Sunday, 15 January 2017

2017 - Fear, Uncertainty, And Doubt

Distorted photo of Wendy Cockcroft
The way we see each other

I wish you all a happy new year. May it be a prosperous one for all of us. Such sentiments are expected but already 2017 is turning into a nightmare, hence the photo. This is the view that many of us have of each other due to divisive see-saw politics and slanted news reports. Expect it to get worse. If 2016 is any kind of indicator, people are going to work harder for less and hate each other more. I'm hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel but I can't see it yet. Let's take a look back at 2016 to get an idea of where we're going this year.


I began the year hoping to find us all awakening from the dystopian nightmare we were sinking into. I had no inkling that Brexit and Trump were going to happen. CETA, TPP, TTIP and TiSA loomed on the horizon as foes to be fought and fracking was haunting the corners of my consciousness. My predictions have all come true apart from Trump winning the presidency. I never saw that coming.

You make or break your reputation by how you behave

The rest of January and early February was dominated by virtual fire-fighting as I battled a reputation-wrecking troll's attempt to censor me by trashing my name and trying to get me fired from my job. He failed. Not only was I able to prove his allegations were lies, I was able to get them removed from the reputable business review sites by pointing out that he's a troll. That just leaves the disreputable one, but nobody takes it seriously. My employers don't; I've been promoted since then and I've not only proved my point, I've won the argument: you make or break your reputation by how you behave. All that trashing someone's name online without providing proof of the allegations does is make the poster look bad. I don't behave in the way I was accused of behaving so nobody believed the lies. They do believe I'm an opinionated and snarky little so-and-so whose comments occasionally attract negative attention, which is true.


I'd finally had enough of the demented calls for armed revolution in the Techdirt comments so I wrote the post I link to every time someone mentions it: Come The Revolution? Good Luck With That! I was elated when commenter AJ said, later on that year:

I'm usually the adversary on this site. Right leaning, pro-2nd amendment, live in the south, not fond of liberals ideals or socialism. NOT a racist or bigot, but I CAN see why the lefties would think that. And although I respect the hell out of Helmet, PaulT, Mason, Wendy and the like, I really enjoy poking them as hard as I can with my virtual stick. I like to do so Anonymously, and would like to keep it that way. Is there a way I can contribute Anonymously?- Comment by AJ on Fighting For The First Amendment Is Going To Be A Priority: Help Us Do It

There's no way he could have missed that post, I've linked to it loads of times. He's stopped banging on (sorry!) about guns, too, so I must have got through to him. The American right, like the Iron Lady, is not for turning, however much I'd like that to happen. The rest of February saw me return to my web design roots as I commented on internet do's and don'ts. I've had to walk back on my promise to get more involved in FM and allied trades online as my employers don't like it. I had to choose between opinion and activism or work so I chose the former.


Donald Trump began to get more of my attention, featuring in two of my posts for that month. I wondered what the appeal was and why far right politics was being described as "conservative." The answer is, far right elements have hijacked the conservative movement using wedge issues to make people take sides. Result: Trump. March also saw a certain internet trainwreck show up on Twitter to point out a Storify on how mean an' cwuel I am to to assert that your reputation depends on your own behaviour and attitude. My response was to tell her (and every bugger else) to stop acting like a nut if you don't want to be thought of as one. And stop tagging me to whinge in my face if you don't like being lectured about it. I also got into a scrap with American socialist Dan Kervick over personal freedom. For me, it's non-negotiable. Give me liberty or give me death, end of.


April was a busy month: I average four posts a month and wrote eight for that one. Reputation was a major theme in a range of contexts. Indeed, I'd say it was the overarching theme of 2016, what with the way our perceptions of people, ideas, and events shapes the decisions we make. I began the month with "our day out," a visit to the Gorton Monastery. I'd promised to do this when I was there to help publicise it. The story behind the monastery is one of community and tradition and therefore close to my heart.

Tranny say what?

The appearance of one of these on my Twitter feed appalled me. I'm not a fan of the radical feminists but they got me with that one. I had no argument against them to defend a "tranny cyborg." At which point I went off on a rant against political correctness in general. It needed a smacking.

UBI and I don't see eye to eye

The continuation of arguments in favour of Basic Income had me out with the Cudgel of Common Sense again. They're trying it out in Finland now as if epic failure and "not quite but almost" efforts in other countries make it worth trying yet again. Again with this: cutting red tape - not keeping records; reduce poverty - if that amount of money is added to what they earn. It's not enough to live on; and boost employment - by pushing people into low-paid work to keep their heads above water. I can see these schemes having the opposite effect but the decrease in people registered unemployed with no doubt play well with the Right. That these schemes are being trialed elsewhere indicates a desire on the part of the powers-that-be to be seen to do something. That people are jumping on board without asking more questions indicates the triumph of ideology over maths.

Other stuff...

Surveillance reared its ugly head, as did EU interference in Microsoft's feud with Google.  The last three posts of the month were about reputation; how it influences laws, how it influences our choices, and how our online activities affect our reputations.


May was the month of ideological enforcement. It was dominated by the Google V Oracle fight over whether or not you can copyright an API. tl:dr; the courts in America have been punting it back and forth before it was kicked off the pitch. The Oracle argument goes, "It's our property!" The argument nobody seemed to be making was that it was open-sourced and Oracle seemed to be wanting to revoke that status. Also on the IPR front, kiddie-fiddler-finder Robin Sax joined forces with a maximalist copyright group and wrote an op-ed lecturing people for sharing on Psychology Today. It was a muddled message in the wrong outlet and we all ganged up to hammer her for it. Finally, the left/right dichotomy got a smacking on two fronts: I bashed the whole "boogeyman" thing followed by a swipe at a former Glorious Leader, Tony Blair. I can't help wondering where Bliar fanbois stand on Trump. Shoulder to shoulder, I imagine.


June was nuts; I wrote fifteen posts. The first one celebrated Google V Oracle's win for us for now. The case is ongoing in another court.

Freedom of speech V privacy

The Peter Thiel-funded case of Hulk Hogan V Gawker got us all asking about privacy, where the limits of free speech and whether or not celebrity shenanigans are public property or not.

Violence and the Patriarchy

Although I'm conservative I've never been a fan of the Patriarchy, given that it seems to have given up on its responsibility to society and its current iteration as a violent staggering drunk with its willy hanging out of its fly. I submit the Orlando shootings, the Jo Cox murder, and the Brock Turner case as examples to back up my assertions.

...and the will of the people must be respected

Brexit happened. And what a dog's dinner that was! While many people have dismissed it as the rantings of racists who believe that w*** begin at Calais, I've noticed that the people are sick of being written off as "not economically viable" by Our Glorious Leaders. This is actually *why* they voted out. And it's why Labour membership is growing and support for Jeremy  Corbyn is increasing. The parliamentary party tried to vote him out of office and fell on their faces. This is because we actually need the welfare state, a fact underlined by a visit with my family to the Manchester Police museum. Want to know what life was like pre-Welfare State? Visit the Museum. They're open on Tuesdays.


The month of July was dominated by Brexit and the democratic process in general.

Authoritarians V the will of the people

I identified austerity as the main driver of Brexit. The rationale behind calling it got a thorough going-over but I predicted we would walk it back. That whole thing of not voting as we're told was thoroughly investigated; I came to the conclusion that those who would rule us are unwilling to take responsibility for us. The powers that be weren't exactly thrilled about us not voting as we're told, of course. All of this led to the situation in which inept Home Secretary Theresa May is now flailing, secretive Prime Minister, Bennite throwback Jeremy Corbyn is still the leader of the divided Labour Party, and Donald Trump is the leader of the (ironically named) free world.


My one post was about how Donald Trump was apparently about to crash and burn. He didn't.


Brexit was supposedly unravelling. It only hasn't unravelled because the right-wing press didn't get the memo. Anarchy, the ideology behind Brexit on many levels, got a bashing AND a pat on the shoulder; we need it at our side, not front and centre. I also took issue with the idea that we're the helpless victims of social media moguls. We're not, we're just too lazy to think before we post. Finally, I gleefully noted that prominent Republicans were turning on Trump, not that it made the blindest bit of difference.


Trump, Brexit, and TTIP dominated this month. I noted the continuing tendency to dismiss and ignore bad news about Trump as a threat to the democratic process. The fallout continues: should thick biased people be allowed to vote and should their decisions be allowed to stand? I've said yes but... don't get me started on authoritarianism, paternalism, or any of the other things that annoy me.


Britain's Brexit strategy, in practice, seems to be "Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty doesn't apply to us." I'm not even joking, every time I've argued with a Brexiteer, it turns out they've not even looked at EU law and considered the impact of leaving the EU. Result: ignorance and wishful thinking. They've given no thought at all to how the likes of CETA will affect us.


November brought us the surprise announcement that the Pirate Party might be able to take part in governing a sovereign nation, Iceland, for the first time ever. They blew it but they still have a chance to make a difference. The next thing that caught my attention was Trump's surprise win.

Conservatism in the US under Trump

Conservatism is supposed to be about maintaining the status quo, promoting and maintaining traditional values, and patriotism. The alt-right have moved front and centre and have therefore kicked over traditional notions of conservatism, and many conservatives have gone along with this in the hope of finally winning the culture wars. While I'm not personally invested in America's culture wars, I can and do understand where the fault lines are and continue to refuse to take sides.


Icelandic politics dominated the month: could Pirates form and run the government of a sovereign nation? Yes, if they stopped being anarchists and took responsibility for running the administration of a democracy. Hah! Like that'd happen.

Red Scare politics returns to America

Well this is a switch, as they say in America: it's actually the liberal progressives who are pushing the line that the Russians put Trump in the White House. Actually, that'd be the FBI. Shh... they actually believe this. Expect mad Russians-done-stole-de-election stories to proliferate as the liberals go nuts for the next few years. Sadly, due to echo chamber politics only other liberals will believe them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Finally, spoiled my Christmas gift-giving to my family in Ireland by not delivering till 04/01/2017 on the grounds that **** happens.


It's hard to make predictions about "unknown knowns" but I'll have a go...


Well the Red Scare stories already besetting Donald Trump will continue but his die-hard fanbois will continue to defend him to their last breath. The Russian hack stories and the new Russian hookers 'n' blow story will continue to dominate the news. The MI6 agent who broke the story is already being monstered in British tabloid rag The Sun as a "confirmed Socialist." Nonetheless, the story continues to run. Needless to say, the Trumpkins are standing by their Glorious Leader no matter what. I predict that the Trump presidency will last in principle for the full four years but in fact will end with Trump lame-ducking the last two. Trump will be beset by scandal and the press will dutifully report on every aspect, but the Murdoch press will monster anyone who dares to say a word against Trump. I should point out that Murdoch owns much of the world's Anglophile press. If this doesn't worry you, it should. Meanwhile, the list of Democrat politicians not wanting to attend his inauguration is growing.

Man, that tweet is all kind of funny! Expect more of the same. Meanwhile, divisions will deepen and conservatism will become a parody of itself while America turns into a cartoon and slides into international oblivion. This process will take a while but it will be noticeable this year.

Basic income

Experiments in Basic income will continue as governments realise it's a great way of dismantling the welfare state in the name of cutting red tape, jobs, and services. Blow-back and failure will see these programs quietly scrapped within five years.


Our Glorious Leaders were supposed to have walked it back by now. They haven't. Brexit continues apace but expect the process to be slow and messy with a lot of screaming from the Exit crowd.


TPP and TTIP have died but CETA is still a problem. Email your MEP to  make sure it dies, too. MEPs will be voting upon it in February. Be sure to ask them to vote no. If even one FTA with ISDS provisions gets through, we're screwed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, for the love of God, look it up.

Surveillance and the internet

"...and everyone turned over, troubled in their dreams again" - The Walk, by The Cure

Go on, tell me why I'm wrong. Expect to see an increase in stories about why encryption is bay-ad and how mass surveillance is for our own good, followed by stories of how it's being used to catch old ladies feeding the birdies, etc. The surveillance state apparatus will be used to abuse us and there will be resistance but I'm not massively excited about the whole thing being kicked over. Neoliberalism would have to go first; good luck with that.


The trend to maximalise the treatment of ideas as property will increase as people continue to seek new ways of creating virtual property to seek rent on. Expect a slew of stories about this on Techdirt.

Freedom of speech

Expect the debate on freedom of speech to intensify: the British press is under threat of being made to pay for both sides' costs if someone sues them for libel whether they win or lose unless they sign up to an official regulator. I'll be keeping an eye on this but "approved news" is not news, whether we approve of it or not. Expect more stories of people being locked up or otherwise punished for stating unapproved opinions in the name of sparing other people's feelings. The backlash will come, but I've no idea when. The powder keg isn't ready to blow yet.

That's all for now, I've not got the heart to continue. Lefties are stuck in the past, right wingers believe we are worth what the market says we are worth and liberals are intent on convincing us to accept weirdness as normal. Expect the madness to continue. Now tell me again why I ought to be more optimistic.

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