Surveillance Capitalism, 10

Just a couple of numbers to illustrate the preceding post.

By April 2016, 197 individuals had migrated from the government into the Googlesphere, and 62 moved in the other direction. Twenty-two White House officials went to work for Google, and 31 Google execs joined the White House or federal advisory boards with direct relevance to Google’s business.

Let’s talk about corruption in the government, shall we? Or how unmarred by scandal the Obama administration was compared to Trump’s.

Problem with scandals is that some make the news more often than others. And who controls the news?


But wait, there’s more. Google has also actively supported (financially and imformationally) some right-wing causes: groups that oppose governmental regulations, emissions cuts, and gun control, groups that are into climate change denialism and tobacco lobbying. Cute, eh?

There’s no contradiction. This is all about weakening the state from all directions. Google has also actively funded professors who do Google-friendly research. All directions, folks, but always only one purpose:

The government must be weakened because the tech giants are our new real government.

Surveillance Capitalism, 9

After Google consolidated its model of surveillance capitalism and selling the behavioral surplus, it had to make sure there was no political force that would try to put a stop to its activities. As a result, Google decided to demonstrate that it could be useful to politicians. This happened in 2007, right when a presidential election was gearing up.

Google offered its services to the Obama campaign and managed to be extremely useful in the way the campaign was run. After the election was won, Google created “a revolving door of personnel who migrated between Google and the Obama administration during Google’s crucial growth years of 2009-16.”

This was back when Google still needed to be in the good graces of politicians because its leadership still cared about what politicians could do.

Obama “used his proximity to Schmidt [Google’s CEO] to cement his identity as the innovation candidate poised to disrupt business as usual in Washington.” After Schmidt helped Obama win, he joined the new president’s Transition Economic Advisory Board. And of course, in the 2012 election, Obama’s relationship with Google’s CEOs was so close it’s been described as a “love affair,” Zuboff reminds us.

Google’s competitors in the tech arena were terrified of Google’s iron grip on the new president and decided to act.

I’m telling you, folks, the book reads like a thriller.

American People Are Smart

Nearly two out of three voters say Democrats should not initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump and a majority say it’s time to turn the page on the Russia investigation, according to a new poll. . . Sixty-four percent of voters said Democrats should accept Mueller’s findings and move on without launching any new Russia probes, though 61 percent said they support a special counsel being appointed to investigate the origins of the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign. Fifty-five percent said they believe bias played a role in the FBI launching its investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

But who cares? Let’s start an investigation into whether Mueller failed to produce the desired results because he’s a Russian spy. Has he been to Prague or anything?

The Most Important Stories of Our Time

The Venezuelan collapse isn’t having any impact on the global economy. The oil prices aren’t going through the roof. They are slightly higher since the explosion of violence in Venezuela but that’s it.

Why is the collapse of the country that owns the world’s largest oil reserve not registering in the global economy? Why isn’t this like the oil crisis of the 1970s?

Because of the US fracking revolution, of course.

The role of the evildoers who come to power on their large reserves of oil and then bully the whole world into submission (the Saudis, Putin, Maduro) is diminishing. What’s happening in Venezuela could cause a global economic crisis if Putin hadn’t been weakened by the US fracking revolution, if Venezuela hadn’t been rendered unimportant by it, and if the Saudis hadn’t lost some of its power because of it.

The fracking revolution is an enormously important development that will be studied in textbooks two hundred years from now. The whole world politics changed. It’s what our times will be known for.

We are not really noticing, though. The most important stories of our era pass completely unnoticed. The weakening of the nation-state, the birth of soft totalitarianism, the destruction of the very concept of politics by tech companies, the realignment of global power as a result of fracking – nobody is talking about this. And I’m sure there are other stories that I’m not aware of because I never lucked upon anybody mentioning them somewhere on the margins.

Tortured Theater

What passes for theater today is a total joke. I understand that staging Shakespeare or Chekhov for the trillionth time must get boring. But it’s better not to stage them at all and find plays that have been unfairly forgotten instead.

The attempts to spice things up in such silly ways are stupid.

Book Desperation

We arrived at the book fair 20 minutes after opening, and it was already a zoo. Crowds of people were dragging out huge bags of books and stuffing them into cars. It was like a Soviet store two minutes after a few pounds of butter emerged from the store’s recesses. People looked like they’d been crossing a book desert and finally arrived at an oasis.

This is my haul but I was handicapped by several generations of relatives:

My father kept walking through the throngs of desperate book lovers and repeating, “But we were always told in the USSR that Americans were devoid of all spirituality!”