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Daniel Bell, Transgression and the Alt-Right

The important argument I took from Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies is that the ‘alt-right’ reflect transgression detaching from progressivism. The idea that an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct is inherently progressive ceases to be tenable when progressive movements have institutionalised laws, rules and codes that serve progressive ends. […]

Online armies at your command

Towards the end of Kill All Normies, Angela Nagle discusses the chilling effect liable to ensue from the online harassment which journalists critical of the alt-right often now find themselves subject to. From pg 118: Multiple journalists and citizens have described in horrifying detail the attacks and threats against those who […]

How widespread is shadow mobilisation?

In the last few years, I’ve become interested in what I think of as shadow mobilisation: assembling people under false pretences and/or in a way intended to create a misleading impressions of the mobilisation. This is often framed in terms of astroturfing – fake grass roots – however it appears […]

The notion of a ‘playbook’

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself using the term ‘playbook’ in a number of contexts. It’s typically defined as “a book containing a sports team’s strategies and plays, especially in American football” but I’m not quite sure where I picked up the phrase from as someone who hasn’t […]

A playbook for merchandising doubt

I’m currently reading Merchants of Doubt, a fascinating study of the tobacco industry’s deployment of academic experts to cast doubt on the harm caused by cigarettes. Being in the mood to read the book in an ultra-cynical way, here’s my playbook for merchandising doubt, derived from reading these cases through the […]

The Ontology of Fake News

What we are seeing with the growth of ‘fake news’ is perhaps the weaponisation of epistemology. In other words, ‘fake news’ as a construct is becoming a discursive component of our repertoire of contention. Far from entering a post-truth era, we are seeing truth becoming a mobilising device in a new […]

From the crowd-as-threat to crowd-as-resource 

From Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, loc 685-704: “Users happily do for free what companies would otherwise have to pay employees to do,” says former Wired editor turned drone manufacturer, Chris Anderson. It’s a capitalist’s dream come true. “It’s not outsourcing, it’s crowdsourcing. Collectively, customers have virtually unlimited time […]

Social media and populism 

This excellent essay by Jan-Werner Müller in the London Review of Books raises an important issue about the forms of political mobilisation facilitated by social media:  Trump has called himself the Hemingway of the 140 characters. He has ‘the best words’. He loves Twitter, he says, because it’s like having […]

Mobilising a sharing economy revolution

One of the most interesting things about so-called sharing economy companies is their mobilisation of users in defence of their political objectives. This is something which can prove uniquely urgent because of the sheer number of municipalities in which they operate, leaving them exposed to regulatory backlash particularly given their […]

Building the cult of airbnb

From The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 3490: In January 2013, Chesky hired a new head of community who shared his devotion to the cause —Douglas Atkin, a former advertising agency executive who had written a 2005 book, The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers into True Believers, that drew […]

Micro-tasking political activism

This is disturbing, though unsurprising. How widespread could it get? Normative pressure is enough to lead to a removal at present but that seems unlikely to be a viable long-term counter-strategy: Someone out there really wants President Donald Trump’s polarizing nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, to get the […]