A parallel to the Cambridge Analytica scandal
‘The development of powerful new means of communication has coincided, historically, with the extension of democracy and with the attempts, by many kinds of ruling groups, to control and manage democracy.’ These words, written by Raymond Williams back in 1962, referred to the rise of printing in the long sixteenth century, through to newspapers in the nineteenth century, and radio and television in the twentieth century. This point readily applies to the rise of the internet and the technological mediatisation of everyday life. A recent example of this dynamic was captured neatly in the 2018 Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal that showed how degraded ‘democracy’ has become in the early twenty-first century. Indeed, in this article when I refer to democracy I am specifically referring to representative democracy, a form at the shallow, bureaucratic end of the realm of democratic possibility – particularly when contradicted by being nested within the nonnegotiable capitalist system. Nevertheless, an important reflection on this flawed and increasingly endangered system was very concisely captured in the title of a recent book: ‘Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone’.
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