Divide & Co-Opt: $hit
By Kirstin Beatty
On every issue, there are powerful forces united against change. The liability or potential financial collapse of any business sector means that there are both personal (investments, job) and corporate interests in continuing the status quo, and so both individuals and corporations have an interest in undermining regulations and legal action.
I believe it is worthwhile to examine strategies to divide and rule, which may include:
- relying on deep pockets and media to drown out other voices
- encouraging wasteful spending, leaving little for useful purchase
- promoting legislation or actions that distract or accomplish nothing or, worse, cause harm
- lobbying for ideas and bills which drown out better options
- sowing distrust
- generating propaganda, like spreading truths among lies for confusion and argument
- preventing alliances that could challenge the propaganda
- co-opting movements, promoting only those willing to cooperate with a false leader
The biggest threat is outsize influence through outsize wealth. There needn’t be any planning at all for a single wealthy person to co-opt or destroy a movement, since wealth easily drowns out other ideas.
A wealthy person can easily smear anyone, as Juan Cole suggests with his GoogleSmear article. Wealth can easily manipulate trending articles and social expression through fake accounts, identify theft, paid influencers, and online harassment as evidenced in 2018 by Mexican political parties. Corporations are also using deceptive practices – propaganda. Marketing campaigns, press, bots, and trolls are paid, not volunteers.
The influence of wealth may be hard to recognize. Bill Gates was the driving force for school computers and the major funding source behind the Common Core. Whether or not you like school computers or the Core, this outsize influence is fundamentally undemocratic and bypasses parents and teachers except under the artifice of details, rather than the larger picture. Gates’ foundation has come under criticism as well for promoting corporate globalization in health and agriculture.
Stories making the news today show that corporations are willing to pay to undermine the voice of the People, not only with bots. The following stories are factual and should be taken as a reminder to learn from history and the recent past.
Examples where industry was caught causing trouble include (1) faking emails from citizens to the government; (2) using actors to load town meetings; (3) spying on local groups, such as PG&E spying in California; (4) paying for fake science and testimony (5) paying for fake independent news, smear campaigns, and disinformation (wireless, climate, Covid19, pesticides, autism, benzene, etc.) – marketing campaigns undermine what is fair in democracy by favoring wealthy interests & astroturfing.
Soon well-funded, realistic telephone AI may fake being local voters speaking on behalf of business interests.
Troublesome nonprofits may also be fronts for wealthy contributor and have fake membership, like Massachusetts Parents United as identified by Maurice Cunningham. Cunningham critiques Boston papers for failing to vet claims and funders.
Media fails to call out industry sponsorship or public relations ‘news’ while allowing targeting and baseless, bizarre, one-sided attacks – such as a NY Times article insulting science on wireless dangers as a propaganda tool of the Russians, coincidentally when a major Times stockholder holds a major telecommunication company and is considered ruthless, a criminal. Billionaires rule.
Shaming of questions and criticism prevents building local community, shared goals, and political movements, and impairs advocacy and corporate regulation. Such insults foster lies and fake conspiracies, shielding corporations from deep investigations of real conspiracies.
In closing, please see the MA legislation page for some recommended bills.