Digital culture

New threats from online abuse

Online abuse of women is widespread in the UK, with one in five women having suffered online abuse or harassment, according to research from Amnesty International. Almost half of women said the abuse or harassment they received was sexist or misogynistic, with a worrying 27% saying it threatened sexual or physical assault. And it affects the left more now. With physical distancing measures and continuing lockdown, much of political activity has moved online. Zoom meetings have become the new normal, with forgetting to unmute and poor connection now routine in our political discussions. Worse...

Activists need better tools than Facebook

When tens of thousands of people in Belarus decided to protest in the streets, they first of all needed a way to communicate with each other. With internet being widely available, they chose to use the Telegram messaging app. Telegram is not nearly as well known in Britain, where Skype (owned by Microsoft), Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (both owned by Facebook) are more popular. But it should be – especially by those of us on the Left. Telegram was set up in Russia in 2013 by Pavel and Nikolai Durov, tech millionaires who originally created the social network Vkontakte, which...

The AWL, elections and controversies

Over the next two weeks the left wing Labour group Momentum is holding internal elections in which we are participating and we have already seen agitation focused on damaging candidates who are supporters of the AWL and other candidates with whom we have worked. What's going on? Over the last three to four years, since the Labour Party became a hotbed of factional in-fighting, individuals and small groups of Labour Party members have from intermittently organised social media campaigns of lies and distortions against the AWL. This agitation always coincides with Labour or left elections in...

The future and robots

Fuelled by rapid developments in technological innovation hyped in recent years, although mostly developed over the last two decades, many cerebral types suggest we may be at the start of some significant changes in capitalist production. They even gave it a grandiose name: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Socialists, Marxists, progressives have a history of taking technology and advocating its use for more than just the most efficient exploitation. Perhaps however, the pace of innovation is making this harder. The techy elite, a traditionally well-meaning liberal bunch, and the...

The world of online hate

In 2013, the Australian journalist Ginger Gorman became the subject of an online hate campaign. In 2010, she had interviewed two gay men, seemingly an ordinary couple, about their adoption of a young boy. Three years later the men were convicted of child sexual exploitation; they had been involved in an international paedophile network. Naturally Gorman was mortified that she had, however inadvertently, given these men a platform. But a few days after the conviction Gorman began to be inundated by tweets from ″conservatives″ saying she was a paedophile collaborator, and, equally horrifying to...

A new humanist politics?

Paul Mason’s latest book, Clear Bright Future, is written as a defence of humanism and human-centred politics, against the resurgent threat of the far-right, from Trump to Bolsonaro, Le Pen to Salvini. The title is a reference to Leon Trotsky’s testament. Mason entreats us to fight “all evil, oppression, and violence”, and shares Trotsky’s optimism for the future. Mason draws a convincing link from the financial crash in 2007-08 to Trump’s election. Mason emphasises how the monopolisation of information (think Google and Facebook) has led to systems outside our control, for example, of online...

When left-wingers say: “be normal!”

This is an article about the “autistic screeching” image posted on Twitter. It is not an article about how the image is “offensive”. That wouldn’t need an article. It’s pretty much self-evident to anyone who considers the feelings of others. The problem here is not so much the image as the politics behind it — a political outlook that sees autistic people and others as fair game for mockery, that lionises a stereotypical “normal” and weaponises it against people who dissent or diverge. That’s what this article is about. It’s an appeal to take this shit seriously and to oppose it. This image...

Reading or stagnating?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis When I was a young child, I learned an appreciation for the written word through both of my parents reading aloud to me and through listening to audiobooks on long car trips. Somewhere during the dreaded forced reading during my secondary and tertiary schooling, I lost my fascination with reading. Then, over time, with that lack, I noticed other things were lacking. There are so many reasons to read: to inform, to amuse, to connect, to understand, to critique, and so on. Reading is a fantastic way to...

Capital rules by exploitation not by nudging

A review of Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power (Profile Books, 2019) In 2014, a new toy hit the shops, My Friend Cayla. This doll was unlike other dolls: responding to its playmate’s voice; programmable with the names of family and pets; and, through its Bluetooth internet connection, giving spoken responses to questions. But Cayla had its own agenda: collecting data from the child's speech for targeted advertisements including product placement in its speech. The spy-doll was banned in Germany, but “the smartest friend...

Letters

Mike Zubrowski's letter in the last issue of Solidarity makes a strong case for the importance of reading long texts. I agree with the main thrust of what Mike writes, and would agree with it as a critique of my article if I had actually argued what he claims that I did. But I didn't. My article argued that "We can not just rely on a text-heavy newspaper any more." I did not write that reading long texts is not important, nor that other media could replace newspapers. Mike partly acknowledges this by stating that my article 'implied' these things rather than claiming that it actually argued...

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