What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run A Country? Fascism.
March 17, 2019 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Spoiler, it's Italy; and Nigel Farage and Steve Bannon make an appearance. SLWired This is real-time reporting on using the internet to manufacture consent toward a goal that the participants initially would have rejected by using a beloved Italian comedian and his innocent blog.

“At every step along the way—from the creation of Grillo’s blog [Grillo is the somewhat unwitting comedian] and the organization of the movement’s first mass protests to the construction of its direct-democracy platform, all the way to its recent turn toward nativist politics—Five Star’s course had been meticulously directed by a camera-shy cyber-utopian named Gianroberto Casaleggio, the movement’s cofounder.”
posted by djinn dandy (25 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
That graphic is perfection.
posted by es_de_bah at 10:34 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


This combination of populism (specifically the politics of fear and anger) + sovereignty (especially the anti-immigrant, our nation is sacrosanct) with the hidden infrastructure of manipulation is horrifying.
Casaleggio also extolled the absolute power that masses of people would have over their leaders in the internet era. In a 2001 book entitled The Web Is Dead, Long Live the Web, Casaleggio described how technology would force governments to become completely transparent and accountable to the will of the people. “Referenda on topics of national importance will become as routine as reading the papers or the evening news,” he wrote. “The interactive leader will then be the new politician, someone who continually transforms the wishes of public opinion into reality.
Given that Casaleggio had been experimenting with how to mold and direct consensus for decades, extolling transparency and the will of the people is some real cynical b.s.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:36 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]




I mean, that's some master manipulation to redirect the politics of Five Star to go from the five policies that gave the party its name: sustainable transportation, sustainable development, public water, universal internet access, and environ­mentalism. (Though I should acknowledge there is and has been anti-immigrant, anti-indigenous and anti-black racism in environmentalism)
[In 2018] after just five years in parliament, Five Star had become the largest party in Italy. While her colleagues celebrated, [Five Star MP] Nugnes worried. “I just saw right away that the overall picture was very disquieting,” she says. Right-wing parties—particularly Lega—had performed well too, off the back of a fiercely anti-­immigrant campaign. Nugnes watched uneasily as Five Star tried to form a government, seeming to go against the movement’s original “no alliances” principle. From the start, it was clear that [Five Star leader] Di Maio —who had criticized the previous, centrist government for presiding over a corrupt, NGO-run “sea taxi” service for migrants to Italy—favored a deal with Lega.... After nearly 90 days of talks, Five Star and Lega came to an agreement; Di Maio and Salvini would share power as deputy prime ministers. When the agreement went up for a vote before Five Star’s members via Rousseau, an astounding 94 percent approved the deal.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:42 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


To the extent that Five Star did have a political platform, it vaguely resembled that of a Green Party. ... Nugnes was particularly attracted to the movement’s more recent flagship policy, a universal basic income that proposed a monthly stipend of 780 euros (a bit less than $900) for Italy’s poorest citizens. In short: While the movement had always included people across the political spectrum, it was easily taken for a progressive popular front.

But if Nugnes and Fattori were shocked to become elected members of government, the next few years would be even more vertiginous. As the movement’s fledgling nonpoliticians found their feet in Parliament, they realized that dealing with other parties was unavoidable. At times, in opposing the Democratic Party–led government, Five Star found itself siding with another faction defined by antiestablishment roots—a right-wing populist party called Lega, or the League. Lega’s nativist leader, Matteo Salvini, had long campaigned on an “Italians first” platform. He has said that his country needs a “mass cleansing” of illegal immigrants, “street by street, district by district, piazza by piazza.”

When Italy’s 2018 national elections came around, Five Star—whose emphasis on popular sovereignty had, at times, come to sound sympatico with anti-EU, anti-immigrant sentiment—won so many seats that it became the largest party in Italy. This time, the movement didn’t shy from stepping up to run the country. And it chose to do so in partnership with Salvini’s Lega.
2013 to 2018. Took only five years.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:43 AM on March 17 [9 favorites]


The article makes it pretty clear that the “Five Star” flagship policies were only ever window dressing to the anti-establishment animus. Most people weren’t showing up for the policy proposals, because most people never bother to concern themselves with policies. They show up to what feels good.

You don’t need “master manipulation” for that, really. The regular, obvious kind will do.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:46 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]


The article makes it pretty clear that the “Five Star” flagship policies were only ever window dressing to the anti-establishment animus.

Populist movements without a strong core value of anti-racism always seem to head this direction, yeah.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:56 AM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I think a politics of negation, being against the status quo rather than advocating a specific route forward, is going to always lack a center, leaving it to be filled by whatever detritus is lying around — usually nationalism and racism.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:02 AM on March 17 [32 favorites]


Good article. The selling of naive, partial social visions requires a movement to focus and unify through personality cults, sometimes enlisting those on hand that already exist (Trump, Inc). In the end, they typically view all voters or citizens as a single interest bloc and measure their loyalty, rewarding and punishing it accordingly.
posted by Brian B. at 11:04 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


WHat Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run A Country? Facism.

And rascism.
posted by Segundus at 11:05 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]


Yet somehow, never a techno national anthem.
posted by biffa at 11:43 AM on March 17 [28 favorites]


As ever, these days, there is a song by The Coup that feels apposite to me as we stumble through yet another Warren Ellis plotline made flesh: You Are Not A Riot (An RSVP from David Siqueiros to Andy Warhol).
posted by howfar at 12:13 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


In 1967 he published "Superstoe," about a cabal of intellectuals -- school teachers from North Dakota -- who take over the American Government by essentially constitutional means, although they do engineer a timely epidemic and a few discreet homicides. The object is to create a "pure democracy" guided by logic and led by philosopher kings.

At the head of this democracy is Paxton S. Superstoe, "a combination of jolly Zen master and benevolent dictator, with a ruthless streak." At its heart is a technopopulist notion, the National Referendum Communications and Voting System, in which citizens listen to televised debates, then vote through computer hookups. The object is the eventual abolition of Congress so the people can make Government policy.
Link

William Borden in his book Superstoe imagined a true democracy where everyone voted on everything on computerized voting machines located in bars. The apathy of the voters undermined the system. This was written in 1967. I think the moral of the story is that Power trumps Policy. No matter what your policies might be, once in power everything is compromised to stay in power.
posted by njohnson23 at 12:23 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


That article reads like an Adam Curtis documentary unfolding in real time.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 12:52 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


what an interesting story
posted by growabrain at 1:57 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I love how the men behind the scenes used comment spam to force a "direct democracy" system to the One True Answer for each issue they wanted to address. Goebbels would be proud.
posted by monotreme at 3:08 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


The article makes it pretty clear that the “Five Star” flagship policies were only ever window dressing to the anti-establishment animus.

Populist movements without a strong core value of anti-racism always seem to head this direction, yeah.


Someone should really translate Wu Ming Foundation's lucidly prescient (2012) analysis of where M5S's "neither right nor left" shtick was coming from/heading to...: Appunti diseguali sulla frase «Né destra, né sinistra». (Here's their article from a year later: The Five Star Movement is not radical – Beppe Grillo is one of them, not us.)
posted by progosk at 3:50 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Oh, and, what the article doesn't tell you: M5S's illusion that its 32% share of the national vote would mean they'd have the lead, or even just parity (one vice-premier each) in their governing pact with Lega (who took 17%), was sourly shattered during the latest rounds of regional elections and the most recent national polls, which show that those percentages have basically been reversed between the two bedfellows: Lega at 32%, and M5S at barely above 20%. It's all Salvini, all the time, now...
posted by progosk at 4:15 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


"neither right nor left"

I can't now find the original post where he said this, and it may not have been original to him, but Adam Kotsko of Neoliberalism's Demons fame long ago, I think in the context of Radical Orthodoxy, that whenever something is claimed to be neither right nor left, or to be beyond right and left, or something like that, it always, in the end, turns out to be … the right.
posted by kenko at 5:29 PM on March 17 [10 favorites]


Hey admins, either stop deleting my comments or return my $5
posted by cmastro at 6:18 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: either stop deleting my comments or return my $5


My $5 paid for moderated comments. Sometimes I'm the one that gets my comments moderated out. Part of the price I paid to get a turn-of-the-millenium world wide web experience.
posted by otherchaz at 6:25 PM on March 17 [40 favorites]


Hey admins, either stop deleting my comments or return my $5

Sure, I paypalled you five bucks. Don't sign up again.
posted by cortex at 6:28 PM on March 17 [108 favorites]


THIS IS DICTATORSHIP!!!!11
posted by Meatbomb at 9:06 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Who really composes Trump's incessant tweets? Is there a hidden Casaleggio beneath his Grillo? Or is it really Trumps all the way down?
posted by otherchaz at 3:32 AM on March 18


imagined a true democracy where everyone voted on everything on computerized voting machines located in bars. The apathy of the voters undermined the system.

Back when I was young and more naive, my "techbro true democracy with direct computer voting" plans for changing the world also did this by allowing citizens to vote on all government activities at the municipal/regional/provincial(state)/federal level - but...

"My special, unique solution was..." Your votes are tied to your taxes. Vote more, pay less taxes - spend every minute of the day voting on every issue available to you, and effectively pay 0 taxes - because you are effectively working for the government full-time.

Possibly more cost effective, provided the electorate is educated - and the voting system is trustworthy. (Neither of which I believe is possible or probable anymore)

Who knows? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by jkaczor at 6:30 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


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