Author Archives: Brad Warbiany

For Social Justice, End Qualified Immunity

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, so many of us are trying to figure out “how can we stop these things from happening”? Unfortunately, the answer is very murky. It’s hard to do anything federally to address local policing, and the general discussions of trying to combat racism and foster understanding isn’t likely to change the mindsets of members of the existing criminal justice system.

There aren’t many things that can be done, at the federal level, that have the chance to make a difference–except this: Justin Amash and Ayanna Pressley are working on sponsoring a bill to end qualified immunity.

The below letter was sent to my House Representative, Katie Porter. I sent the same letter with slight modifications (as they were to Senators) to Senators Feinstein and Harris asking that they publicly support the effort and try to duplicate it in the Senate. I also sent a copy to Rep Pressley, and unfortunately could not to Rep Amash because he doesn’t accept out-of-district communications.

For those of you who agree, and who want to contact your own representatives, feel free to use anything below as a template in your own communications.

Dear Representative Porter,

In the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, and the subsequent protests, riots, and continued unrest that followed, many of us are asking “how can we solve this problem?”

Many are hoping that we can find a way to end racism, to end systematic and institutionalized poor treatment of minorities in our criminal justice system, and that we as a society can begin to heal.

Unfortunately, what is missing is tangible solutions. I sincerely hope that we can end racism and heal ourselves as a society. I am doing my best, as a white man and a father, to not perpetuate this behavior in my personal life and to make sure that my children are likewise raised not to be a part of a problem, but to be part of the solution. I worry that’s a generational target that doesn’t help the situation, today, on the ground. It’s worthy goal, but the time horizon is too long. I’ve always believed people aren’t born racist; it’s inculcated in them by the biases of the generations ahead of them. Their parents, their extended family, their community. Very little that I can do to try to raise my own children properly will help avoid racism in those who are being taught wrongly elsewhere. Which makes trying to solve racism, while a wonderful goal and one that we should pursue, too little and too late to help people today.

I believe that most police officers are good people who chose that life because they want to make their communities safer. The problem is caused by a small minority, but the effects that small minority have on the whole are disastrous. I believe those good officers may detest the actions of the bad ones, but feel powerless to stop it for many–completely understandable–reasons. Sadly, the end result is a system that shields the bad apples from the consequences of their actions.

But we CAN make this better. And we can make this better in a shorter term, by changing the incentives that police have TODAY to act badly, and increasing the incentives to actually weed out the bad apples among them.

House Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Justin Amash are circulating a letter arguing that Congress can put an end to one of the key shields the bad actors in our police system hide behind: Qualified Immunity.

Today it’s possible to sue the police department in civil court for excessive force / brutality / wrongful death. But due to qualified immunity–and in particular the way qualified immunity is adjudicated–it is NEARLY impossible to sue the individual offending officer in civil court and have any chance of success.

So while cities may occasionally feel the pain in their pocketbooks due to losing a lawsuit (and it’s just taxpayer dollars anyway), the individual officers are mostly shielded from civil liability.

Now, it can be argued that we don’t want to subject officers to financial ruin because of a lawsuit. As politicians, I’m certain that some of your constituents and supporters, and possibly campaign contributors (police and their union) will argue that this will be the outcome. But that need not be the case, for it’s a faulty argument. The medical malpractice insurance industry already gives us a blueprint to avoid that. By ending qualified immunity but also requiring police to carry malpractice insurance, we create a financial system that incentivizes good behavior and punishes bad, and can be tailored to each individual officer based upon their history and risk profile.

Here’s how I see it potentially working.

  • The police malpractice insurance industry will need to have ways to accurately risk-price individual officers. Much like getting auto insurance, your risk is mainly tied to your own actions, and there are clear red flags that suggest you’re a higher risk (in auto insurance, regularly getting speeding tickets or causing accidents, for one).
  • Those red flags might be things like citizen complaints against officers, IA investigations, history of lawsuits brought, etc. Some officers [such as Derek Chauvin, who had a history of malfeasance before murdering George Floyd] may find themselves eventually priced out of policing due to their risk profile being so bad that they can’t afford the insurance. Want to weed out the bad apples? They’ll price themselves out by their own actions.
  • Officers could possibly qualify for premium reductions by doing things like regularly taking alternative escalation training, community sensitivity courses, etc. You can find ways to reinforce positive behavior and make it in officers’ financial interests to do so.

The only way that I see to improve this system in the short term–at the federal level which affects all departments–is to end qualified immunity. It is within Congress’ power to do so. While this will be fought, I hope that the above will help deflect the arguments which would be used against the bill.

Representative Porter, I ask that you cosponsor Rep Pressley’s bill when it is written, and do everything you can to help it pass.

Thank you for your time.

Modern Fascism

“Fascism” is today an insult, and generally for good reasons. When you realize that the Nazis were fascist, it kinda gives the movement it’s own bad name regardless of what “fascism” really is. Mussolini didn’t exactly help. So the word, “fascism” is often used to describe “extreme political action that I don’t like.” And for various reasons related to its authoritarian nationalist aspects, it has been described over time as right-wing.

Hence why it’s a label that has been used as a pejorative against Republicans over time, but much more actively against Trump and the alt-right of late.

The problem, however, is that most people who use the label have a VERY weak understanding of what fascism truly is. Fascism is its own comprehensive political philosophy and description for how a nation should be run. Thus if you want to call someone a Fascist, you should probably first compare what they’re doing with what fascism TRULY is, not with what you think it is.

I’ve done that. And for that reason I’ll state right up front my thesis: Donald Trump is close enough to a fascist to deserve the label.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s describe fascism and see if my thesis holds.

What is Fascism?

Fascism is a hyper-nationalist political and economic system that holds the edification of the State or the Nation (in some cases related to race) as the all-encompassing goal. This demands that the Nation be strong both economically and militarily, and that it be self-sufficient and not beholden to other nations for support (which would signify weakness). The needs of the Nation transcend freedom, liberalism, individualism. These things are only tolerated to the extent that they bring honor and strength to the Nation.

A strong authoritarian government is the vessel by which this edification is brought about, hence why “the State” and “the Nation” become synonymous. Actions which strengthen the Nation are to be lauded. Actions which diminish the Nation are deplored. People who diminish the Nation are deplored, and marginalized, and [in some cases] subjected to outright arrest or death.

Economically–as I previously touched on here–fascism is a mixed-economy where government and business cooperate to serve the interests of the state. It differs from socialism in that socialists want outright government ownership of the means of production, and a redistribution economy where all are equalized. Fascism is still a planned or managed economy, but done for the Nation rather than for “the people”.

To quote Mussolini, “The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.”

This is the concept. People develop their worth through service to the Nation, whether that is direct service through something like the military [which is fetishized in a fascist nation], or indirectly through economic ways, in all things they are serving the Nation. The Nation is paramount; individual wants, desires, beliefs are secondary by a wide margin.

Are Republicans Fascist?

In America, fascism as an insult is largely used against Republicans and right-leaning fellow-travelers. The reasons for this are obvious. Generally “the left” has been the globalist, socialist, liberalist side of most political divides. Typically “the right” has been the patriotic, militaristic, nationalistic, pro-authority (law & order conservatism) side of most political divides. So, naturally, the left calls the right fascists.

I don’t think that’s remotely fair. I think the left/right divide is generally more of an idealist/pragmatist divide. The left is trusting and open. The right is guarded and closed. The left thinks you need a strong central government to provide for its people. The right thinks you need a strong central government to protect its people (from enemies foreign and domestic). The mainstream of neither party is anywhere near as authoritarian as their detractors on the other side suggest.

So yes, while there are elements on the fringe left that are authoritarian communists, there are elements on the fringe right that are authoritarian fascists. Oddly, the two aren’t much different from each other, when you get down to brass tacks.

But no, it is NOT fair to claim that Republicans are pro-fascism.

Is Donald Trump Fascist?

Here, I think a good example would be to refer to some of the descriptions of Fascism in Wikipedia:

Nationalism is the main foundation of fascism. The fascist view of a nation is of a single organic entity that binds people together by their ancestry, and is a natural unifying force of people. Fascism seeks to solve economic, political, and social problems by achieving a millenarian national rebirth, exalting the nation or race above all else, and promoting cults of unity, strength, and purity.

I’d argue that Donald Trump is absolutely a nationalist. Moreso than any President that I recall. In fact, I think most of his immigration policies are FAR more driven by nationalism than racism. Donald Trump doesn’t care about the rest of the world. He doesn’t care about people in other countries. He wants to protect America by keeping the “riffraff” of other nations out of our house. He wants to protect America by keeping manufacturing here and foreign products out [he REALLY wants tariffs on everyone].

All you really need to do is take a look at his inaugural address–for which I’ll use bullet points since he can’t really talk in complex sentences…

  • From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
  • At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
  • America will start winning again, winning like never before.
  • When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
  • A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
  • In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

Donald Trump is no globalist, that’s for sure.

Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.

Trump has repeatedly attacked members of his own party for failing to fall in line with what he wants. He believes he speaks for the American people as a whole. He’s constantly frustrated that our democratic processes stop him from doing what he knows is necessary for the Nation.

Now, I have not seen him push for a totalitarian state. However, he’s expressed admiration on numerous occasions for Vladimir Putin, as a “strong leader”. He’s tried to muck with the DoJ to interfere or stop federal investigations/prosecutions. And he’s recently pardoned Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of failing to follow court orders, because he supports what Arpaio was doing. This certainly suggests that he considers the power of the government to be a fluid and amorphous thing, which shouldn’t be repressed by silly things like “laws”, “separation of powers”, “checks and balances”, “constitutions”, and “courts”.

Fascist economics supported a state-controlled economy that accepted a mix of private and public ownership over the means of production. Economic planning was applied to both the public and private sector, and the prosperity of private enterprise depended on its acceptance of synchronizing itself with the economic goals of the state. Fascist economic ideology supported the profit motive, but emphasized that industries must uphold the national interest as superior to private profit.

Economic self-sufficiency, known as autarky, was a major goal of most fascist governments.

Fascists promoted social welfare to ameliorate economic conditions affecting their nation or race as a whole, but they did not support social welfare for egalitarian reasons

Trump has repeatedly publicly cajoled corporations to stay in the US, because he believes that American manufacturing is an aspect of National power, and that anyone doing business in this country should consider that a higher goal than individual corporate profits.

Trump is pushing for punitive tariffs, scrapping trade deals, and in my opinion is absolutely a mercantilist. I haven’t heard anything that suggests he desires 100% autarky, but that is perhaps merely due to the fact that it’s absolutely politically unfeasible in our global economy. Wherever he CAN get it, he pushes for everything to be done within our borders.

Trump is not an egalitarian socialist, that’s for sure. But he’s not opposed to state intervention. On many occasions, he has praised single-payer systems in other countries as “great” (which is the highest compliment Trump gives) and has stated that we need some sort of universal healthcare system in America, although it would be public-private hybrid.

Fascism emphasizes direct action, including supporting the legitimacy of political violence, as a core part of its politics. Fascism views violent action as a necessity in politics that fascism identifies as being an “endless struggle”. This emphasis on the use of political violence means that most fascist parties have also created their own private militias (e.g. the Nazi Party’s Brown shirts and Fascist Italy’s Blackshirts).

In the inaugural speech, Trump said: “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.” Granted, that could be a meaningless platitude.

But his actions in reaction to Charlottesville to not unilaterally denounce the alt-right protestors and to equivocate on the violence being “both sides” suggests an unwillingness to offend those who could be his political “brownshirts”.

This, I realize, is getting into the territory of “wild speculation”. I don’t know what’s in Trump’s heart as it relates to Charlottesville. But he didn’t exactly offer much clarity.

Fascism emphasizes both palingenesis and modernism. In particular, fascism’s nationalism has been identified as having a palingenetic character. Fascism promotes the regeneration of the nation and purging it of decadence.

I’ll admit, I then had to look up palingenesis: “Its meaning stems from Greek palin, meaning again, and genesis, meaning birth. It is a central component of Roger Griffin’s analysis of Fascism as a fundamentally modernist ideology.”

Hmm, sounds kinda like “Make America Great Again”, doesn’t it?

Trumps inaugural address was replete with his characterizations of the American political system as corrupt, as self-serving of those in politics, as serving globalist masters before nationalist masters, and how he was going to change all that. His final lines of his address:

“Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.
We Will Make America Wealthy Again.
We Will Make America Proud Again.
We Will Make America Safe Again.
And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again.”

The idea of the current incarnation of the Nation as corrupt and of a rebirth through Trump to a more pure state is exactly the sort of play that past fascists have used to gain power.

So What Does This All Mean?

The fascists of history may have been evil, but they weren’t stupid. In post-WWI Europe, they preyed on the fears and disillusionment of populations who had just finished the War to End All Wars, and were dealing with rapid industrialization and a significant change to their ways of life. For many, the things they held dear were in peril, the world was changing in ways that they had trouble adapting to, and someone showed up promising to make it all better and return their past glory.

Today, the world is facing a change for which it is unprepared. The global instant communication of the internet is breaking down political, social, international barriers. It is remaking economies and breaking business models. It is enabling globalization to accelerate, and people are scared. People who thought they understood the world in 1997 are now bewildered by the world of 2017. And they want the old ways back. Trump preyed on those fears and didn’t tell them “you have to learn to survive in this new world”, he said he was going to make us great “again”–bring back the glory of the past.

Now, I don’t think Trump is going to lead us into The Holocaust, Part Deux. But I do think his tenets of nationalism and mercantilism are dangerous. They lead us into trade wars, into economic conflict, and could destabilize the world economy. As has been said many times, “When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” And military action, destructive though it may be, is not a matter of fear to a fascist–it is how a Nation proves its strength. There are many sources of potential provocation out there in the world. Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, just for starters. Once we start mucking with the world economy and other nations start blaming America for those problems, one can only imagine that new sources will emerge.

But further, protecting Americans from globalization and this new world is the wrong tack. It’s hard for a mercantilist to grasp, but globalization, free markets, and gains from specialization, comparative advantage, and trade make us ALL richer. We need to understand how to continue to help Americans be great in a global marketplace, not shut our borders to people, ideas, and goods. North Korea–perhaps the most fascist nation existing on earth today–has already tried that.

To me, Donald Trump checks off too many boxes in his words and deeds, and it seems to me that he is politically and economically a fascist. But whether you agree with me that Trump is a fascist or not, it’s still hard to look at what he’s proposed and done and not see the danger that his Presidency brings to all Americans and to other peoples around the world. Hyper-nationalism and mercantilism has no place in the modern world, regardless of the label we apply to it.

Keep Your Friends Close, But Don’t Unfriend Your Enemies Either

This was a bitter election. The candidates were bitter. The media fanned the flames. And it stretched many friendships as people realized that those they knew and loved supported a bad candidate. Because both of them were pretty bad.

But political polarization has been rising even beyond the terrible candidates that were put up for President, and it’s exposing an ugly side of this new internet world. And the reaction I’ve seen from many in places on Facebook–unfriending anyone who supported the other candidate–is only going to make this worse.

In the old days, you had 3 major networks, and the newspapers. While one can certainly claim that some of those outlets were biased, we each had the same news. We each saw the same stories. At the end of the day, we each worked under the same–albeit flawed–reality.

But in this new world of fragmented media, blogs, alternative news sites, it has now become possible to construct our own reality around ourselves. It’s not hard to get sucked into reading only the news sites with which you agree, watching only the cable news station that supports your side, and surrounding yourself only with information which conforms to your views. And that’s extremely dangerous, because it turns anyone who disagrees into “the other”. Once we lose that shared connection of humanity and start seeing our political foes as fundamentally different from ourselves, it will destroy us.
Trump & Clinton
And this is where unfriending people comes in. We used to make friends through all sorts of ways. Maybe it was through college. Through work. Through shared social activities. And there are of course the bonds of family. You formed friendships and bonds based on things completely orthogonal to politics. And you learned that even though you and your friends didn’t share the same political views, you shared the common bonds of humanity. You could learn to disagree without discord.

But as we’ve become increasingly marginalized and living in “virtual” communities, we’ve increasingly made it possible to turn our private lives into an echo chamber of people who only agree as well. If you only surround yourself with mirrors of agreement, your beliefs are never challenged, never reconsidered, and never truly examined. If your response is to unfriend or mute someone on Facebook simply because they disagree with you, you’re decreasing your own ability to understand what you believe and why.

And that’s confirmation bias, one of the most dangerous ideological filters in the world. Surrounding yourself with only friendly sources of information makes it impossible to figure out when you’re wrong. And we’re all wrong about something. If you can’t figure out when you’re wrong, you can have NO real confidence that you’re ever right.

I’m somewhat lucky in that I’m a libertarian. I didn’t vote for Trump or for Hillary. I don’t agree with Republicans or Democrats. Heck, if you pay any attention to libertarians, you’ll realize that half the time, I don’t agree with libertarians either! If I unfriended everyone on Facebook with whom I disagreed, my feed would be really goddamn quiet.

So I don’t do that. I refuse to insulate myself from those with whom I disagree. I actively read not only the Trump and Clinton supporters in my feed and worked to understand and humanize them, but I try to read ideologically diverse blogs and news sources to insulate myself from confirmation bias. Am I 100% successful? Undoubtedly, no. But I make the effort.

And I highly recommend you all do the same thing. Seek out those friends of yours with whom you disagree. Accept them. Humanize them. Engage them (in productive and non-vitriolic ways) in discussion. You might learn something.

We all need to do this, for two reasons:

  • Despite my provocative post title, we’re not enemies. If you voted for Clinton, a Trump voter is not your enemy. If you voted for Trump, a Clinton voter is not your enemy. We’re all part of the shared society aboard a rock hurtling through space. We’re all trying to do our best, to raise families, to have happy, productive lives. I know great people who voted for Trump, and great people who voted for Clinton. I’m pretty f’ing great, and I voted for Johnson. If we’re friends, I don’t care who any of you voted for. I’ll still happily sit across the table from you, hoist a beer, and toast what makes us friends. (Then I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. Respectfully, of course.)
  • Because the fight against confirmation bias is the hardest fight for any person attempting to remain a free and independent thinker. It’s one of the most insidious forms of bias, and one of the the worst because it lets us believe that we’re right, we’re enlightened, and our ideological opponents are dumb, craven, and wrong. It allows us to turn the opponent into “the other”. And if you’ve studied the most heinous and terrible aspects of human history, bad things happen when we allow our tribal instincts to be manipulated into turning someone who doesn’t look like us, doesn’t talk like us, or even looks and talks just like us but believes differently, into “the other”. That’s an instinct that must be guarded against at all times, for the good of human history.

If you voted for Trump, or if you voted for Clinton, I may not agree with you. But you’re always welcome at my table, at my door, or in my Facebook feed. Because the bonds that connect us as humans and friends are FAR stronger than political ideals.

Why [Most Of] You Should Vote Third-Party

So… People talk about a vote for Gary Johnson being a vote for Hillary (even though some say he poaches more Dems than Reps), and how a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump.

I mean, almost nobody is actually excited about voting FOR Trump or FOR Hillary, but they’re scared that a vote for a third party increases the odds that the anti-Christ from the other party will get elected and destroy America. So the stakes are, of course, VERY high.

But really… What is the penalty for voting third party? What is the penalty for most of the people in the US? Does a third-party vote really make a difference to the outcome?

The answer is no. And we have the Electoral College to thank(?) for that.

According to Wikipedia (I know, it’s not the MOST reliable source, but it’s close enough for government work), somewhere around 73% of Electoral Votes are basically already sewn up. Those are from states that are historically not competitive in the slightest.

From the results of presidential elections from 2004 through to 2012, a general conclusion can be reached that the Democratic and Republican parties start with a default electoral vote count of about 191 each.[8] In this scenario, the twelve competitive states are Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, and North Carolina.[9]

For example, I live in California. I know flat out that Hillary is winning California. And thus Hillary has effectively already locked up California’s electoral votes simply by winning the nomination.

So a vote for Trump in California accomplishes nothing. It is a wasted vote. In fact, it’s worse than that, because it’s a vote that–should he be elected–signifies that he has broader national popular support than he does. And a vote for Hillary? Although I’d be voting for the winner of my state, again, it’s a wasted vote. And it signifies again a broader amount of national popular support than is warranted.

And in a state like Alabama, for example, the reverse is true. Trump will win Alabama handily. It’s not in play, so your vote for a major party candidate does NOT meaningfully affect the outcome.

What about a vote for Gary Johnson (or Jill Stein)? Well, even though it’s unlikely either one will win, every vote cast for either them is effectively a vote of no confidence in the major party candidates. My vote doesn’t do anything to change the likely outcome of the election, but it sends an actual message to whichever R or D wins. It sends the message that I don’t support either of them.

Of course, some will ask “what if”? What if something really strange occurs and my vote is the deciding factor in whether or not Trump wins California, or someone in Alabama is the deciding factor if Hillary wins there? My answer to that is simple: if California or Alabama are actually “in play” in 2016, it means that one candidate is winning in a landslide, and at that point not only do individual votes not matter, individual states don’t matter.

I understand the idea of voting pragmatically, of voting for the major party candidate that could possibly stop your dreaded, horrible, evil opponent from taking the Oath of Office.

But for roughly 392 Electoral Votes, your vote does NOT affect the outcome. There is NO penalty to voting third party. It’s not a vote for the opposing candidate.

So why not try it, just once? If you’re not happy with either candidate, and you don’t live in one of the dozen or so “swing states” where the individual state outcome might decide the election, vote your conscience. Unlike Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m pretty sure a vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein will make you feel a whole lot better about yourself on November 9th.

The Social Media Revolution–An American Spring?

Regular readers know that I–an irregular contributor here–have long said that the power of the internet is as-yet poorly understood and mostly untapped. Sure, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, but what is the internet really going to do in America beyond providing us endless hours of cat videos?

Well, Scott Adams [of Dilbert fame] suggests that it’s broken down our electoral politics and is turning us into a direct democracy:

The media has led you to believe that this is a presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans. But Sanders is barely a real Democrat and Trump is barely a conservative Republican. If Bloomberg jumps into the race, we will have three candidates with ambiguous party affiliations. So maybe there is a more helpful way to frame this contest.

Naval Ravikant calls it The American Spring, and points out that social media has become the real conduit to power. That’s a revolution. We the People are on the brink of replacing the entrenched powers and their monied interests. If the patriots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary states put both Sanders and Trump in commanding leads, they will be – in effect – firing the government. But they would also be firing the system of government that was created by the Founders. Direct democracy via social media – chaotic and ugly – is about to replace the Republic. No longer can a strong leader ignore the will of the people when it is pounding on every door and tapping on every window. The Republic was designed to give elected officials the power to decide for the people. But the elected elites have lost their legitimacy and The People are on the brink of taking back power.

I’ve said before that technology has led America to an increasingly centralized society, culture, and government.

  1. The printing press itself was the first step in creating durable broadsheet dissemination of information to a wide audience. The pen is mightier than the sword, but owning a printing press is like being the general of an army of penmen.
  2. Newspapers have followed an overwhelming consolidation and much of their news-gathering is centralized via the AP. And they had real power, because you “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.
  3. The introduction of radio enabled a true real-time broadcast to allow single voices to reach much more widely than ever before.
  4. TV came along, and video truly killed the radio star. Because of the expense, consolidation into the “big 3” networks meant that the largest corporations could filter and control the presentation of information to the masses.

“Television”. Photo. Encyclopàdia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Each step increased the flow of information. But each step also drove the control of which information would flow into a narrower and narrower group of people. But technology marches on, and the filters of broadcast media are increasingly being sidestepped, democratized, and subsumed. It started with Cable, as the cost of getting into the television business dropped dramatically, and the appearance of the 24-hour cable news station widened the number of voices in the market. But nothing has come close to becoming relevant as quickly as the internet and social media. We now see major news productions no longer driving the reporting, but rather highlighting the tweets of feet on the ground. And Presidential primary political debates are taking questions from YouTube “stars”.

The internet has been around the “mainstream” less than 20 years now… Since then, it’s basically broken or fundamentally changed multiple business models in all sorts of industries, as any unemployed former travel agent will tell you. Politically, by 2004, blogs had changed the political landscape enough to give us Rathergate. But 2004–a mere 12 years ago–only brought us the first inklings of the social media future with MySpace. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these hadn’t even been invented yet. Essentially the “modern” social media landscape was built in ~2006, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and integrated with the “computer in a pocket”, the iPhone and Android devices, over the following few years. We’ve been living with it for only a decade.
The first decade of television was exciting, but raw. Everyone could tell that this was something new, and something important. Much like they can tell with the internet and social media now. It created new stars and obsoleted many former ones. It changed the world of politics, such as when people realized they could buy real likes on social media and promote their campaigns with it. Much like the internet and social media has done since. And now, as streaming video is replacing broadcast video for more and more households, and with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu becoming production companies in their own right, the traditional hold of the TV networks is breaking with it.

The “out of the blue” appearance of Ron Paul and now Bernie Sanders? Voices who have spent decades with no “mainstream” platform are now finding their audience. The growth of “outsider, anti-establishment” candidates gaining real traction? This is due to media conglomerates no longer being able to control the message and marginalize them. These candidates, rightly or wrongly, stand in stark contrast to the politicians who have been screwing us over for years while growing their own power. And can you imagine the quick changes in public opinion on the gay marriage, medical/recreational marijuana legalization fights, and civil liberties issues without a democratized communication platform like the internet? And the internet is not only domestic–it’s making these changes on a global scale.

So, what is the point? Well, it remains to be seen. We are witnessing the greatest social transformation the world has seen since at least the invention of television, but probably since the creation of “mass media” at all. We’re seeing the replacement of “broadcasting” with “narrowcasting”, or “sidecasting”, or “targetedcasting”, or “peercasting” or whatever you want to name it. People also seem to be meticulously utilizing the option to buy proxies to prevent exposing their digital addresses to the world. But the fact seems to be that information no longer only flows downhill from the powerful to the rest of us. Now, while each of us may individually be no more powerful than we ever once were, all of us are collectively more powerful than any individual media magnate or opinion-maker on the globe. While much of Scott Adams post goes into suggesting an idea that I don’t think will ever come to pass, the question of demolishing our system of government is well under way, whether the visible structures of government change or not.

Is this a good thing? Will it advance liberty? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly different, and the world–be it politicians, media folks, leaders of industry, etc–hasn’t quite figured out the implications of that yet.

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