the path for governments to intervene, to educate, to prepare and to “study”….especially from the perspective of potential revenue.
Government arguments that rationalize the “sitting on the sidelines” approach to whatever the private sector puts into the market likely include the “right” of commercial ventures to function without undue government oversight, regulation and barriers. So far has the political culture moved in favour of corporate for-profit freedom that the playing field has become a literal and metaphoric “wild west”….virtually lawless!
And the public interest, naturally, is flipped off as “mere bureaucratic anality”. At the same time that the private sector has been elevated to the status of a cultural idol, the public sector has been relegated to a nuisance, a vacuum of public funds, an impediment to social and economic “progress”.
In America, even the specifications for “building” a 3-D printer version of a handgun or rifle are considered nothing more than “free speech,” that catch-all phrase that gives license to behaviour (even public speech) that ranks as hate, character assassination and another tipping of the scales in the direction of anarchy.
(Critics, do not try to push back by insinuating that permitting digital technology to enter the marketplace leads to anarchy. That is not what is being said here.) What is being asserted is that the demise of the importance of the “public interest” in general has many perhaps unforeseen and potentially dangerous and threatening implications. What is also being said is that government has to become much more foresighted, developing its own “intelligence” not only for the purposes of ‘national security’ in the traditional sense of reconnaissance on potential military enemies, but also in a very news sense that the patents applied for by private corporate enterprises may have (and undoubtedly do have) serious and not always positive implications on public health and well being.
Even philanthropy, that mantra to which corporate marketing gurus now cling, in an insatiable obsession to garner and glue themselves to public support (specific to their market demographic), has been commandeered by the corporate sector, without regard to whether or not they are actually making significant contributions to “worthy causes”. For example, promising to contribute a single penny for every purchase made by card holders to the cause of “breast cancer research” is obviously merely a veneer of integrity and authenticity and reeks of self-serving narcissism by the then offending American Express, before they were exposed for their chicanery. The documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. exposes the corporate deception including Avon, for their duplicitous championing of their “walks” for research into breast cancer research while including carcinogens in the products they offer for sale. From both the perspective of putting a friendly cozy “pink” colour on an ugly, debilitating and deadly disease, and from the perspective of misleading their sincere “walkers” “runners” “bikers” and all other “doers” for the cause, corporates need to come under increased oversight by government.
Also, the accounting of the millions of dollars, including whether or not research projects are duplicating others, repeating the failures already known, and networking the requisite information for the establishment of a public confidence in the whole process of public activism for this (and other) causes seems to be a reasonable expectation of governments.
Digital technology, corporate malfeasance, corporate threats to public health in such areas as the inclusion of “plastic” beads in products used by households on a daily basis, military intelligence that is gobbled up by the private sector without government oversight….these are just some of the gaps in public information and public security that impact health budgets, workplace costs and social and cultural ethos.
When (not if any longer) the pursuit of profit trumps the protection of the public interest, in all of the many aspects, features and facets of that phrase, and the public plays the “dumb” role of the innocent participant, without the needed protections of the government, relying on, and thereby defaulting to the corporate culture to take their responsibilities seriously, the public is endangered. And that endangerment is so imperceptible and so “innocuous” and so “out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind” then danger lurks right under our noses.
And the impunity of the governments, including their clear path to re-election without so much as a public discussion of the dangers and the responsibility of those perpetrating those dangers being uncovered, continues.
It is not only that trump is overturning the traditional roles and institutions of government that is unsettling. The very culture that permits and enables him and the private sector effectively to subvert the public responsibility of governments is much larger and less visible and therefore even more dangerous than the person of trump himself. His erratic and dissembling tweets, while disturbing and indicative of a turbulence of mind, are merely a mirage of verbal fog, giving “cover” to behaviour by his government and by failures of omission by all governments at the expense of public interest and well being, for which all elected officials have taken oaths to protect.
Make not mistake: this is a war of attitudes, values and complete power take-over. And just as on the literal battlefield, the first casuality is truth, so too, the truth that protects ordinary people from the assaults perpetrated by the private sector are to be surveyed just as vigorously as those perpetrated by foreign enemies.
In fact, a former FBI representative, recently appearing on MSNBC, says he is less worried about the threats to democracy posed by Russian invasion of American social media than he is about the home-grown, much more sophisticated, and more narrowly targeted social media invasion by Qoron, and such agents who are now on public display at trump rallies.
Has the ‘deep state’ become more dangerous than any of us could imagine before we even knew of its existence?