… I was continuing to make my way through Shoshana Zuboff’s great new book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. It’s not an easy book to read, in part because the things Zuboff, a former Harvard Business School professor, talks about can be somewhat arcane, but also because it’s damned depressing. This is a book about how a business model pioneered by Google has come in less than 20 years to dominate everything, with consequences we can scarcely comprehend. I’m not going to get into the book’s weeds here; there are lots of weeds, and I am not sure that Zuboff is going to be able to offer a plausible way out of this mess.
The gist of it is that nearly everything we do and say is monitored by multiple corporations, who are taking that data — usually without our knowledge or permission — and using it to figure out how to sell us things and, more crucially, to guide us toward behaving in particular ways without knowing that we are being manipulated. There is no real way to opt out of the system. It is overwhelming — and Zuboff shows how the tech companies have spent ungodly sums to manipulate politicians and regulators in order to maintain maximum access to the personal data of everyone. (The Obama administration was in Google’s pocket, for example.) Zuboff likens it to the Spanish conquistadores arriving in the New World.
I bring this up in light of Brooks’s column because if you want to talk about the foundations of society being attacked, believe me, we should all worry about Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Silicon Valley on the whole a lot more than we worry about our buffoonish president. What the surveillance capitalists have done, and are doing, matters far more to the future of our democracy and its legitimacy than does Trump.
I find Donald Trump — lying, unstable, barely competent Donald Trump — to be less of a threat than I find the kind of progressive elites who hate him. He has the presidency, which is a powerful thing to have. But they control Silicon Valley. They command the US economy. They control major American institutions, including higher education and the media. And they trust in their own goodness.
Rod Dreher (Emphasis in original)
I continued reading Dreher’s blog entry, despite my initially thinking “not one of his better ones,” because I thought I might have missed something in the David Brooks column he quotes (of which I also thought “not one of his better ones”).
I’m glad I continued because, although I cannot praise his prose or pace, there’s nevertheless some nourishing if un-tasty “food for thought” in it, including a different vantage point from which to ask — yes, even 32 scant hours after release of the Mueller Report — whether Trump might actually be the lesser evil in 2020, both as a matter of self-preservation (as one whose Social Credit Score, as viewed by those who trust in their own goodness, is pretty low) and for the interests of America more generally.
I have had a standing rule not to read anything with the word “Trump” in the headline since mid-2017. I have not kept to it 100% of the time, but I have been pretty compliant. But here’s something I know.
The Trump-Russia collusion story became a national obsession because of two matters of psychic convenience: one, the belief that someone (even a Republican FBI agent cop like Robert Mueller) is going to ride in on a horse and save us; and two, that our problems are the problem of an outside force, some malevolent international entity working evil. Only a child could believe that either of those is true.
No one is coming to save you. This is what the world is now, and this is what the world will be long long after Trump is gone. And more: this is the world we deserve. We are not broken because of Russia, or Donald Trump. We are broken because of the evil this country has done and the evil this country is. You can work to change that. But if you try to hide from it behind the Mueller report you will only fail. Because no one is coming to save you.
The 2016 election had “God’s Judgment” written all over it. 2020 may come packaged the same way. Lesser evils rather than affirmative goods may be all we’ll get to choose. Democrats: This is mostly up to you as a practical matter: can you nominate someone less evil?)\
Anyway, I point you to Dreher’s blog on the chance that you’ll find food for thought as well.
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