What could possibly be more absurd than hordes of American people and their legislators spending a lot of anxious time worrying over whether Russian agents injected game changing, Trump promoting “fake news” along with highly persuasive algorithm-informed bot-ature into the American election?

Of course, the Russians tried to influence the American election toward what they felt would be a more favorable to them candidate. My gosh, how much did the Americans spend in trying to dispose the elected government of Ukraine? How much did they spend on killing to get the government they want in Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Angola, Congo, Cuba, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Guatemala, Brazil? How much are they spending to sabotage the government of Venezuela and support/install the murderous govt of Sisi in Egypt? On one level I see why the US is worried about interference in their election—they must be terribly worried that Karma actually exists!

I would like to think that we can blame this tsunami of “fake news” and misinformation bullying on social media.  If it were just social media, we might be able to do something about it. Unfortunately prevarication has become so technologically enmeshed, persuasive, pervasive and ubiquitous that it is difficult to begin imagining a path to any kind of public veracity.  The abject/desperate/this is the fabric of my being addiction in the transfixed eyes and body language of thumbers everywhere speaks like words from on high or written in a rock “this thumbing is as much me as the blood that circulates in my veins. NOTHING WILL COME BETWEEN ME AND THE CYBER CONNECTION THAT IS MY LIFE! Lies/truth, misrepresentation at all levels is fine as long as it comes through a thumb-mediated, pocket-sized screen.” In an age of ubiquitious/instant “conversations” self-centred assertions seem to be pushing out any desire to actually hear others or understand meanings that are not well conveyed in digital bits.

I know people who speak highly of social media: really great people, people who are concerned about human rights, justice and peace and about leaving a healthy, green planet to future generations. Some of them even believe that social media and the proliferation of “information” will be/or could be the harbinger of a new age of informed, empathic citizenry. But I just can’t see it coming. To me it seems that the very idea of “significant bits” of sponsored of information doesn’t make for understanding nor wisdom.  It seems to me that bits of information without a broad social/environmental context of understanding too easily succumb to misinformation, misdirection and manipulation by those who have become all too adept at computer driven packing of information to the identified weakness of individuals and small groups.

Is there an alternative? Obviously people could just stop thumbing—well a few people could stop thumbing; not many it seems! And you don’t have to be on social media to become social mediaized. It seems that everywhere I turn I heard hear social mediaized messaging. It seems that while social media “connects” us to the mass of humanity, it—also—disconnects us from our sense of listening/thinking about meanings that cannot be conveyed in 140 digits or an instant gram of information.

As Marshall McLuhan so perceptively observed, “The medium is the message”– the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

As the medium becomes all pervasive it drowns out (remessages) even the messages from other sources.

For instance, I was following a “discussion” on a BC-wide environmental list serve. The “discussion” was presented as a form of conversation, but in the excerpt below I am sure you will note how rapidly the discussion deteriorates to the social mediaized penchant for oversimplified balderdash.

From an (environmental) listserve:

…the leadership of ‘my party’, the NDP, betrayed us and sold us out a very long time ago…we are wasting our time trying to ‘convince’ our leaders of anything. Because they don’t work for us and don’t care about us. They care about their own careers, and they are all doing pretty good; nice jobs, great pay, and super-pensions to come.

What I saw was he(John Horgan) did exactly as he was ordered to do. Although he no doubt wished it could be different…. he still followed his corporate orders.  And the Media told everybody that he was right and correct and smart. All the big media told us it was the right decision.

I believe that the leadership of NDP is corrupt to the core and they are in the service of corporations. That is why they are in power.

I believe the Horgan government will not do anything against corporate (his masters) interest. No elimination of Fish Farm, no labeling of GMOs, No energy conservation and no electoral reform.

The…pillow fight over the Kinder Morgan pipeline with Rachael Notley is all planed.”

Strip off the social media inspired me…ness and what remains is: while John Horgan is castigated for “doing exactly as he was ordered” what he didn’t do was exactly what the author of the post would have “ordered him to do”-with no input from anyone else!

Listening to the BC Chamber of Commerce and its chorus of right-wing pundits deriding this week’s provincial budget it is hard to reconcile the idea of the NDP as a nodding corporate sycophant with the budget it just brought in.

The social justice aspects of the budget with its emphasis on extending a hand up to those who most need it is almost revolutionary in comparison to Liberal budgets for the past sixteen years. Clearly corporate orders would not have called for:

  • A made in BC universal child-care program
  • Measures to make taxes more fair to the poor and working classes
  • $379 million investments in affordable housing
  • A commitment to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including significant investments in closing the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities
  • $379 million to preserve existing affordable housing and to help fund the construction of supportive housing units
  • $450 million for a student housing program
  • A fairer tax system by eliminating Medical Services Plan premiums
  • A $5 annual increase in the carbon tax

It’s not the budget nor the priorities I would have brought in, but it isn’t the implementation of “corporate orders” either. It is as typically NDP as it gets. It is as typical of NDP governments as is possible. It tries to do some good while not reaching very far outside of the conventional wisdom on budgeting. It is, I admit, not a radical departure from the corporate agenda of the past 16 years. But it is not John Horgan taking orders from corporate bosses. (This is important) It is the NDP trying to drive the middle of the road on a well traveled pathway with no left lane. Where the right wing—whether it is Gordon Campbell, Christy Clark, Stephen Harper, or Donald Trump—comes to office with a clear big business, big money agenda and is tugging at the harness to get it implemented, when the NDP or the Democrats or the UK Labour Party are elected they immediately begin back pedaling not because of the arrival of corporate instructions but because they genuinely believe that for democracy to work government must try to build consensus among as many citizens as is possible.

This may seem like a small distinction at first, but it leads to radically different perspectives on where we go from here. The Fox News/social media-styled post on the environmental list serve (the NDP, betrayed us…)leads to either despair or a political system festering with so much malice and resentment that the heart of democracy (our common community/good) is not perceptible. Seeing the NDP as a party seeking a broad consensus about how to build a sustaining and sustainable province can lead to more optimistic disappointment in the short term and, potentially it can inspire the desire to engage in vigorous public debate about what is truly valuable—what truly sustains all people and our beautiful/endangered Earth.

Personally, I would greatly prefer the NDP to put a great deal more energy into building a consensus about what is and how we get a sustaining and sustainable society, but perhaps electoral reform will contribute to that as more perspectives are brought into the legislature with more say in the direction of government. Surely electoral reform is something we can all agree to and work on—together!