miércoles, 19 de abril de 2017

"The Establishment", Owen Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Owen Jones book is focused on the description of what he calls UK´s establishment, "the powerful groups that need to protect their position in democracy" from the control and check-and-balance mechanisms that exits in UK´s democracy. However, the book does not sound as a local book. With other actors and a different importance of each establisment´s subgroup within the power map, the establisment exists in every country. Therefore, some of the pages of the book would sound familiar to you.

To begin with, the composition of the establisment is similar in every country: media groups, think-tanks, rich families who have been rich for centuries, ... with similar abhor for the state and its mechanisms to ensure redistribution of wealth such as taxes. Patterns may sound familiar in some of the practices develop by each country establishment: newspapers that set up the framework in any policy debate according with the limits previously defined, police "trained to treat working people as the enemy within", dependance of the powerful groups on the largesse of the state, government´s lack of accountability, revolving doors between public and private sector, ...

But it is not a rare coincindence that establisment composition and practices are familiar for those who read the book outside UK. As Owen Jones warns, the "ideas of the establishment coincided with the interests of corporate power regardless of national boundaries". Globalisation has help to spread establishment ideology at the same time that the later has been the main tool for expanding the former, creating a virtuous circle that has fuel the worldwide hike of inequality. The author also reflects how it is emerging a global tiredness among the lower classes that is feeding a right-wing populism, that curiously does not defy the establishment power but underpins its force.

However, Owen Jones finalised giving a glimpse of hope. As the establishment footprint is global, it is also global the resistance to it. So it finalised with a call to develop a global movement that defies this free-market consensus with a new consensus based on the general interest and a more fair distribution of wealth.

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miércoles, 5 de abril de 2017

Saving the web

Some weeks ago, Tim Berners-Lee published one of this articles that must be read, several times, infinity times. The founder web enumerates the three trends that are killing the web: the lost of control of personal data, the easiness of spreading misinformation and the lack of transparency of online advertising (note: I have slightly changed the last one. Mr. Berners-Lee only pinpoint to political online advertisig, but as we see later the problem is in any kind of ads).

The three trends enumerated above also compose a virtuous circle. Our personal data helps to design algorithms to disseminate news that are wisely used by those who want to spread misinformation, who funded their activity with online advertising that fuels the business of trading personal data. On one hand, this fact makes the trends stronger, but, on the other hand, makes them easy to fight: Combat one of them with all your strength and you would kill the three

We have tried in vain to fight the loss of control of personal data. Create people  awareness on this issue has proved to be an impossible mission. Services in exchange of data are widely spread because people prefers to pay with this new currency than with actual money. Equally difficult is fighting the spread of misinformation. As the spread of "good" and "bad" information can not be separated, we can not fight against this part of the circle. Fighting the lack of transparency in online advertising is the unique option, but also the wiser option: follow the money is always a good strategy. 

Although Google and Facebook made some vague promises about cutting the flow of advertising to fake-news sites after the US election, it looks that politicians are not going to rest their faith for tackling the issue in self-regulation. Firstly, UK MEPs and Her Majesty Government criticised the lack of transparency of the ad distribution in Google for their customers. Afterwards, EU consumer authorities announces some kind of measures designed to make social media giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook abide by EU consumer laws.

It will take time to assess the effectiveness of this new strategy. Maybe it is the last opportunity to preserve non-commercial side of Internet, its role as a communication tool among humans.
palyginti kainas