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The End of Democracy?

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
Have free and fair elections come to an end? Consider developments such as big data analytics combined with personalised political ads, psychographics, "fake news" campaigns, hyperreality, post-truth politics, and so forth.

We've just watched the Netflix documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Great Hack. While Cambridge Analytica itself is no more, they were only one company, and the company concept is not unique (see e.g. AggregateIQ). In fact, I would think we're likely to see more such companies in the future.

Companies such as Facebook, Google and others sit on treasure-troves of data which they sell to third-parties, and this is just waiting to be exploited by unscrupulous players that try to tilt the next election to the advantage of their clients.

Some people like to think they're immune to influence from commercial and political ads, but the success of clever ad campaigns to sway public opinion is, I think, undisputable.

So, in conclusion, are we doomed?

Easier question: Did anyone else watch the Cambridge Analytica documentary yet? Thoughts?
 

Jamie in Chile

World Class Member
I watched it after seeing your post.

I don't think this is as big a deal as some other issues in society such as climate change, our treatment of animals, dictatorial governments around the world, nuclear weapons, the rise of populism - although obviously related to some of these things, at least that last one. There's too many things that alarm me even more for this to get to the top of the list.

There didn't seem to be much new in the documentary about the US or UK situation. The bit about Trinidad and Tobago was really quite shocking though.

I am not sure that free and fair elections have come to an end. There was probably as much chance to misinform the electorate in the past as there is now, because now people can check things online and have more information out there, both good and bad, than in the days of say even before TV.
 

PTree15

Beach bum
Location
Connecticut
...

I am not sure that free and fair elections have come to an end. There was probably as much chance to misinform the electorate in the past as there is now, because now people can check things online and have more information out there, both good and bad, than in the days of say even before TV.
I think that is the key as well. The information can be disseminated far and wide and quickly, so it seems easier to influence people. There is a book called "The Selling of the President," which examines the marketing strategies by the Nixon campaign in the 1968 election. A movie from the '90s called "Wag the Dog" also looked at the methods politicians use to manipulate and influence. So while it's not a new phenomenon, it seems manipulation and influence can reach much further than it used to with the advent of modern technology.

I'm not sure we've seen the end of democracy, but I feel like we're entering a dark ages of sorts with the rise of populism globally. There are still plenty of people willing to protest to maintain or gain democracy, so I don't think all is lost. We're just in a bad spell right now.
 

KLS52

“SnarkMaster”
My cousin thinks we’re in big trouble with the next election here. She says Israel and Saudi Arabia have benefitted from Trump's self serving policies more than any other country. He has huge business interests in Saudi Arabia and he essentially gave the prince a pass on the murder of the journalist who spoke against the Saudi govt. As far as Israel, Netanyahu is as despicable as Trump. Two peas in a want-to-be-dictator pod. :cry:😩
 
M

Moll Flanders

Guest
I am not sure that free and fair elections have come to an end. There was probably as much chance to misinform the electorate in the past as there is now, because now people can check things online and have more information out there, both good and bad, than in the days of say even before TV.
Exactly.

I think I have said before that I have an online "friend" who worked for Cambridge Analytica. He didn't influence me on how to vote. People can still think for themselves, can't they?!
 

KLS52

“SnarkMaster”
Exactly.

I think I have said before that I have an online "friend" who worked for Cambridge Analytica. He didn't influence me on how to vote. People can still think for themselves, can't they?!
I don’t have much faith in that premise...people thinking for themselves. They get caught up in the mob mentality. Most, if not all, of the Trump supporters that I know...friends and family...have not been swayed one bit. They are voting for him again in 2020. It can’t be that they don’t have access to the good/bad information out there. It has to be that they align themselves with his ideals in the misguided notion that he is doing what he does for “the good of the people” and that he is going to “save” them. I still have a hard time accepting that there are still so many of them. They are (supposedly) smart, educated people.
 
M

Moll Flanders

Guest
I do think it is true that you can be easily influenced by people/information online in general. I noticed a while back that a lot of people I follow or keep up with were all reading the same book and so was I! This was quite a wide range of people like a man on a UK financial blog, people I follow on YouTube from several other countries and people on minimalism blogs but we must all be looking at the same information online. It was about 8 people, it was quite freaky.o_O

It wasn't a particularly well known book either.

Most, if not all, of the Trump supporters that I know...friends and family...have not been swayed one bit. They are voting for him again in 2020. It can’t be that they don’t have access to the good/bad information out there. It has to be that they align themselves with his ideals in the misguided notion that he is doing what he does for “the good of the people” and that he is going to “save” them. I still have a hard time accepting that there are still so many of them. They are (supposedly) smart, educated people.
Yes, but that doesn't mean the end of democracy, it just means a lot of people you know are voting in a way you disagree with, lol.

I haven't been following any of Trump's antics since last year, actually. The last thing I actively heard was that the political commentators here thought he would win a second term. I'm not sure if that is still the case...
 

Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
When I ask if free & fair elections have come to an end, which would mean the end of democracy, it's because I think it's now possible to buy an election, at least when the margins are relatively small. The effectiveness of the tools at the disposal of those who have the money and resources have reached an unprecedented and dangerous level.

E.g. in the US, they can identify the states and counties where the margins are the smallest, they can create targeted ads and dis-info campaigns aimed at only the part of the population in those areas that are deemed to be influence-able, and then pour their money and resources into those areas. And remember, it's not necessarily so much about winning over people to support your candidate, it's equally or more important to make people who are likely to support the opposition candidate refrain from voting, which is typically achieved by putting out negative "info" about that candidate. Also, remember that it's not just about ads and questionable news sources, it's also about controlling and influencing the news stories in the mainstream media, e.g. through well-timed "leaks". And let's face it, the mainstream media are often not the best critical thinkers either.
 

shyvas

Deity
Forum Moderator
Yes, but that doesn't mean the end of democracy, it just means a lot of people you know are voting in a way you disagree with, lol.

I haven't been following any of Trump's antics since last year, actually. The last thing I actively heard was that the political commentators here thought he would win a second term. I'm not sure if that is still the case...
I totally agree and that's what democracy is all about.
 
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Jamie in Chile

World Class Member
I agree that it's possible to buy or cheat your way from 49% to 51% and win an election.

Or in the case of Trump he won with 46% vs Hillary's 48%. But maybe Facebook lying ads took him from a losing 45% to a crucial 46%. Who knows.

Trump has got if anything worse lately talking about buying Greenland and asking US companies to leave China and nuking hurricanes. The whole word needs to get rid of this guy.

This Amazon situation for example. Europe is not strong enough to get Bolsonaro to sort it out. Now if the US had a leader who could speak out in defence of the Amazon at the same time Macron was doing it, we might have a chance to get a better result.
 
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Indian Summer

Cult Leader
Administrator
An explosive leak of tens of thousands of documents from the defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica is set to expose the inner workings of the company that collapsed after the Observer revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles.

More than 100,000 documents relating to work in 68 countries that will lay bare the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale” are set to be released over the next months.
Full article:
(4. Jan. 2020)

Christopher Steele, the author of the "Steele dossier" and former head of the MI6 Russia desk, is quoted in that article as saying there are even worse prospects for this sort manipulation in the upcoming US elections because the bad actors (other companies similar to Cambridge Analytica) have not been properly punished. There is also a quote by Brittany Kaiser, the former Cambridge Analytica employee who helped to expose their illegal operation, saying the released documents contain email communication between "major Trump donors" that exposes "the entire dark money machinery behind US politics".

Sorry if this sounds a bit dramatic - but I think some of the other posters in this thread need to think again about the impact of these type of actors and new manipulation techniques on democracies around the world.
 
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Andy_T

Addicted Poster
Forum Moderator
Another TV tip for a very watchable documentary: "The End Of The American Dream" about Noam Chomsky.

It suggests that the end of Democracy already happened some time ago, but we had not fully realized it until now.

One of the most critical theses in the documentry, well worth watching for 10 minutes:

 
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