Musk uses each of the tactics that Trump did. But as Twitter’s owner, CEO and “chief twit,” he has an extra advantage that will make him an especially dangerous threat to democracy if we’re not careful.
Musk now has vast control over what we hear and see on this powerful media platform. (And despite his claims to be a champion of “free speech,” he is busy banning the speech of those with whom he does not like, such the “Elon Jet” account that uses public information to track his wasteful and environmentally damaging private jet flights.)
To improve the safety and effectiveness of AI, the first principle suggests that AI systems should be developed not only by experts, but also with direct input from the people and communities who will use and be affected by the systems. Exploited and marginalized communities are often left to deal with the consequences of AI systems without having much say in their development. Research has shown that direct and genuine community involvement in the development process is important for deploying technologies that have a positive and lasting impact on those communities.
This is a role that civil society can take; making sure the communities they serve are reflected in this data that is used to train AI and how that training plays out. The difficulty, of course, is how to facilitate that engagement.
One thing we all should’ve learned from the public hearings of the January 6 select committee is that almost nothing is spontaneous anymore. Dig deep enough, and you’ll find someone organizing these “spontaneous” events (as well as someone bankrolling them). In any case, Reuters found examples of this occasionally criminal behavior all over the country. Most of the incidents ran on the same rails.
Also today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called out the new election laws passed by Republican legislatures as “anti-democratic,” designed to “unwind the progress of our Union, restrict access to the ballot, silence the voices of millions of voters, and undermine free and fair elections.”
He insisted that Congress must take action to stop this anti-democratic march. In June, August, October, and November, Republican senators blocked discussion of “common-sense solutions to defend our democracy.” It is unacceptable for a minority of senators to be able to require that the majority command a supermajority in order to pass legislation, Schumer wrote: the Framers of the Constitution explicitly rejected such a requirement to pass laws.
“We must ask ourselves,” he wrote, “if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?”
The political historian and commentator Anne Applebaum wrote in “Iron Curtain” (2012) about how the Stalinization of Eastern Europe depended not primarily on the gulag and the firing squads, but on the intimidation of people who felt compelled to spew the same idiocy they heard, pursuing a grotesque conformity.</> “Actual censors were not always needed,” Applebaum told me in a recent email. “Instead, a form of pervasive peer pressure convinced writers, journalists and everyone else to toe the party line; if they did not, they knew they risked being ejected from their jobs and shunned by their friends.”
In addition, all military branches must undertake more intensive intelligence work at all installations. The goal should be to identify, isolate and remove potential mutineers; guard against efforts by propagandists who use misinformation to subvert the chain of command; and understand how that and other misinformation spreads across the ranks after it is introduced by propagandists.
I would love to see a partnership with libraries world wide as a part of this. They can support a civics educations and regular mis- and disinformation trainings. And they can be a connection to community, information, and engagement while someone is in the service and beyond. This has to happen intentionally with programming that creates connections and opportunities for people to benefit from participating in diverse groups who share information.
The movement toward ESG reporting certainly highlights important issues, such as climate change and the treatment of workers, and it is welcome that corporations want to engage in the debate. But the belief that companies can solve such pressing issues—through pursuing ESG standards or otherwise—is deeply flawed. Despite purportedly having good intentions, many corporations are not genuinely interested in bettering the world, and some use ESG metrics or other sustainability measures mainly to launder their reputations. Fixing some of the world’s most vexing problems will require that businesses dramatically alter their own practices, and it makes little sense to entrust systemic reform to the very institutions that themselves require change.
Instead, action must come from elsewhere: namely, governments. States must impose new regulations on the market economy to ensure that businesses are delivering shared productivity and social progress. Politicians will need to create laws that make markets work well and embed values—such as environmental sustainability or higher wages for low-income workers—that reflect the mainstream views of society. Renewed regulatory activism must include restoring competition through effective antitrust enforcement, legislating for the national interest over global profits, and tilting the balance of economic returns from older, wealthier generations to younger, poorer ones. It should also mean regulations to fight climate change, such as emission limits, mandates to end the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles, or bans on the use of certain materials.
I agree with the limits of corporate social responsibility. However, government is not the only response. Civil society needs to hold both groups accountable. This highly localized sector has to engage in sector wide projects to aggregate data and demonstrate the reality of the experiences of so many who cannot access the resources offered by either government or business. And they must stand firm in holding open the space for civic engagement against the limiting action of so many companies.
The power of this one-two punch— eroding democracy at the state level and then handing power to the states—won’t be limited to abortion. There are any number of areas, including environmental regulations, workplace protections, and anti-discrimination laws, where gerrymandered state legislative majorities are far to the right of Americans as a whole.
In a tweet (which can be seen below) on Saturday night, he wrote: “SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?! If that’s the precedent then we’ll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets. If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives.”
We cannot support the right outcome – fewer illegal guns on the streets – with bad means. I was trying to decide if id label this as vigilanteism. I don’t think so. More I think it’s the kind state sponsored spying – so rampant in East Germany – that undermines cohesion and trust in a community, keeping us away from people who do not share our views.
As documented by legal scholar Ian Haney López and others, the Democrats do not consistently use a narrative frame that effectively combines messaging about both race and class inequality, and how they overlap and reinforce one another. Democrats lack a simple, straightforward narrative — a big story to tell voters about what their party represents.
By comparison, the Republicans have a far more effective propaganda machine. They have branded themselves as “patriots” who love America and are “defending” it against those others — sometimes specifically named and identified, and sometimes not — who are not “real” Americans and are said to hate the country and its so-called traditions.