News nuggets you may have missed:
Are you ready for Prime Minister Peter Dutton?
Last week Fairfax political editor Peter Hartcher wrote that “Quietly, the Liberals’ expectation now is that Turnbull will not be leading them to the next election.” Hartcher also opined that while Julie Bishop had the numbers to replace Turnbull, Peter Dutton will be backed by those in the Coalition who, openly or secretly, prefer a leader whose only job outside of politics was being a Brisbane cop.
Dutton goes after journalists with the same mouth-frothing energy he uses for immigrants, environmentalists, Dustin Martin’s dad, and Johnny Depp’s dogs.
His family has a history of provoking outraged editorials, like this one: “Dutton has a fellow-feeling for big and wealthy land-sharks [who] form the class to be specially protected by legislation that will rob poorer men of their ordinary rights and privileges.”
That was in The Queensland Figaro in 1887 when the state Minister for Lands was Charles Dutton, who apparently was Peter’s great great grandfather. When BuzzFeed dug up this historical factet recently, a commenter cited historian Henry Reynolds noting that Charlie angered the rural Queensland establishment by supporting Aboriginal rights to land and to freedom from being slaughtered. As the online commenter Nevil Kinston-Brown said, “Sadly, these traits of mercy and reason seem not to have been inherited ” by the present-day Dutton.
(The above photo of Peter Dutton was snapped and tweeted by Fairfax Media political reporter Stephanie Peatling, source: Twitter. The Immigration Minister asked that the ‘unflattering’ photo be removed from social media, which launched a host of more naughty versions, some built on the premise that he’s a rare case of someone who really does look like a dickhead.)
The other giant data-miners of America
I reported recently about Cambridge Analytica—the company that ripped off data on 87 million US voters on Facebook to help Trump win—which is owned in the US by investment fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebecca. Investigative reporter Greg Palast points out that there are two other companies equally dedicated to subverting their nation’s elections, and also run by mega-wealthy Republicans. Billionaire fossil fool brothers David and Charles Koch own one called i360, and “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove runs Data Trust, which manages online campaigning for the Republican National Committee.
All three outfits manipulate huge databases to target voters by cross-checking their prejudices and predilections. A recent issue of Zurich’s Das Magazin claimed that Cambridge Analytica “was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook ‘likes’. Seventy ‘likes’ were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 ‘likes’ what their partner knew. More ‘likes’ could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves.” That sounds like rolled gold bullshit, but ain’t it grand to know that with each ‘like’ you click on facebook you’re contributing your few bits to another fake news-byte?
Meanwhile, ex-Cambridge employee Christopher Wylie told Britain's Parliament last month that CA also rents out its services as a dirty trickster. Wylie described how his firm collaborated with an Israeli software company called Black Cube to corrupt Nigeria’s recent election by tying a candidate to videotapes of men with beards and big swords chopping people into bloody pieces.
Both Cambridge and Black Cube are spin-offs of global military-and-intelligence businesses, where old soldiers and spies go to make money. Watch for firms like these to do their tricks in future elections here in Our Island Home.
Shrinking social media giants?
Most social media companies make their trillions by gathering data—massive amounts of data worth massive amounts of money, but suddenly, the biggest of them all are in trouble.
According to Guardian reporter Edward Helmore last week “Trump is going after Amazon; Congress is after Facebook; Google is too big, and Apple is short of new products.” Facebook shares declined more than 17% ($50bn) last month after the revelations about their data being mined (as in the previous item).
Combined, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) are worth $2.3 trillion—Microsoft and Facebook are worth a further $1.1tn, and the Big Five social media and marketing giants make up 15% of the
American Standard & Poor share index. As The Guardian put it, “if tech pops … so pops the market,” and yet, “these stocks have been largely detached from any earnings analysis.”
Trump’s tweets against Amazon, unusually, make some sense: “they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the US), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” His campaign manager, Brad Pascale added by tweet: “Amazon has probably 10x the data on every American that Facebook does. All that data and own a political newspaper, The Washington Post. Hmm …”
And that folks is the real reason Trump’s after Amazon, because their high-prestige newspaper keeps exposing his viciously inept government and his own grotesque self.
Meanwhile, Avaaz, a global social media advocacy group, is demanding that Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook use independent audits to delete fake accounts (governments, hackers and crooks have tens of millions of them), notify users every time they are exposed to fake or malicious content—and correct the record, and fund an independent army of fact-checkers big enough and fast enough to stem the spread of lies.
Avaaz is asking a lot, and it blithely assumes a corporate and/or government body can judge what is “fake” or “malicious”, but as their petition to Zuckerberg says: “Crucial elections are just months away. Facebook's motto used to be Move Fast and Break Things. Now you need to Move Fast and Fix Things.”
Which side is America’s god on?
The American journal Sociology of Religion reports that Trump’s firmest support is coming from Christian nationalists. These people may or may not be evangelicals, but their core idea is that American society and politics must be suffused with Christianity because their nation has “a particular relationship with the Christian God”, apparently represented in Trump’s policies and programs. (They don’t care if he himself is grotesque.)
Nothing better illustrates the wild variations of beliefs among the American people than comparing that notion with this, from the extraordinary sermon Martin Luther King gave on April 4 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, 50 years ago:
”We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. ... If we do not act [to bring peace to Vietnam and justice for all], we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight