Sickness was spreading in the country of the Blue Crown.

According to The Tradition, each among the people pledged themselves as either a Donkey or an Elephant. The Donkeys and the Elephants took up their pennants and insignias and called to their leaders.

But the political machinery had been designed to ensure an ongoing stalemate. Day after day, the Blue Crown flag flew at half mast over the Capitol, as even the most elite Donkeys and Elephants began to experience the sickness.

The Blue Crown project brings together M and Z, longtime members of the Oldwave Consortium. Lowfi Appalachian synths blend with environmental sounds and archival recordings that tell the story of a world not too different from our own.


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Credit: Pexels

As a progressive who works in digital marketing, I often wonder how those who spend time on social media in the name of progressive principles (universal healthcare, getting big money out of politics, stopping endless wars, paying a fair wage, affordable housing, etc.) reach average social media users — and what that means for those who don’t have the time and luxury to spend their days on those platforms.

While I understand what social media can do for companies that can afford to invest in reaching a wider audience, it’s also clear that platforms designed to addict users and serve the highest bidder won’t save us from tyranny. In fact, their executives are likely to partner with anyone in a position of power, as that inevitably prolongs the wide use of their products, which brings Big Tech’s big shots that much closer to moving up corporate and government ladders, colonizing space, achieving immortality, and whatever else is on the preoccupied minds of the U.S. …


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Credit: Pexels

What is cancel culture? A number of politicians, journalists, authors, and pundits have passionate opinions about it, but I’ve yet to see a precise description of the phenomenon. As far as I can tell, those concerned with “cancel culture” generally describe it as mob mentality through which groups of people (social media users, bureaucrats, students, professors, etc.) exclude and shame individuals who hold opinions that are contrary to certain standards or beliefs.

Cancel culture critics naturally get to define the thing they so adamantly oppose (usually through their own established platforms). An opinion columnist for The New York Times describes it as an “intellectual exclusion and segregation,” on par with the exclusion of “working-class voices from mainstream media.” An award-winning author and investigative journalist equates cancel culture to “an endless, crotch-sniffing enthusiasm for hunting skeletons in closets” and “a love of snitching and decency committees.” In a much discussed letter, public figures warn against this “new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.” …


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I know what you are thinking: “Yet another article on social media where some dude is going to yap about polarization and algorithms, and what it all means for the state of our democracy.” I don’t think the problem is that complicated.

The way I see it, many of us are addicted to communication “platforms” that are designed to addict us into using them as much as possible. And like any addiction, this one is difficult to admit for a variety of reasons, though it’s no secret by now that social media companies intentionally manipulate our brain chemistry.

“If we open an app every day, developers are satisfied. On social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the more time we spend on the platform, the more advertising revenue flows into the pockets of tech companies — attention is currency,” says app developer Peter Mezyk, who describes Facebook and Instagram as “painkiller apps” that revolve around “negative emotions such as loneliness or boredom.” …


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I remember when Facebook descended into my life. All of my friends were ditching MySpace, the largest social networking site back then, and flocking to the book of faces, drunken affairs, relationship statuses, psychological experiments, and your friends from elementary school. I didn’t think much of Mr. Zuckerberg’s project, beyond it being the new popular website in a long line of websites that would hopefully expand the potential of “social media” and serve us, the public, rather than special interests.

These days, however, I try to avoid social media as much as possible (for someone who works in digital marketing). When I do browse the feeds, I use a bunch of browser add-ons to get rid of the ads, videos, endless scrolling, trends, artificially amplified accounts, and other content that is seeking my “engagement” through manipulative design. …


“Never Trumpers” and centrists unite against Bernie Sanders.

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They want the best for you.

Last year, I wrote about the efforts of the liberal class in the U.S. to smear Bernie Sanders and the grassroots movement behind him. Now that Pete, Amy, Mike, and other political cosplayers have exited the presidential elections — and solidified their support behind Joe Biden — it’s worth analyzing the marketing funnels that were deployed to influence the public into supporting “Uncle Joe.”

How do you tell millions of people to support your candidacy and then suddenly drop out to endorse a politician in decline (not to mention a self-described “gaffe machine”), who has antagonized young people, supported wars, and betrayed the working class for most of his career? …


Two ways to influence public opinion. Will they work in 2020?

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Super Tuesday is only a few days away and Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, bankrolled by Mr. Bloomberg himself, has already spent over $500 million on media ad buys. “At a time when candidates are shifting their ad spend to digital, Bloomberg has spent $409 million — 77% of his total outlay — on broadcast and cable TV ads,” Scott Nover recently wrote in Ad Week.

For comparison, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each spent $769M and $409M respectively over the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential race, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

By all indications Mr. Bloomberg, the business tycoon and former mayor of New York City who is worth $64 billion, will shatter political records through his campaign’s unparalleled ad spending. But would that be enough to derail Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic front-runner, and beat Trump? …


Could thinkspot be the next big thing, or is it just grifting with extra steps?

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Hold on to your thumbs, feed scrollers! Since current social media monopolizers are unable to provide a platform that doesn’t leak or sell our private photos and messages to teenage hackers and data vendors, there are new, edgy, next level digital communication platforms coming our way!

But before I analyze the Jordan Peterson-backed “thinkspot” (currently in beta testing), I have to acknowledge how podcasts and digital networks have transformed modern communication — enabling popular commentators to reach millions of people and to even create their own platforms, but also proliferating structural problems that erode media literacy and spread disinformation. (Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Mr. …


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Credit: Pawel Kuczynski

Social media companies are in the news again. One might even say that they’ve become the news — their executives and mysterious algorithms choose what search results billions of us see first, what videos and articles we watch next, and whose accounts get to be legitimized and projected to the public. Social media’s “recommended content” is a trap which puts our collective and individual attention at the mercy of the marketplace.

Gone are the days when Facebook/Instagram, Google/YouTube, Twitter and other early social media colonizers were presented as a leveled playing field for good ideas. The veneer that made us obsess over our Facebook “timelines” or believe that Twitter can amplify grassroots movements has vanished to reveal what those companies actually do, which is getting paid to disseminate highly targeted propaganda to billions of people, while using our personal data to improve targeting — a vicious cycle that propagates the inequality and corruption present in corporate media. These days, social media feeds are filled with blue-checked establishment figures whose networks, influence, and ballooning ad budgets help promote the same talking points one would see on TV, but in fewer characters and with even lesser accountability. …


The role of ‘internal communications’ in undemocratic workplaces

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If you’ve ever been employed, chances are you’ve dealt with issues concerning ‘internal communications.’ While it describes the ways in which information is shared among participants in an organization, the phrase is often used in the context of communication breakdown between those at the top and the rest; for example, when a sizable number of workers express their frustration with the decision-making process in their workplace. …

About

Zhivko Illeieff

Writer & media maker. Founder of progressivespeaker.com. Essays on tech, media, politics, and propaganda. Bulgarian American. Follow my work at themeltage.com.

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