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The American Spring: How Facebook and the NRA Broke America

Nigel Morris-Co...

It's the American dream: little lonely kid with only a handful of people who appear to like him talks with one or two of them and they come up with a geeky idea : let's put our college yearbook (a curiously American thing) into a database and let everyone in it tell everyone in it what they are doing, and let them read what everyone else is doing. Then, as the others, one by one, find out that the reason he's the little lonely kid is that he's a sociopathic egotistical self-absorbed autocrat, he ends up alone and somehow sitting on something that generates thousands of millions of dollars in share value. Then someone spills the saucer full of secrets and Americans are shocked out of their stupor and they don't like it.

What is not going on (at least not yet) is the hijacking of social awareness by trendy lefty groups, the so-called liberals. For what is in fact happening, although many Americans won't want to hear it in these terms, is the beginning of a fight-back against so-called liberalism. But, and many Americans won't want to hear this either, it's the beginning of a fight-back against right-wing politics. No, what is most surprising about the American Spring is this: it is the resurgence of the centre, the previously silent majority, those who are often derided as "populist" who, in a largely two party state, have been forced to adopt a polarised view of their world in which the only constant, regardless of red or blue hue, has been "leave big business alone."

Most of those young now protesting are barely old enough to have been aware of a pre-financial crisis world. They read about Alan Greenspan in history books. Bernie Madoff is a footnote that they vaguely remember coming up on a ticker at the bottom of the screen while they were watching Sesame Street. These are the children of a cult-generation, where a Khardasian becomes a multi-millionaire for little more than having a bit arse, where the gods of business - like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg - aped a previous generation of techies like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and all the promoters of Vapourware, of which there were many - in deciding that their companies could do as they liked until authority stopped them. And, as we know, that almost never happened then and it almost never happens now.

It's ironic that, for individuals in their "private" lives, the USA is amongst the most highly regulated societies in the world, with federal and state and local laws micromanaging to an extraordinary degree; yet is is amongst the least regulated societies in the world when it comes to corporations. That would be fine if the officers, shadow officers and shareholders (if they make relevant decisions in general meeting) were brought to account but, again, that almost never happens.

The American spring is changing that with non-violent, extra-judicial action. It's saying "your business only has value because of me and I'm not going to give you that value." While Zuckerberg told Congress this week that the #leavefacebook campaign jumped on by a handful of celebrities (far too many are celebrities only because of things like Facebook and without it they will disappear and with it their obscene income) has not led to users abandoning the platform "in meaningful numbers" it's worth remembering that, to him, 8 million fake accounts was not meaningful, either.

It's the megalomania and arrogance displayed by Zuckerberg when he's been caught out that is angering many: his refusal to appear before a UK government committee went down badly - in the US. His appearance before the US Senate committee this week, where he largely evaded anything meaningful and when he said he agreed there should be regulation, he qualified it by saying that it should be regulation that he approved. Those in the middle, the populists, the centrists, the angry young men and women that stood in the streets saying increased control is needed over weapons that fire bullets now see that there is a need for increased control over weapons that fire words, and spread the virus of insidious political (in its widest sense) message. In short, social media in general - and Facebook is merely the poster child for this - must police what it allows to be published.

That's a swing in public opinion of epic proportions. Only a few months ago, those very same people - whooped up by liberal organisations, were saying in the strongest possible terms that "net neutrality" is the red line for the internet, in essence that anarchy is and should be the norm, that free speech must be protected no matter what, that big business should not be held accountable for what is on the internet, even if they put it there.

That ship is turning faster than its design would suggest is possible.

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