Boris? Trump? Rees-Mogg? How Social Media Gave Us Pantomime Politics

Ridiculous statements go viral. From Boris’s bombastic Libya remarks to Trump’s daily Twitter toddler tantrums, nothing gets our thumb tapping that retweet button faster than outrageous political buffoonery. Be it virtue signalling, endorsing or simply showing our sheer shock and dismay, social media users love reacting to silly soundbites as newsfeeds are coloured with witty one line responses and hastily published news articles looking to cash in on clicks.

Welcome to the age of pantomime politics. The digital marketplace where politics is reduced to its entertainment value while social and monetary capital is earned through the capture and re-sale of human attention.

And few have capitalized more by capturing the human brain by the shareable click than Jonah Peretti the creator of Buzzfeed. Peretti was a pioneer in understanding what makes us click and share.

Buzzfeed discovered that humans are programmed to react impulsively with either alarm or allure to images of Sex, food, death and gossip the fundamental components of the survival instinct. This neurological understanding allowed Buzzfeed to create an incredibly effective albeit cynical digital media strategy premised upon producing content that hacked the basic impulses of human biology.

buzz

As Tim Wu, author of “The Attention Merchants” explains: “These modern day clickbait things are getting at very basic principles of our neurobiology that are there for a reason,”

Developing tricks of the trade to attract attention was by no means a new phenomenon but with the changing medium of human interaction from the physical to digital landscape mastering the art of clickbait became a revolutionary development to trap and capture consumer attention like never before. The smartphone era enabled media companies to become omnipresent in our lives, pressing biological and psychological buttons every second of the day with the aid of addictive technologies, push notifications and personalized algorithms enslaving us to their ‘ping’.

As Ian Leslie writes:

“Be it the emails that induce you to buy right away, the apps and games that rivet your attention, or the online forms that nudge you towards one decision over another: all are designed to hack the human brain and capitalise on its instincts, quirks and flaws. The techniques they use are often crude and blatantly manipulative, but they are getting steadily more refined, and, as they do so, less noticeable.”

If this phenomenon was confined to the online arena of cat videos and “5 things you have to do before you turn 25” it would be worrying enough but it’s the invasion of clickbait into the sphere of political commentary that is such a threat to democracy and social order itself.

As the commercial viability of print journalism has dramatically declined, traditional media outlets have began marketing their content in the style of Buzzfeed while new digital media outlets have simultaneously begun branding themselves as reputable news sources competing in the same space as The New York Times or the BBC.

The 2016 U.S election is a recent example of how this plays out in practice harming democracy on a number of fronts. A current Senate hearing investigating Trump’s ties with Russia has heard that 1,000 people were hired to create anti-Clinton misinformation “news” sites in key US states during election. Most of the supposed “Fake News” outlets were coming from countries in the Balkans allegedly being bankrolled by the Kremlin.

Post truth became a popular reference describing how people were believing things that “feel right” or that “should be true” as opposed to facts. But with the barrage of information and the reality thaat reputable news sources were often exaggerating stories for clicks It was almost impossible to disentangle the “fake news” for the purposes of political subterfuge from the hyper exaggerated junk stories published for the purposes of simply drawing clicks.

The culture of clickbait has led to the demise of journalistic standards and ethics as more and more stories are selected on their potential virality rather than their public interest value. Important investigative journalism is no longer funded by traditional media as it simply isn’t generating website traffic while snapshot stories pitting social subgroups against one another has shown to be far more effective at drawing in the crowds.

Our political discussion and headlines are now dominated by personal spats and horse race politics while significant analysis on policy substance is continuously being downgraded beneath political entertainment.

 A tragic play featuring 140 characters

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the latest pantomime villain to pop up in the British political sphere with his caricature Tory persona and playful media interviews.

jacob

 

Mogg became a viral internet icon after a video of him casually dropping the word ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in parliament spread like wildfire. In a similar vein to Farage and Trump, Mogg is admired for his “Tell it like it is” attitude unafraid and unapologetic of his conservative, Christian views.

Admittedly, he is an infectiously entertaining character. Watching a Mogg interview is like watching a 13th Century pampered Prince John transported through time and put in a suit. There is a complete disconnect between the reality of Rees- Mogg as a politician and the playful character who’s every word is an opportunity to create memes, gain social credit and personal brand points by mocking.

Mogg, Boris and Trump oh what will they say next?

Welcome to the world of pantomime politics.

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Vegas Victims Have No Right To Healthcare

With No Public Right to Healthcare GoFundMe is only way Victims of Mass Shooting Can Afford To Be Looked After.

 

In the aftermath of routine mass murder with legally purchased weapons of war, we in Europe tend to turn our heads west with disgust at the outrageous absence of gun regulation. Rarely however, do we examine the equally disturbing humanitarian disgrace that is the absence of a universal public healthcare system in the richest country on earth.

I was dismayed to read that Vegas County Commissioner Steve Sisolak has had to set up a GoFundMe, the private crowdfunding online service to try and raise money for victims to receive proper medical treatment and care. How humiliating that with the largest mass shooting in U.S history the victims have to beg for charitable donations rather than be cared for by their state. Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed legislation in June that would have allowed Nevadans to buy into the state’s Medicaid program.

Its important to remember that thoughts and prayers are free, when the likes of Trump and Lindsay Graham grandstand about their horror at “Pure Evil” watch their wallets and not their words.

The next is an excerpt from The Intercept on the extent of the problem:

“Asking strangers for charitable donations to tackle medical bills is ubiquitous in the United States. A report by NerdWallet released in 2015 found that $930 million of the $2 billion raised by GoFundMe since its 2010 launch have been related to medical bills. Yet NerdWallet’s comprehensive survey of crowdfunding sites found that barely 1 in 10 medical campaigns raised the full amount they asked for.

Contrast this American experience with that of some of our allies. In June, dozens of people were injured and eight people were killed when London terrorists ran a van through a crowd and then proceeded to stab multiple people. It was the second major terror attack of the year, the first one being in March in Manchester.

In the United Kingdom, most health care is free. The National Health Service, erected in the ashes of World War II, provides comprehensive health care to all British residents.

At the London attack, NHS staff were on the scene within  six minutes,aiding the injured. Last month, the NHS gave a special honor to the first responders, nurses, and doctors who aided the victims of the London terror attack. “They highlighted the resilience and the compassion of the NHS staff who time after time responded to victims, who had suffered unimaginable injuries – putting the needs of those people first. This is the NHS at its best,” Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer of the NHS, said.

In the Manchester attack, American Kurt Cochran was killed. His wife, Melissa Cochran, returned to the U.S. with the need for continuous care. With no American NHS, she had to set up a GoFundMe to finance her treatment. Thankfully, this one both met and exceeded its goal, having raised $83,512.”

 

Watch Kyle Kullinski discuss in more detail here:

How To Be A World Class Public Speaker

It’s about learning the organic process of connecting with people not mechanical box ticking of things  “you’re supposed to do”

American actor, director and screenwriter Alan Alda has had quite the illustrious career. Streching four decades, not only has he picked up seven Emmy’s, a Golden Globe and an academy award nomination he’s also learned the tricks of the trade in effective communication.

In this conversation with Big Think, he explains why you should be weary of ‘tips’ on public speaking. Methodical steps like ‘take a pause after every paragraph’ or ‘walk from one side of the room to the other’ may sound good on paper but in practice, nothing will lose an audience quicker than the speaker mechanically following pre-planned pointers and movements.

Alda believes you should first and foremost focus on relating and connecting with the audience. That will inform you in the moment when to pause or when to walk. By learning to react to the audience you can sense whether they understand the point, whether it needs further explanation or whether you can tag on something extra to give it meaning and value.

Most importantly, connecting with an audience on a meaningful level requires an adept knowledge and deep understanding of the subject.

Alda eventually cedes towards the end of the clip and admits there are some ‘tips’ which may be useful in adding a bit of flair and compelling edge to speech after the groundwork is complete.

This is an honest and informative clip that offers intriguing insight without sounding preachy or pontifical.

Watch the interview below:

 

Your Phone is Designed to Control You And Your Life

An alarming new report from The Economist exposes the extent to which tech companies are exploiting our psychological impulses to keep us hooked to our smartphones.

 

It often goes over our head the influence that tech products exert over our behaviour. Former google employee and leader in promoting design ethics in tech Tristan Harris explains:

 “Companies say, we’re just getting better at giving people what they want. But the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Is each one a conscious choice? No. Companies are getting better at getting people to make the choices they want them to make.”

Behaviour Design 

How have companies mastered this? It all stems from the expert study of “Pursuasive Technology Design” an illustrious programme spearheaded by Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford University which has produced everyone from the creators of Instagram to the people at the top of tech in Apple and Google.

Be it the emails that induce you to buy right away, the apps and games that rivet your attention, or the online forms that nudge you towards one decision over another: all are designed to hack the human brain and capitalise on its instincts, quirks and flaws. The techniques they use are often crude and blatantly manipulative, but they are getting steadily more refined, and, as they do so, less noticeable.

And it’s not just tech companies who are adopting this tactic. Even banking and insurance companies have started modelling their customer interface design along the lines of Candy Crush.

“It’s about looping people into these flows of incentive and reward. Your coffee at Starbucks, your education software, your credit card, the meds you need for your diabetes. Every consumer interface is becoming like a slot machine.”

It’s a startling phenomenon of the digital age and something we should all be aware and conscious of. We wouldn’t allow our family or friends become addicted to gambling so why don’t we care about addiction to social media which to the brain is the same thing?

The exciting explosion of smartphone technology has overshadowed the questioning of it’s potentially more pernicious effects and we have nonchalantly accepted the terms and conditions without reading the small print.

Check out Tristan Harris explain how it works in more detail below:

 

Read the Economist article in full here:

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-scientists-who-make-apps-addictive

Is Donald Trump unintentionally promoting a liberal agenda In Europe?

 

Author: Fillip Steffensen

When Donald Trump won the 2016 US election, pundits predicted a populist backlash against past decades of fiscally and culturally liberal policies. Porous borders, terrorist threats and the decline of the manufacturing industry were blamed for the emergence of populism. However, 6 months after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the world -especially Europe – has experienced what I would call a liberal backlash rather than a populist backlash.

In the following article, I will endeavour to explain why Donald Trump is unintentionally promoting a liberal and cosmopolitan agenda rather than his own populist agenda.

The idea first struck me in December when political latecomer, Alexander Van Der Bellen, defeated populist Norbert Hofer in the second ballot of the Austrian election. The first election was held in May with only an insignificant margin separating the two candidates. In the re-election, however, Van Der Bellen triumphed with a margin of approximately 8 percentage points.

In other parts of Europe, pundits dreaded the prospects of candidates like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders being successful in their respective elections. Although both candidates did perform very well in polls months before the elections, their support declined severely as election day approached. In Netherlands, the support for Geert Wilders’ party amounted to about 22% in polls. However, his support decreased dramatically – hitting only 13,1% at election day:

Graph 1

 

Additionally, in the subsequent French elections Marine Le Pen was expected to gain ground in polls. However, as election day approached, her support declined:

 

graph2

 

The same trend applies in the 2017 UK election in which UKIP support collapsed, falling numerous percentages. After reaching its peak popularity in polls, the German populist party, AfD also seems to have lost favour from the electorate – nonetheless, we still anticipate the elections in September with great excitement.

It is not only in elections that Trump seems to have ignited a counter-reaction. Another way to examine this tendency is by looking at polls measuring the development in opinions from year to year. I find it striking that favourability ratings for free trade and NATO – which Trump is not particularly fond of – have increased. For instance, Trump spent lengths expressing his discomfort with trade deals and NATO – therefore, It is intriguing that perceptions of free trade and NATO have shifted towards a more liberal view among the respondents:

graph 3

 

What’s more interesting is that favourability ratings have increased following a period of long time pessimism. In other words, the zero-zum perceptions have been substituted with a liberal and positive-sum perception of the economy. During his campaign, Trump also questioned the necessity of NATO. In a resentful manner, he threatened that USA might not comply with the musketeer oath. But, as the figure below suggests, the favourability ratings of NATO increased after a long period of decline – even in semi-authoritarian and populist countries like Poland:

 

graph 4

 

Conclusion

The evidence presented above suggests that the election of Trump has ignited a counter-reaction. The statistics above are only a fraction of polls and election results supporting this thesis.

Nevertheless, in the above, I have presented compelling evidence suggesting that Trump has mobilised a backlash. In other words, Trump seems to have promoted liberal values and policies.

The German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote about a theory of pendulum. In short, according to Hegel, contradiction is at the core of human progress. The idea is that contradicting positions are being resolved into a new position. This way, the “pendulum” swings between thesis and antithesis, and eventually develops into a third position.

Hegelian philosophy seems far away from Trump. However, as mentioned in the introduction, the Western world has been dominated primarily by fiscally and culturally liberal reforms since the fall of the Soviet Union. Albeit this policy had great support in the first decades following the fall of Soviet Union public sentiment shifted within the 21st century. For years, political pessimism thrived in certain regions, which eventually led to the emergence of political movements agitating for nationalist and semi-authoritarian policies.

This created fertile political ground for the emergence of the populist movement which eventually culminated with the election of Trump. As this radical and populist movement formed, the evidence suggests that the pendulum has swung in both directions and is now stabilising in the middle. In other words, the pendulum has stabilised in a position between two contradictions (liberalism/populism) and has now settled in a position in the middle.

 

Fillip Steffensen is a Danish blogger and contributing writer at The Conversation Room.

The Pinnacle of Settlement

Author: Revels

The funny thing about our generation is that apparently there have been a lot of firsts. Breaking stereotypes has become the stereotype – and if you’re not breaking one, you’re supporting someone doing it. Different perceptions have offered varying opinions on whatever happens, but it does not change the fact that we have decided to take matters into our own hands, to disrupt tradition and say no without worrying about the world abandoning us because there’s always someone out there in favour of the drift.

 

Our traditions developed somewhere along the long way that humans have come – we hunted, moved a lot, didn’t have proper language until slowly we realised proper ways to settle, communicate and gather food. We created proper housing, transportation, farmed and processed more food, institutionalised education systems, political systems and so much more until we had achieved a system of living we were satisfied with.

Our people first settled as tribes, then as joint families, then as separate families and eventually people started living on their own. We might just have reached the pinnacle of settlement – did anyone ever think someone would be able to live in a place of their own without fear of security or starvation? People always settled in groups because there was strength in numbers – and as we breathe in an era where anyone can live by themselves, we see a new concept – people not wanting to live in one place at all.

To experience more cultures, to see other areas of the world, a group of people have now decided to never stay in one place, to move from one city to the other, from one country to the next, using their skills to earn whatever amount of money they require to keep going. A rather ironic change, just as we have what we had aimed for, some folks prefer the nomadic way of life. Settling is perhaps not in everyone’s nature, and in a world where nomadic tribes were slowly decreasing, we might see a new kind of nomad. A nomad who has decided to leave the ways he or she is accustomed to and to find fulfilment through a ritual of the past. Are humans really never satisfied with what they have? Or has the age old tradition come knocking again?

 

The group of people devoted to traveling in such a way might be small, but our generation has been the first to have a majority who prefers traveling to settling down and building a house and a family.Could our roots be coming back to take us around and help us realize how being successful does not lie in financial security but rather in learning to connect with the world and embrace the wonders it comes with?

Could this be the next thing our generation takes hold off? Could this end racial and nationalistic differences? Could this wipe away general ignorance and end more stereotypes?

Only the future knows.

Revels is a Pakistani student, blogger and contributing writer at The Conversation Room 

You can visit her excellent blog here:

https://identity17.wordpress.com/

 

Why Getting Past Status Anxiety is The Key to Fulfilment

 

We live in a world where once you leave school or college you are defined by “what you do” or more precisely what your profession is.

Occupation stratifies us into a hierarchy of social status with rich people at the top and poor people at the bottom.

Philosopher and founder of The School Of Life Alain De Botton describes how this modern capitalist obsession with economic status is a recipe for depression and deep dissatisfaction. Most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card. Our jobs rarely, if ever, fully reflect who we are as people but merely a small part of ourselves which is publicly on view.

Yet the market based capitalist machine only recognises outward financial, external achievement. Yet most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into quantifiable monetary terms leaving us feel dissatisfied because our human talents are not profitable.

The antidote to overcoming debilitating anxiety around status is to recognise the value of our non monetary goods. Such as being a good friend, being an honest person or being someone who cares for their community and environment around them.

These are incredibly valuable traits and we should look to judge ourselves and the people around us on a comprehensive complete analysis and not narrow the lens of social status to be based on economic output!