A perfect storm

Screenshot 2019-12-13 15.18.37

It’s Friday 13th December, a dark day, literally and metaphorically. This is an attempt to account for what just happened, and also to give evidence for my belief that the UK democratic system is vulnerable to corruption, has already been corrupted and that a key lever for change is electoral reform (along with climate action). I am trying to avoid blame, while I believe that particular powerful people should be held accountable for electoral fraud, crimes against human rights and international peace.


The background context globally:

  • The Climate & Ecological Emergency is now reaching tipping points, e.g. Greenland glaciers are melting 7 times faster than predicted and the Arctic permafrost is emitting 600 million tonnes more CO2 than its plants can absorb. Meanwhile emissions continue to rise, ecocidal industries are getting the upper hand and some governments allow them to deforest, drill and destroy.
  • Worsening planetary conditions are leading to potentially increased regulation on exploiting, extracting & polluting, which scares those who know they are responsible for the emergency but who want to continue to profit from it. I call them ‘pollutocrats’ (‘polluter’ + ‘kleptocrat’) but it’s too mild a word for them. See Molly Scott Cato’s Bad Boys of Brexit
  • The absence of an International Law against Ecocide, and the fragility and slow pace of the international climate action process, make it possible for them to continue harm. (And in turn the absence of such a law and the fragility of the process are because of their influence.)
  • The resurgence of racism, for example expressed in the Great Replacement Theory, is fuelled by deliberate stoking of fear of migrants, including refugees from climate impacts and oil/resource wars (for which pollutocrats are responsible). This fear was deliberately used in Leave campaigns and this election, engendering feelings that EU migrants were draining the nation’s resources and threatening British identity, while concealing statistics that showed net benefits of migration.
  • Campaigners for social & environmental justice & truth are totally ‘outgunned’ by the billions of dollars that pollutocrats can spend on computational propaganda, think tanks, cultural sponsorship, buying newspapers, lobbying politicians etc. This money is ‘dark money’ i.e. it is funnelled and laundered to get through loopholes, to look benign.
  • Enough time has now elapsed for Trump to have settled in, to have obscured (by both denying and brazening out) all his immoralities and misdemeanours, such as his links with Putin. Trump and our Tory Government collaborated to obscure the threats to our NHS in a UK/US trade deal.

Screenshot 2019-12-14 06.08.25

The background context in the UK:

  • The UK identity – for older generations – was forged through colonialism and the notion of British exceptionalism. This is a deep-rooted story that Tory/Pollutocrat messaging could tap.
  • Extreme inequality in the UK and the impacts of austerity and job losses have reduced too many people’s health, security & optimism, making the population easy to manipulate. (Every single voter, whether for Leave or Remain, Left or Right, is deserving of respect and care. My disrespect is for the processes by which we are informed and make our votes, and for those who have further corrupted those processes.)
  • UK taxation & property laws are favourable to pollutocrats and financial industries, and the Tory tax plan will benefit the richest.
  • The UK press is dominated by right-wing billionaires, and fills its pages with advocating for pollutocratic interests and playing on the cares of ordinary people.
  • The lack of a written constitution allows politicians to choose any principle to justify their arguments and to use law to underpin their adaptations & interpretations.
  • The lack of regulation of political advertising on social media, especially on Facebook, allows for the rise of data manipulation, timely targeted ads and fake messages.
  • The ‘dark money’ of pollutocrat funding is particularly opaque in the UK, for example, with UK think tanks and political parties less transparent about funding sources than some other countries.
  • There is a lack of independence in the public broadcast media, especially the BBC – with revolving doors between BBC management and Tory thinktanks and advisory roles.
  • Media use of vox pops and selected audience panels reinforces perceptions about what people believe, and therefore about what is true, inevitable or in their best interests. Psychology tells us that people are driven to forge identity with the beliefs and values of others they see or hear, and the media has favoured vox pop representation of conservative, white and English identities.
  • There is a lack of citizenship education, through our civic institutions or in our media and popular culture (although it is stronger in Scotland). Older generations have been inculcated with nationalism (royalty, empire, the heroes of WW2) and younger generations have learned that being a consumer and celebrity is more important than being a citizen.
  • There is a diminished idea of what good democracy is in the UK: we should see it as deliberation by well-informed citizens to solve systemic problems. Instead, we are led to believe that it is all about being represented by charismatic leaders who can bring us certainty, who we vote for in ‘winner takes all’ elections.
  • There is a lack of information literacy and digital literacy, particularly amongst older generations in UK. For example, 40% can’t distinguish a Google ad from a search result.
  • There is naivety in UK culture about the power of propaganda, assuming that it’s only a tool of totalitarian regimes. The UK media obsesses about the negative aspects of social media (e.g. screen time for children) while ignoring ‘computational propaganda’, where it comes from, how it’s being used and how effective it is. Media reflects popular opinion as if it’s purely arisen from experience and not from a complex ecosystem of messages and rapidly transmitted social memes. Meanwhile those who know that propaganda works, use it to the full. Perhaps the most persistent and effective was painting Corbyn as an anti-semitic communist. (The pollutocrats are just now doing the same to Bernie Sanders in the US, whose Jewish parents died in the Holocaust.)
  • The Brexit referendum was found to be illegal, won on voter fraud & data manipulation with unaccountable funding. It was by no means a supermajority and was only advisory, yet both major parties insisted that the result should be respected. A poll of polls shows that throughout 2019, the UK population has preferred to Remain in the EU. Every independent analysis shows that the UK will be worse off under every Brexit scenario.

The context of UK General Elections:

Screenshot 2019-12-13 15.37.19

Image: Make Votes Matter

  • First Past the Post means that the number of votes do not represent the number of seats. People cannot vote for particular policies, and policies get designed for target swing seats. In many areas, the majority of people will not have voted for their MP. Smaller parties (especially without a geographical or nationalist base) do not get fair representation as they are considered a ‘wasted vote’. In turn, people do not vote for the smaller parties that represent them. In turn, those parties get less coverage, and so on. The diagram above does not reflect the potential support for smaller parties that would evolve in a PR system. Under FPTP, politics becomes more polarised and tribal, and the fight is more aggressive.
  • The Green Party has been one of the most popular in surveys where people vote for policies alone. That this support is reflected in the election of one MP is a clear indication of the problem with this system.

Example result from 2015

  • Most countries in the world use Proportional Representation instead. The UK is comparatively vulnerable to take-over by pollutocrats who realise quite how easy it is to game the system.
  • Tactical voting and electoral pacts (where candidates stand down) reducing voters’ choices, would not happen with PR.

This particular election:

  • Tories have won a huge majority on a minority of the vote, due to PR and the particular conditions of this election. Over a third of people did not vote for the party or policies they wanted, so desperate were they to prevent a Tory win.
  • This was a Brexit election: the election only took place to validate the result of the corrupt Referendum. It was a proxy referendum, proving the public’s supposed desire for Brexit (even though 53% voted for Remain/People’s Vote parties). However, knowing that the public are fed up with Brexit talk, both main parties diminished its importance, so that (variously, depending on party & voter type) people were told:
Brexit is inevitable so let’s not think about it;
Brexit isn’t what really matters in your life;
Brexit will be done easily;
Brexit is what you wanted so we’re giving it to you.

Tories did talk vaguely about how, beyond Brexit, great investment would flow in, but without evidence. There are no evidenced benefits of Brexit per se, only a benefit of getting it out of the way, even though getting it out of the way is a myth.  Being a ‘Brexit election’ exacerbated the already underlying vulnerability of the UK election system. It created the conditions for a perfect storm.

  • Tory campaign tactics: Tories have focused on traditional Labour seats where Labour didn’t expect to make an effort, and have invested lots of their dodgily-gained funding in algorithmic advertising and flesh-pressing in those heartlands, making out that they care about public services and ending poverty.
  • We were not well-informed citizens going into this election: for example, a fully cleared report on Russian interference in the Referendum was suppressed by Government until after the election (and meanwhile Russian donors have given £3.5 million to the Tories). There has been no proper economic assessment of Brexit scenarios. Fact-checking found that 88% of the Tories’ election ads included incorrect claims compared to 0% for Labour. If democracy requires citizens to be well-informed, this was democracy well and truly corrupted.

I want to end on a note of hope, but I’m a bit tired. Here though, is something you can do. You can support the campaign for electoral reform. Here’s a great song & video from Plan B to share. Here’s a petition to sign and share.

Here’s a fightback piece by George Monbiot.

And here’s a candle in the dark (from an artwork by Nam June Paik)

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