Ever since the death of Margaret Thatcher, the media has been awash with politicians, former politicians, journalists and columnists alike lamenting the demise of ‘conviction politics’ (see here, here, here and here … and here, here, here, ad nauseam).

Thatcher, they say, was the last, and so she must be respected. She changed Britain, nay – the world – with her hard line neoliberal stance. She stood strong against the unions: she stood by her beliefs that she was right, and they were wrong, and did not care for consensus. Marvel! What a lady!

Today’s politicians are, by contrast, always seeking consensus. Weak, wet, and lily-livered. They battle for the middle ground, those influential fence sitters, who can’t decide between the Tories or Labour. They spend too much time with opinion polls, focus groups and whatnot. They  are only vaguely ideological – the Tories are pushing for cuts; Labour slightly slower cuts.

This is nonsense. None of them are ‘realists’ – this is a damnable idea that means nothing. All politics are ideological, it is just the arguments that happen that make it clear. When it was socialism vs capitalism, clear lines could be drawn. In contrast, today’s lot are are all ideological politicians with a strong conviction, and one they seldom acknowledge. They all adhere to the central tenants of neoliberal – of rolling back the state, increase in competition, belief that the market will show us the way.

George Osborne refuses to listen to even the IMF (purveyors of neoliberalism). He refuses to back down on the stance that austerity is what we need even when those who were otherwise on his side say he’s wrong. What’s more, even the academic math behind his cuts don’t make sense in its own calculation. Yet Both he and Cameron stay true to their neoliberal convictions.

Miliband is not much better. A major criticism of him by the left is that mainstream Labour is are neoliberal in economic policy, too. They argue for the slowing down of cuts, not that cuts are bad. They have not taken one hard-line left wing stance against the damage being done to the NHS or any other part of the welfare state. It is if Miliband is rebelling against growing up in an academic Marxist household by refusing to listen to the reason his parents may have set forth. He and his cohorts hold to the market.

Ideology has never gone away. It is living and it is strong within both the Conversatives and Labour. The major difference between yesterday’s ideological war and today’s is that today’s war is fought over the management of neoliberalism. The only debate they have is how fast the cuts happen, not whether they are happening at all. They remain silent on this. If they acknowledged it is an ideology, TINA dies.


In the UK, with the coming of the Olympics, it would seem that the police are finally trying to catch up with social media organisation. Those in “authority” are frequently seen to be tailing those who find different ways of using media generally used for trading photos of cute cats. No longer is data to be collected by those benevolent forces such as Facebook and Twitter, who’s actions turn us into commodities, but now the police want in.

In August’s Prospect, Jamie Bartlett and David Omand have described the police’s new toy as a “social media hub capable of scanning social media to better stop and spot outbreaks of disorder or criminal activity during the Games.”

This social media medium was obvious made overtly important to the authorities by last years riots. However, that organising was not, by and large, organised on open social media, but on the closed blackberry medium. Yes, there was much misinformation on the more open mediums, and some people did attempt to use Facebook to start riots, but Twitter and Facebook were also the source of the much-praised post-riot clean ups.

The riots were not planned – they generally aren’t. Protests, many (probably most) which aim to be peaceful, are often advertised and planned on these open mediums. And, what with the police’s generally abysmal performances in managing the protests, marches and whatnot, this new form of spying on the public adds a legitimate concern into what will happen to peaceful protest. If the police don’t understand the difference between UK Uncut, a man getting annoyed with the weather, and riots, what possibility do they have of understanding, as Bartlett and Omand list, the “sarcasm, exaggeration, irony and bragging” that much of social media content is made of?

The Olympics may only be for this summer, but national security online is well on its ways. Judging on their previous performances on such issues, you are best advised to refrain from making any comments which are not sarcastic, exaggerated, ironic or bragging during the Olympics.

In Marxism, one of the main pieces of doctrine was that of dialectical materialism – the change in relation to the modes of production. This was History with a capital H, the movement of history. It was clearly displayed in many revolutions. The 1789 French Revolution saw the change from a Feudal order to a Capitalist order. The few people who owned the modes of production were the people coming into power now, whereas before it had been the people on only a hereditary basis – there weren’t really the same modes of production.

This was, Marxism said, progress. The peasants were becoming workers, flooding into the city, working the new (industrial) modes of producing; there is a new, bourgeois middle class, many who own the modes of production.

Since 1789, the capitalist order has gone from strength to strength, had a few (rather severe) hiccups, but – all in all – changed the entire world far quicker and more radically than at any time before hand.

Recently, part of this capitalist order near-as-did collapse: the banking system. This was a system not based on the modes of production, but on (what seems to be) the market value of the whim of bankers and traders. Public trading on the stockmarket did not matter if your company made something of value, as long as they company was seen to be making money. No longer was the value of a company based upon what it did, but rather only how much money it made. This was almost a comodification of the comodifiers.

Arguably, one of the issues to tackling the current economic problems is that the answer of a new technological age – where people are relocated with their immediate interests, rather than a centralised interest (so, a series of unofficial movements compared to say, a long lasting national/international trade union – subcultures instead of East Enders) – is problematic to becoming an antithesis to take down a monolithic, centralised idea of this banking.

The trade unions were, frequently, the antithesis to capitalism. But since the advent of mobile, interconnected technology, has given everyone a voice, even if its only heard by facebook, and the destruction of trade unionism (in the UK at least), the multifacited, de-centralised voice has a difficulty of being heard, and understood by an old, centralised system.

One of the frequent complaints about the Occupy movement in the media has been that there has been no central voice saying what they want. To a media, a government and a business structure that has for quite a while understood itself and others through a central voice, when people bandy together for multifacited reason (the Occupy movement and others) without such a voice and clear solution, those dinosaurs don’t understand it.

What do they want? Some want a more responsible capitalism (who wants to give up their phones, internet, etc.?); others want a destruction of that capitalism; still others want to use the loo in Starbucks, but prefer the coffee from Pret-A-Manger. We/they are the 99%. But that 99% has 99 times more ideas than that 1, and the 99 does not own the medium to be heard by anybody who does not want to hear it.

Is it an issue of dialecticism, then? As the old, centralised voice dies and has been ravaged of funds by the new technology, the new way of relating to each other has not yet taken to dismantling monolithic, irresponsible capitalists who now own the government – the old, centralised systems still hold more power than a local government. We become more globally aware, and more locally concerned.

The culture of cutting and of austerity is revealing how weak our democracies are and how powerful this monolithic banking capitalism is – restricting ‘democracies’ right to be ‘democratic’ because banking capitalism holds a ransom over their heads (just see how the stockmarket dipped when the nominally Socialist Hollande won the first round of the French election).

However, a dialecticalist view point also suggests that it is only a matter of time until something else comes along, and the Occupy movement is part of that something else. Goodness knows what, though. The anarchist Kropotkin both warned and celebrated the 1789 revolution:

after the defeat of the French Revolution, a general reaction set in–in politics, in science and in philosophy. Of course the fundamental principles of the great Revolution did not die out. The emancipation of the peasants and townspeople, from feudal servitude, equality before the law, and representative (constitutional) government, proclaimed by the Revolution, slowly gained ground in and out of France. After the Revolution, which had proclaimed the great principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, a slow evolution began–that is, a gradual reorganization which introduced into life and law the principles marked out, but only partly realized, by the Revolution. (Such a realization through evolution of principles proclaimed by the preceding revolution, may even be regarded as a general law of social development).

What has our theoretical and scientific evolution thus far suggested about our some new fundamental principles?

* all this is basically thinking aloud and generally unedited spiel.

(I suppose I should really change this whole thing to a tumblr … it makes more sense, although I don’t like many aspects of it (seems to be more about popularity of a post than debates over an idea …))

Anyhoo: The New York Times have a very interesting article about how the internet is changing – opening up – the way science is published and peer-reviewed:


This should have come sooner, and it should come in detail, but it didn’t and it may (but not now). All I wish to do with this is pose a few questions about the Occupy movements.

Firstly, some commentators have connected the movement to the Arab Spring – this maybe in influence, but in fact? Are the protests in Madrid a more legitimate start? After all, incompetent capitalism is not the same as murderous tyrants; there are enough devils in the detail to distinguish the two.

Others have commented on the lack of a obvious message – is this necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps it suggests and open mind on behalf of the protesters. Perhaps its time we stop pretending we had the (immediate) solutions.

Finally, these movements suggest the real-life effect the internet can have on creating international social movements as these are not nationalist or national movements; they are somewhat defined by their international (or Western?) temperament. The spreading of an imagined community en-masse, perhaps?

ps. Occupy Brighton … really? 5 (maybe 6?) tents on a green in the middle of Brighton just seems a bit … pointless. London’s only 50 minutes by train…

In May 2011, the documentary maker Adam Curtis (for it is he) was interviewed by the Guardian, commenting on social networking as the commodification of emotion:

On Facebook and Twitter, you are performing to attract people – you are dancing emotionally, on a platform created by a large corporation. People’s feelings bounce back and forth – happy Stakhanovites, ignoring and denying the system of power. It’s like Stalin’s socialist realism. Both Twitter and socialist realism are innocent expressions of the ideology of the time, which don’t pull back and show the wider thing they are part of. We look back on socialist realism not as innocent but as a dramatic expression of power; it expresses the superiority of the state, which was the guiding belief at the time.

Yesterday, Adrian Short wrote a piece on the recent redesign of Facebook and why he wouldn’t be caught dead on social networking sites. By supporting the social networking sites, he suggests, we are helping to hinder and restrict a free, open and independent internet:

When you use a free web service you’re the underclass. At best you’re a guest. At worst you’re a beggar, couchsurfing the web and scavenging for crumbs. It’s a cliché but worth repeating: if you’re not paying for it, you’re aren’t the customer, you’re the product. Your individual account is probably worth very little to the service provider, so they’ll have no qualms whatsoever with tinkering with the service or even making radical changes in their interests rather than yours.

We give more power to Big Web companies with every tweet and page we post to their networks while hoping to get a bit of traffic and attention back for ourselves.

Facebook’s Open Graph technology allows third-party websites to tell Facebook what people are doing. It extends Facebook’s Like button to include any action that the site owners think might be interesting to Facebook.”

Okay, if you “like” something, you’re actively seeking something out. What about if you don’t actively like something? It doesn’t matter, Facebook knows you’re looking at it:

What most people don’t know is that the Like button tracks your browsing history. Every time you visit a web page that displays the Like button, Facebook logs that data in your account. It doesn’t put anything  your wall, but it knows where you’ve been. This happens even if you log out of Facebook. Like buttons are pretty much ubiquitous on mainstream websites, so every time you visit one you’re doing some frictionless sharing.

The result is that, without a paid-for contact, these mass internet hubs are creating a restricted, unhealthy, limited version of the web. We are given what they think we want and perhaps we accept that because the change is gradual rather than sudden. All together, now: Code is Law. We get used to it, and when we really want to find out, say, what is happening on Wallstreet with the protesters, we can’t even find the independent sites that’ll report it accurately.

Your identity will be your accounts at Facebook, Google and Twitter, not the domain name you own. You don’t pay Big Web a single penny so it can take away your identity and all your data at any time.

The resulting mindset sounds paranoid, but not unreasonable. It is also evident that it is not an innocent transaction: we are not simply using these networks freely in exchange for their increase in popularity (and it, thus, seem profitability in the market). Instead, we are signing away the power to create and use the net as we want, or even, need. What is more, we won’t even own our (online) identity anymore.

The British investigative journalist Jon Ronson has started a short documentary series about how the internet is being used in various ways to manipulate the layman (“layperson”?). (That is it in very, very basic terms).

While he doesn’t mention any theory or theories (his first video, anyway, bares no hint of sociological or anthropological idea’s of how society, (none-internet) media, and programmers already help define how we use the internet), his investigations are always illuminating and very interesting. He will, I have little doubt, add some good pieces on the subject of how the internet is being used both from above and below.

Esc & Ctrl: Jon Ronson’s stories about people trying to control the internet