Tag: Hegemony

Censorship: the F word is neoliberalism



I was locked out of my Facebook account earlier today, for allegedly “misusing” the share feature on my WordPress site. I shared a political article in political discussion groups, some of which I co-manage. Facebook conducted “security checks”, made me change my password, and when I was finally permitted to log back in, I found a notice telling me that my account was temporarily “restricted” for the fourth or fifth time this year. I can’t post or comment in any Facebook groups. Furthermore, the few posts that I made cannot be read, as people tell me they can’t open the link. They are getting a notice that says “content is unavailable.” Some of my previous posts have been completely removed, too. Not for the first time, either.

I made ten shares from my WordPress site, and I’ve since watched a friend make at least twenty shares of an article, she posted in some of the same groups as I had. She wasn’t booted from her account or given a temporary ban from posting like I was.

I posted this article on my own Facebook wall after I published it, and was asked to go through another security check …

Previously I had assumed that Facebook imposes account restrictions which are based on an algorithm. But now, I don’t believe this is the case.

Facebook is a business, is motivated by profit and can handle and disseminate its news any way it likes, and it does in much the same way as any newspaper or cable news channel. What is disappointing is that Facebook has long professed its political neutrality, and the manipulation of computer-driven trending news flies in the face of that promise to its billions of users.

Last Thursday, the Guardian reported that a team of news “editors” working in shifts around the clock were instructed on how to “inject” stories into the trending topics module on Facebook, and how to “blacklist” topics for removal for up to a day over reasons including “doesn’t represent a real-world event,” left to the discretion of the editors.

Facebook relies heavily on just 10 news sources to determine whether a trending news story has editorial authority.  The report said that “editors” were told: “You should mark a topic as ‘National Story’ importance if it is among the 1-3 top stories of the day,” reads the trending review guidelines for the US. “We measure this by checking if it is leading at least 5 of the following 10 news websites: BBC News, CNN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo News or Yahoo.”

Yet the allegation, made by Gizmodo, which is a commercial enterprise that is a part of Gawker Media, whose founder and proprietor is Nick Denton, a British Internet entrepreneur, (who has also featured in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007) was that there is an inclination to censor Conservative stories. The BBC, Fox News (created by Australian-American right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former Republican Party media consultant and NBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO), CNN (with its prominent anti- Sanders bias), NBC, the controversial New York Times, Wall Street Journal (former The Wall Street Journal reporters have said that, since Rupert Murdoch bought the paper, news stories have been edited to adopt a far more Conservative tone, critical of Democrats), can hardly be described as having a “left-wing bias.”

I mean, come ON! What, with the BBC being such a veritable hotbed of communism, a bastion for ardent lefties such as Chris Patten and his successor, Rona Fairhead, in charge of strategic direction, for example.

Yeah, just kidding with you. 

Facebook’s policy to artificially inject stories, as long as they were validated by coverage from these outlets reflects the platform’s clear connection to perpetuating dominant, establishment narratives, replicating the same mainstream media biases, censorship and distortions. As one former curator said, “If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it—even if it wasn’t naturally trending.

The practice clearly violates Facebook’s claims to make the trending news feed appear as strictly topics that have recently become popular on the site.

The criticism of “liberal bias” sounds to me much like Duncan Smith’s lament and subsequent rabid crusade to “closely monitor” the BBC for a non-existent “left-wing bias” a couple of years back, because the Conservatives don’t tolerate challenges and criticism, especially those made publicly, very well at all. Perhaps the critics meant “neoliberal.”

Strict guidelines are enforced around Facebook’s “involved in this story” feature, which pulls information from Facebook pages of newsmakers – say, a sports star or a famous author. The guidelines give editors ways to determine which users’ pages are appropriate to cite, and how prominently.

 I don’t agree that Facebook has a liberal or left-wing bias. It’s a business and its central motivation is to make a profit. However, I do believe that far from democratising how we access global information, the web has in fact restricted those information sources, reflecting a minority interest in much the same way that mainstream media outlets have. Much as large national chains and globalization have replaced the local shops with megastores and local trade and craftsmanship with assembly line production, the internet is centralising and gatekeeping information access from a myriad of websites and local newspapers and radio/television shows to a handful of single behemoth social platforms that wield universal global power and control over what we consume, shape what we desire and curate what we see. 

Indeed, social media platforms appear to increasingly view themselves no longer as neutral publishing platforms but rather as active mediators and curators of what we may be permitted to see. 

My site, though fairly popular among social media users, is clearly not considered to be “relevant” to Facebook’s increasingly tatty, diversionary  and outright censorship approach to news “editing.” However, Facebook doesn’t have any scruples about asking me for money to “boost” the reach of posts on my Politics and Insights community page, including for two articles that have each earned me a temporary ban for sharing in groups, Facebook actually removed those articles from the groups I had managed to post in. Then asked me to pay to increase the audience for them.

Although Facebook have been accused of a “liberal bias,” a second list, of 1,000 trusted sources, was provided to the Guardian by Facebook following the allegations. It includes prominent Conservative news outlets such as Redstate, Breitbart, the Drudge Report and the Daily Caller. I think that the Conservatives get FAR more than the alleged thin end of the partisan wedge space allocated on social media platforms.

Facebook has become a destination for fluff and nonsense, diverting interest from the real news and pressing social issues, favoring gossip-mongering about celebs, advertising and other trivia. 

Meanwhile, the Conservatives continue to shape our conceptual landscape with a ferocious level of control freakery, effectively airbrushing over anything that challenges and contradicts their hegemonic stranglehold.

Image courtesy of Robert Livingstone 

Update: The restriction on my Facebook account was lifted less than two hours ago.  I shared my latest article in four groups from my Facebook homepage. I then went onto my WordPress sharing feature to get a shortlink for the article, only to discover that the share link with Facebook had somehow been disconnected, there was a warning notice informing me that I needed to reconnect with Facebook. I did so, and then posted the shortlink, pasting it manually, in just two groups… and immediately got another Facebook ban from posting and commenting in groups, including the ones I set up or co-run, until 12.55am tomorrow (Thursday).

I’ve just submitted details about my recent experiences of Facebook censorship to this survey: https://onlinecensorship.org/ty

See also – http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/34872506/facebook-censorship-had-a-post-removed-and-dont-know-why

Second update: A few hours after the last ban was lifted, I tried to share my post written for Scisco Media via that site to ONE group just ONCE and was booted off my account, and had to prove my identity AGAIN and go through security checks, change my password AGAIN, logged back in, and my account is restricted AGAIN. I’ve a ban from posting and commenting in groups until tomorrow afternoon. Facebook sent me a notice saying that they detected “suspicious activity” on my account, and said it’s likely I used my password to log into a site that looked like Facebook. The notice said the problems on my account are probably because of “phishing.” But I changed my password at their request earlier this week, I have not logged out of Facebook since, and don’t use the same password on other sites. I never click on dubious links, I have decent security on my PC and never open emails unless I know where they are from. I don’t believe Facebook, though I suppose I could be wrong. I feel they really are taking the proverbial now. 

How does any of their line of reasoning regarding potential “phishing”, locking down my account, the ID and security checks, which would have been reasonable measures had my account actually been compromised, justify another ban from posting in my groups? It’s not a coherent explanation for the ban on posting in groups at all. I ran my security software, no problems were detected.


Third update: My ban lifted. I shared two different posts in just four groups. I also tried to share my latest article about human rights for Scisco Media, directly from the site. I posted in just two human rights discussion groups and was immediately banned again, with a notice from Facebook that said: “Looks like you are misusing this feature.”  Today I have seen people posting articles in up to fifteen groups and they didn’t get a ban or a notice telling them that posting in multiple groups is “misuse” of the share feature. This is my fifth ban in six days. Absolutely ridiculous. I’m wondering why Facebook bothers encouraging people to set up discussion groups when people get banned for simply posting in them.

Actually, I’m now wondering, what is the point of Facebook?


The BBC expose a chasm between what the Coalition plan to do and what they want to disclose

Lynton Crosby’s staff deleted valid criticism from Wikipedia

Cameron’s pre-election contract: a catalogue of lies

Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.

The bias in our mainstream media makes a lot more sense when you see who owns and runs it – Kerry-Anne Mendoza (The Canary)

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept)

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman


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Manufacturing consensus: the end of history and the partisan man

The Tories are not “paying down the debt” as claimed. They are “raising more money for the rich”

Austerity is not being imposed by the Coalition to achieve an economic result. Austerity IS the economic result. In the wake of the global banking crisis, the Tories, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats, have opportunistically delivered ideologically driven cuts and mass privatisation.

We also know that the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) laid bare an important truth – that any semblance of economic recovery is despite the Coalition and not because of them. Yet the Tories have continued to claim that austerity is “working”. The Chairman of the OBR, Robert Chote said:

“Looking over the forecast as a whole – net trade makes very little contribution and government spending cuts will act as a drag.

The OBR state that any slight economic recovery is in no way because of Osborne and Tory policy, but simply due to the wider global recovery from the global crash. 

The government has drastically cut its spending on everything – including the NHS, and welfare in spite of their ludicrous claims to the contrary, this means that the government has consistently damaged the prospect of any economic recovery. This also demonstrates clearly that Coalition policy is driven by their own ideology rather than a genuine problem-solving approach to the economy. Yes, I know I’ve said all of this before – and so have others – but it’s so important to keep on exposing this Tory lie.

However, I believe that Conservatives really do have a conviction that the “big state” has stymied our society: that the “socialist relic” – our NHS and our Social Security system, which supports the casualties of Tory free markets, have somehow created those casualties. But we know that the competitive, market choice-driven Tory policies create a few haves and many have-nots.

Coalition rhetoric is designed to have us believe there would be no poor if the welfare state didn’t “create” them. If the Coalition must insist on peddling the myth of meritocracy, then surely they must also concede that whilst such a system has some beneficiaries, it also creates situations of insolvency and poverty for others.

Inequality is a fundamental element of the same meritocracy script that neoliberals so often pull from the top pockets of their bespoke suits. It’s the big contradiction in the smug, vehement meritocrat’s competitive individualism narrative. This is why the welfare state came into being, after all – because when we allow such fundamentally competitive economic dogmas to manifest, there are always winners and losers. It’s hardly “fair”, therefore, to leave the casualties of competition facing destitution and starvation, with a hefty, cruel and patronising barrage of calculated psychopolicical scapegoating, politically-directed cultural blamestorming, and a coercive, pathologising and punitive behaviourist approach to the casualities of inbuilt, systemic, inevitable and pre-designated sentences of economic exclusion and poverty.

And that’s before we consider the fact that whenever there is a Conservative-led government, there is no such thing as a “free market”: in reality, all markets are rigged to serve elites.

Political theorist Francis Fukuyama, announced in 1992 that the great ideological battles between “east and west” were over, and that western liberal democracy had triumphed. He was dubbed the “court philosopher of global capitalism” by John Gray. In his book The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama wrote:

“At the end of history, it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society…..What we are witnessing, is not just the end of the cold war, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

I always saw Fukuyama as an ardent champion of ultra-neoliberalism, and he disguised his neo-conservatism behind apparently benign virtue words and phrases (as part of a propaganda technique called Glittering Generalities), such as “Man’s universal right to freedom.” 

He meant the same sort of self-interested “freedom” as Ayn Rand – “a free mind and a free market are corollaries.” He meant the same kind of implicit Social Darwinist notions long held by Conservatives like Herbert Spencer – where the market rather than evolution decides who is “free,” who survives, and as we know, that’s rigged. Tory ideology does not ever have a utilitarian outcome.

Fukuyama’s ideas have been absorbed culturally, and serve to naturalise the dominance of the Right, and stifle the rationale for critical debate.

Like Marx, Fukuyama drew to some extent on the ideas of Hegel – who defined history as a linear procession of “epochs” – technological progress and the progressive, cumulative resolution of conflict allowed humans to advance from tribal to feudal to industrial society. Fukuyama was determined to send us on an epic detour – Marx informed us the journey ended with communism, but Fukuyama has diverted us to another destination.

I agree with Fukuyama on one point: since the French Revolution, democracy has repeatedly proven to be the fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives. However we haven’t witnessed the “triumph of liberal democracy” at all: in the UK, we are seeing the imposition of rampant, unchecked neoliberalism coupled with an unyielding, authoritarian-styled social conservatism, with the safety net of democracy removed.

Fukuyama’s declaration manufactures an impression of global consensus politics but I believe this is far from the truth. I don’t believe this can possibly be the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution. It doesn’t reflect any global and historical learning or progress.

Jacques Derrida (Specters of Marx (1993) ) said that Fukuyama – and the quick celebrity of his book – is but one symptom of the wider anxiety to ensure the “death of Marx”. He goes on to say:

“For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelize in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realized itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth.”

Fukuyama’s work is a celebration of neoliberal hegemony and a neo-conservative endorsement of it. It’s an important work to discuss simply because it has been so widely and tacitly accepted, and because of that, some of the implicit, taken-for-granted assumptions and ramifications need to be made explicit.

I don’t think conviction politics is dead, as claimed by Cameron – he has said that he doesn’t “do isms”, that politics is doing “what works”, “working together in the National interest” and “getting the job done”. But we know he isn’t working to promote a national interest, only an elite one. Cameron may have superficially smoothed recognisable “isms” from Tory ideology, but Nick Clegg has most certainly taken the politics out of politics, and added to the the impression that old polarities no longer pertain –  that all the main parties have shifted to the right.

However, the authoritarian Right’s domination of the ideological landscape, the Liberal Democrat’s complete lack of any partisan engagement and their readiness to compromise with their once political opponents has certainly contributed to popular disaffection with mainstream politics, and a sense of betrayal.

It’s ironic that many of those on the left who mistake divisiveness for a lack of political choice have forgotten the degree of consensus politics between 1945 and 1979, when Labour achieved so much, and manifested what many deem “real” socialist ideals. The Conservatives at that time largely agreed the need for certain basic government policies and changes in government responsibility in the decades after World War II, from which we emerged economically exhausted.

The welfare state, the national health service (NHS), and widespread nationalisation of industry happened at a time of high national debt, because the recommendations of the Beveridge Report were adopted by the Liberal Party, to some extent by the Conservative Party, and then most expansively, by the Labour Party.

It was Thatcher’s government that challenged the then accepted orthodoxy of Keynesian economics – that a fall in national income and rising unemployment should be countered by increased government expenditure to stimulate the economy. There was increasing divergence of economic opinion between the Labour and the Tories, ending the consensus of the previous decades. Thatcher’s policies rested on a strongly free-market monetarist platform aiming to curb inflation by controlling the UK’s money supply, cut government spending, and privatise industry, consensus became an unpopular word.

The Thatcher era also saw a massive under-investment in infrastructure. Inequality increased. The winners included much of the corporate sector and the City, and the losers were much of the public sector and manufacturing. Conservatism: same as it ever was.

Those on the “Narxist” left who claim that there is a consensus – and that the Blair government continued with the tenets of Thatcherism need to take a close look at Blair’s policies, and the important achievements that were underpinned with clear ethical socialist principles: strong themes of equality, human rights, anti-discrimination legislation, and strong programmess of support for the poorest, sick and disabled and most vulnerable citizens. Not bad going for a party that Narxists lazily dubbed “Tory-lite”.

Narxism is founded on simplistic, sloganised references to Marxist orthodoxy, and the claim to “real socialism.” Many Narxists claim that all other political parties are “the same.”

The Narxist “all the samers” tend to think at an unsophisticated populist level, drawing heavily on a frustratingly narrow lexicon of blinding glittering generalities, soundbites and slogans. But we need to analyse and pay heed to what matters and what defines a political party: policies and their impact. Despite New Labour’s shortcomings, if we are truly to learn anything of value and evolve into an effective opposition, presenting alternatives to the Conservative neoliberal doxa, we must also examine the positives: a balanced and even-handed analysis. We won’t progress by fostering further divisions along the longstanding “real socialist”, “left” and “moderate” faultlines.

It’s very clear that it is the Coalition who are continuing Thatcher’s legacy. We know this from the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) report, which was encouraged and commissioned by Thatcher and Howe in 1982, which shows a radical, politically toxic plan to dismantle the welfare state, to introduce education vouchers, ending the state funding of higher education, to freeze welfare benefits and to introduce an insurance-based health service, ending free health care provision of the NHS. One of the architects of the report was Lord Wasserman, he is now one of Cameron’s advisors.

New Labour had 13 years to fulfil Thatcher’s legacy – and did not. However, in four short years, the Coalition have gone a considerable way in making manifest Thatcher’s ideological directives. To do this has required the quiet editing and removal of Labour’s policies – such as key elements of Labour’s Equality Act .

The imposed austerity is facilitated by the fact that we have moved away from the equality and rights based society that we were under the last Labour government to become a society based on authoritarianism  and the market-based distribution of power. The only recognisable continuity is between Thatcher’s plans and Cameron’s policies. The intervening Labour government gave us some respite from the cold and brutal minarchism of the Tories.

There was never a greater need for partisan politics. The media, which is most certainly being managed by the authoritarian Tory-led government creates an illusory political “centre ground” – and a manufactured consensus – that does not exist.

Careful scrutiny and comparison of policies indicates this clearly. Yet much propaganda in the media and Tory rhetoric rests on techniques of neutralisation – a deliberately employed psychological method used to direct people to turn off “inner protests”, blur distinctions: it’s a mechanism often used to silence the inclination we have to follow established moral obligations, social norms, as well as recognise our own values and principles. And it’s also used to disguise intentions. Therefore, it’s important to examine political deeds rather than words: policy, and not narratives.

My own partisanship is to fundamental values, moral obligations  and principles, and is certainly none-negotiable. Those include equality, human rights, recognising diversity, justice and fairness, mutual aid, support and cooperation, collective responsibility, amongst others, and the bedrock of all of these values and principles is, of course, democracy.

Democracy exists partly to ensure that the powerful are accountable to the vulnerable. The far-right Coalition have blocked that crucial exchange, and they despise the welfare state, which provides the vulnerable protection from the powerful. They despise human rights.

Conservatives claim that such protection causes vulnerability, yet history has consistently taught us otherwise. The Coalition’s policies are expressions of contempt for the lessons of over a century of social history and administration.

The clocks stopped when the Tories took Office, now we are losing a decade a day.

Thank you to Robert Livingstone for the pictures. More here