I don’t usually shill for a new book but this one captured my attention….not that I have read it – YET! It’s Philip N. Howard’s Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives.
We really need to worry about the impact of technology on politics. We are seeing “political actors” take advantage of the COVID -19 pandemic to try and influence on public perceptions. We are seeing Authroitiarian and Populists using Internet technology and proven social science techniques to manipulate us.
They do this by putting and pushing untrue claims, misinformation, junk news, and deceitful messages into various public spheres to undermind democratic institutions and diminish public trust. The abuse of political power and democratic processes by the Kenney-controlled UCP government to use COVID-19 as cover to ram through ideologically driven Totalitarian laws. Those laws centralize power in the Executive and beyond the scrutiny of the Legislature is nothing short of Fascist. Bill 22 and Bill 10 are prime examples.
These emotion-laden fearmongering and anger-driven narratives are catching on with many in the target groups the political producers of lies are preying on. In Alberta, we have the Authoritarian cum Fascist tactics of the taxpayer-funded commitment of $120m over four years to the Kenney-controlled War Room.
We also have the political power abuse of the Public Inquiry Act to target UnAlbertan Environmental groups, many of whom Kenney identifies as his personal enemies. There is Court challenge on the legality and appropriateness of using the Public Inquiries Act for a politically motivated Inquisition. With COVID-19 the Courts are not sitting except for emergencies so don’t expect much to happen about this matter before all the damage is done.
This is all part of a political Propaganda Machine dedicated to polishing the image and reputation of the Alberta oil and gas industry. So far the War Room is totally secretive, by the cunning use of the law. It’s oil and gas, for now, we will never know where it eventually extends its ideological tentacles into other areas of personal privacy abuses and institutional destruction! It has shown us, many times, that it is prone to the dangers of the Lie Machine culture.
In a robust democracy, the politicians have a legitimate fear and respect for the citizenry. In Alberta, since the election of the UCP Majority Government, the citizenry has a legitimate reason to fear and disrespect “our” government.
This will not be changed by political parties, they are mostly embedded as part of the problem. It’s going to be citizens to wake up, grow up, stand up, and clean up our toxic political culture. Reboot Alberta is one vehicle that could be part of the solution but not as it is currently operating.
I am working on repositioning Reboot Alberta as a not-for-profit corporation so it can have a sustainable structure to tap into the time and talents of Albertans to take up this challenge. We will need funding support as well to do this right and rapidly…both are required under the circumstances.
Plato warned us that “Democracy passes into despotism” but it does not have to be that way. He also said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
So start thinking about what you can contribute of your time, talent and treasure to Press for Change and Build a Better Alberta.