Monday, 6 May 2019

Brexit: 'Now We Know'

If in much of the country, the local elections were about Brexit:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and how it really affected local elections

Then what is bizarre is how little we actually know about 'Brexit'. But the information is out there.

Whether it's been about 'dark money':
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP calling on the Electoral Commission to reopen its investigation
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP pressing for 'a full investigation'
Futures Forum: Brexit: and new evidence emerging over the role of Cambridge Analytica > follow the money
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP once 'regarded as a crank' >>> but now questions are multiplying over the roles of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories

Or about the misuse of social media:
Futures Forum: The weaponization of social media
Futures Forum: Facebook and the Age of Manipulation

Or simply about subterfuge and hidden agendas:
Futures Forum: "If Brexit was the creation, in part, of this new world of offshore money and political influence campaigns, Brexit may well ensure that it continues unrestricted."
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP pushing for further investigations
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP's voicing of "widespread concern over interference"

One of the key players in asking questions has been Open Democracy, with their latest piece looking at  dark money and even darker intrigues:
Key members of Jacob-Rees Mogg’s pro-Brexit MP lobby group finally revealed | openDemocracy

The other has been Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who has been digging deep, as reported by Michael White, writing in the New European: 

In the Times Francis Elliott reports that People's Vote (PV) chiefs are aware they need to broaden their appeal beyond the London-centric south and to get beyond the hyper-rational economic arguments by appealing to emotion. That's consistent with the complaints I hear from political friends who have done business with them. 'Take Back Control' was cynical but effective in 2016 and 'Tell Them Again' threatens to make a similar impact in the European elections on May 23 and in any referendum which unexpectedly materialises between now and Halloween. Elliott reports that PV is toying with 'Now We Know', to entice pro-Leave moderates who can see the opportunity costs of Brexit piling up as other problems are neglected. A work in progress, I'd say.


Forgive me for mentioning Carole Cadwalladr again (I don't know her personally) because she's only one voice among many, not a professor or tech renegade, but a feature writer on the Observer who has become something of a symbol. She stumbled upon a life-changing discovery after going home to South Wales to find out why the old coal-and-steel town of Ebbw Vale (now green and shiny) had voted 62% for Brexit when it has strikingly few of those immigrants local voters talked about, but plenty of EU Objective One funding for poorer regions.

The way she told it at the lecture (you can find it online) she bravely gave the other day, in the presence of what she called “the Gods of Silicon Valley” at the annual TED conference in Vancouver, was that an Ebbw Vale woman got in touch with her after the Observer published her puzzled article.

The woman explained about the Facebook posts she'd seen before the referendum, telling her about millions of Turks flooding into Britain (courtesy of that nice Mr Farage's Leave.EU campaign, you may recall). Oh really? When Cadwalladr went to hunt for these personally targeted ads she found they weren't there any more. There is no archive. Only Facebook knows exactly what it gave a platform to – and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg isn't telling.

Cadwalladr called this “the biggest electoral fraud in Britain for 100 years”, since caps were put on election spending and bribing voters made illegal. It's what put her on the trail of Cambridge Analytica, the shadowy, now defunct data farmer supported by US billionaire, Robert Mercer. Brexit, she told TED, was the experimental petri dish for Trump, the canary in the coalmine where techniques were honed to spread hate and fear. “Silicon Valley is a crime scene,” its tech titans accessories to the crime of subverting our democracy.

The writer got a lot of applause in the hall, but angry feedback from the titans' PR teams who promised factual rebuttal – but failed to deliver it. Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, who deigned to be interviewed on stage the next day, proved to be chillingly free of emotion or responsiveness, Cadwalladr reports.

Here is that extraordinary TED talk:

And here is her latest: 

Carole Cadwalladr on Twitter: "Bank holiday reflections: I’ve worked flat-out on this for 2.5 years. It’s triggered multiple investigations & billion $ fines. But I’m in @guardian bubble. Most of UK still entirely in dark. Took a US media org to do this. What next? How to get it out?? https://t.co/BrwLQYLX4k"

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