A New Conspiracy Theory

We good Leftists really do have a mountain to climb if we’re to overcome the evil Rightists and proto-Fascists ranged against us today. (OK; ‘evil’ may be a bit strong.) There’s the media, for a start, and people’s stupidity; and, in Britain, our somewhat unhelpful electoral system: https://bernardjporter.com/2016/02/29/first-past-the-post/. Beyond all that, however, or possibly lurking darkly behind it, there is the Right’s ability and willingness to use all manner of ‘dirty tricks’ to counter the Left, to a degree not found on the Left, but deriving from the Machiavellian amoralism you much more often find on the Right, and the practices that some of Britain’s Rightists have learned from a century of involvement in secret intelligence agencies like MI5 and MI6 (see my Plots and Paranoia, 1989), or in advertising. Often the excuse given for this is that the Left is using these same techniques against them; but that has probably not been true since the demise of the Soviet Union. Nowadays the KGB’s successors appear to be aiding the American, French and British Right. By the side of all this – ‘black’ and ‘grey’ propaganda, subversive plotting, psychological warfare, bribery, corruption, fake news, control of newspapers by foreign-based billionaires, Russian intervention – we poor principled Left-wingers, clinging to outworn and naïve ideas like honesty, transparency, fairness and truth, would appear to stand very little chance.

And now apparently we have a new weapon employed against us: the internet. Today’s article by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer paints a truly alarming picture of British and American democracy’s being undermined and corrupted by rich Right-leaning capitalists aided by bright young computer geeks, using the data provided by Facebook and Google. The election of Trump and Brexit are alleged to be very largely attributable to this factor, and connected through it; which is possible, bearing in mind that the margins of popular victory in both cases were very small indeed or – in the American case – actually negative. Here’s a link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy. It’s well worth reading; fairly long, but not too technical. (I think I understand it, anyway, and my technical expertise has hardly progressed beyond bicycles and steam engines.) It ought to cast doubt on the strict validity of both the American presidential election and our referendum, not to mention our coming General Election; and, more broadly, on the legitimacy of what Cadwalladr calls our ‘managed democracy’. If, that is, this conspiracy was and is as effective as it’s painted here. The billionaire Rightists cited in this article have poured quite a lot of money into it, and they are supposed to be hard-nosed businesspeople. But they may have exaggerated the efficacy of their plotting. Let’s hope so.

The other trouble with these kinds of accusations is that they’re too often dismissed as ‘conspiracy theories’, by those who have read too many crazy David Icke-like conspiracy theories to want to waste their time properly examining any new ones that appear. And, in the case of the EU vote, by the sour, mean, angry reactions of most Brexiteers to what they regard as a conspiracy against them, by treacherous middle-class élitists who just aren’t prepared to accept the ‘democratic will’. All that, of course, is to the benefit of the conspirators, if in fact they do exist. And, again, to the extent that conspiracy ‘works’. (Obviously it can in some circumstances. I hope that doesn’t make a ‘conspiracy theorist’ out of me.)

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