Dirk Knemeyer

Power, Transparency, & Truth

Power, Transparency, & Truth, November 18, 2016

No, we’re not interested in total transparency because we have created these myths and legends around reality that simply aren’t true. The fact is the human fight for power at scale is ugly. It’s ugly. If you are trying to be the leader of a nation, of hundreds of millions of people, that is not going to be a fair fight. It wasn’t in 1790’s when the first U.S. presidents were being elected, and it isn’t today at the much larger scale. The people in power want to keep power. The people going for the power will do whatever they can to get the power. From a more primitive viewpoint, I would take the position of saying, “They should,” right? I mean, the stakes are high. If you’re the president of the United States you can do a lot. A lot to the world, a lot to your personal and family’s financial position, a lot to forwarding the beliefs that you have. Look, I mean we can’t … I don’t know that we can culturally approve dirty dealings, and fighting, and so forth.

Those things are going to happen. Unless the transparency is so bright that there’s no dark corners in which we can plot, and scheme, and do underhanded things. I take for granted the democratic national apparatus is trying to knock out Bernie Sanders, the outside upstart as they change the system and help Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider. To carry on with the propaganda messages from the campaign. Don’t kid yourself, I mean Republicans are doing the exact same thing, the exact same thing. Different people, different agendas, different power sources, but everybody’s doing it. It’s sort of ridiculous when either party, from my perspective, is exposed and call out on it that we have this sort of Victorian moral shock about what’s going. Of course it’s going on. If you think Bernie Sander’s was getting a fair shake, you don’t understand how the world works. Point blank. Yeah, going on a little bit different direction with the WikiLeaks stuff, the people, liberals, we’re aghast that the Russian government would influence U.S. elections. “Oh my God, Trump is in Cahoots with the Russians.” Shock … first of all, do I think Trump is in cahoots with the Russians? I don’t. Is it possible? I guess, but I don’t think so. What is possible is that major nations influence the internal workings of other major nations all the time.

The U.S. has influenced, and it’s a known fact that the U.S. has influenced elections in a variety of nations. In the Americas, in other places in the world many times in the history of this nation. Again, there’s this shock, “The Russian nation is influencing our …” of course. There’s this whole espionage layer to how major nation states interact with each other, and the Russians are going to be taking advantage of those tools as we do. When, in this case the Democratic party, the supporters of Hillary Clinton, however we want to bucket them, are the victims of it. Again, the Victorian moral outrage goes up.

Come on people, I mean this is the world. This is power at scale, it’s just the way it is.

To me this is not a Facebook issue, it’s an internet issue, right? We do have the New York Times, or any number of editorially curated organizations that have … I don’t even want to say a higher level of credibility because there’s other issues, but some semblance of editorial guidance. The ability to project, we as consumers to project a level of trust that approximates what things used to be like in the print days, in the old media days. Now, they’re still making errors are all over the place, making retractions, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The internet at large, the technologies, whether it be social networking technology, or Wiki technology, or whatever the different online communication technologies are have done a very poor job at editing, at having that layer of authentication. Wikipedia’s a good example of it. Wikipedia is actually quite well edited as these things go. As a relatively heavy Wikipedia user, I’ve found a number of errors. They are generally of the trickster variety, right? A little bit of a tangent, but to frame just how sort of insidious this is. My father was a big fan of boxing, so one of the things he and I would do together was watch some boxing. I was a big fan of the boxer Lennox Lewis, a British guy.

During Lennox’s career there was a fellow he fought named Henry Akinwande, who for a brief time was the number one contender, the next big thing. Then Lennox Lewis beat him, and that ended. For whatever reason I’m jumping around on one of my Wikipedia jumps where I’m reading about lots of different things. I end up on Henry Akinwande’s page, and in his little biography there’s a few sentences talking about this key fight he had against some boxer I had never heard of. It just stunk a little, the way it was written. I researched, and there was no boxer of the name that the Wikipedia page Akinwande fought. As I researched more it was some trickster who had just put himself into the narrative of Henry Akinwande. He had this big key fight in the career of this boxer, so I edited it out.

It was up there for a long time before I saw it. I identified it, I edited it. That kind of stuff is all over Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a tremendous, to the point of almost fascist editorial process to keep things clean and keep things out. That’s sort of at the most extreme case of how editing is being handled in sort of the open transparent web.

Companies like Facebook and those sort of technologies have absolutely none of that. If you have a trickster who’s on Facebook, who’s doing things, there’s not people catching it. Additionally, and I think crucially, we have to think about use cases and what people are doing on the web. When people go onto Wikipedia, for the most part people are going there to learn. It’s not a place where you’re rewarded for being a trickster. This guy probably thought it was really funny putting that thing about fighting Akinwande, but it was meaningless in the big picture of things.

However, on Facebook if you can put a fake story out there that forwards a political agenda that you have and it takes off, not only are you having real impact on pervading your political agenda into society, but you’re also getting social reinforcement feedback. You’re getting liked, and up voted, and you’re becoming more important in the culture. That’s not great, and it’s rewarded by Facebook and by the very behaviors. You don’t go on Facebook to learn, I don’t think. It’s a social kind of learning-ish I guess. You’re going on there to connect, to amplify, to blow off steam, to do human emotional things that often can be negative, or not well thought.

The design of Facebook allows those things to take off, and be treated as truth, and build on a lot of social dynamics, even getting into sort of crowd … the sort of thing that leads to riots and that kind of crowd behavior. To me it’s not a Facebook issue … it is a Facebook issue as far as it’s an issue for everyone on the internet who hasn’t solved it well, which is pretty much everyone. I don’t think it’s native to Facebook, it’s just the size of Facebook, and the influence of Facebook allows it to have more of an impact.

How much those things impacted our election, I’m not qualified to answer. I mean maybe we should be upset with Facebook about it, but to treat it like this is some problem that Facebook has created. It’s just kind of Facebook participating in this Zeitgeist of openness, transparency, freedom of information, not oppressing it or holding things that has led to that. That’s an internet problem.

There’s this ideal that “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, of voting for the best person. It’s all bullshit. I mean, at the end of the day in our current system, the way we’re structured now. The democrats can get 40 something percent, the republicans getting 40 something percent. It doesn’t matter if the republican, or the democrat, I don’t think … although I think the criteria are probably different. Let’s use the concrete example we have with Donald Trump. The republican goes out there, says a lot of ridiculous things. Says a lot of things, like if you look at one of the big voting blocks within a Republican party, their conservative right is talking about these very immoral things those people should be horrified by. They’re going in a Republican camp for other reasons regardless of the specifics of that candidate.

Politics, there’s this sheen of truth, idealism … I know I sound really cynical today but I think these things are true. It’s all shit, right? It’s all crap. People are just voting for their thing. Whatever that trigger is. The gun side, the abortion side, whatever it is, the candidate can go out there and be a total zero and they’re going to put their vote in that camp. On the Democratic side, we could I think also come up with very unflattering examples of the candidate. Maybe we could even do it with Hillary Clinton if we step back and thought about it and tried, but who really in some sort of objective humanistic way isn’t a great person, isn’t a great candidate. Same things that shouldn’t be appealing to that base, but at the end of the day they’re going to tick the box, whether it be for one reason or another.

That’s also part of it. On Facebook it’s not about truth, it’s not about, “Oh, I’m trying to learn something, I’m trying to.” It’s, “I have this agenda, I’m slashing away at it.” It’s people with agendas pushing it up, and other people share the agenda. They don’t care if it’s true or not, they’re like, “Ah, Ah, Ah,” you know? Then it takes off. A lot of this, it comes back to human nature and it comes back to really understanding … I think we just need to be more honest about what we are as an animal, as a species, and operating in more honest ways. I think a lot of this is just, it’s just dishonesty.

Truth, nobody cares about truth, people just want it their way. We’re big, spoiled, tantruming children at the end of the day. We try and act like we’re these wise, smart, considerate people but we’re not. I mean we’re checking our box every damn time no matter what, and this election just proves it.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *