Propaganda, censorship, and surveillance are attributes of the same underlying aspect: Monopoly. Centralised control.
All three problems have the same effective solution: Break up the monopolies.
Propaganda is a function of amplification, attention, audience capture, selective promotion, discovery, distraction, stealing the air supply or acquiring of any competion, and coöption of the platform. Propaganda is an inherent property of monopoly control.
Censorship and Gatekeeping are functions of excludability, audience gating, selective exclusion, obfuscation, distraction, stealing the air supply or acquiring of any competion, and, again, coöption of the platform. Censorship is an inherent property of monopoly control.
Surveillance whether of the state, capitalist, or non-state actor varieties, is a function of population and provider capture, coercion or gatekeeping of vendors and pipelines, and, again, coöption of the platform. Surveillance is an inherent property of monopoly control.
Audiences, a public, divided across independent networks, with access to different editorial selection, from different distribution networks, with access to different input message streams, are far less subject to propaganda, censorship, or surveillance.
It's importance to realise that the key is not nominal control but actual control, which may be nonobvious or unapparent to many participants. A system with appearances of decentralisation may well be centralised under the surface. Retail brand labels vs. brand ownership, or Luxottica's stranglehold over the eyeglasses market, for example, give a false sense of "consumer choice" in a case of actual tight corporate control.
And why is this? What's the fundamental connection between monopoly and control? Control is about maximising desired outcome to applied effort. In monopoly, there is a central focus of influence, the monopolist. Even a very partial controlling share can still be effective. In a first-past-the-post majority scenario such as elections or corporate share ownership, the bloc which swings the majority has control, even if it itself is numerically a minority. In markets, networks, organisations, etc., a single place to permit or deny input or output increases control by decreasing effort and increasing effect.
Shout-outs to Cory Doctorow (@pluralistic -- a great profile to follow, and https://pluralistic.net), Matt Stoller (https://mattstoller.substack.com/?no_cover=true), Lina Khan (https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-paradox), Zephyr Teachout (https://bookshop.org/books/break-em-up-recovering-our-freedom-from-big-ag-big-tech-and-big-money/9781250200891), and others breaking through some seriously Borked chickenshit thinking on this topic.
@dredmorbius Well said.
Whosoever controls the conversation controls reality.
Propaganda, censorship, and surveillance are all means of controlling and shaping the information flows and feedback loops between and among groups of people.
Not just information as data, but the actual dialogic conversation that happens between individuals, communities, societies, &c., which allows us to make meaning together and to direct our collective agency.
The danger of cybernetic totalism is that it absolutely suborns the collective and individual wills of the many different peoples to follow the desires of the few in maximizing their own objectives; depriving the many of the right to self-determine their own futures.
Monopolies facilitate this centralized control, but they are a also a means and not the end. Controlling the conversation is an old tale, with still more to be rooted out.
@vortex_egg Excellent points, addressing individually.
Whosoever controls the conversation controls reality.
I'd noticed (and gotten exceedingly annoyed at) the agenda-setting / Overton-Window-defining nature of mass media a decade or two back. The stories or concepts which are hammered on TV, radio, print, and now online media, dominate discussion. Certain topics seem to never advance, just eternally retread old ground.
Similarly, trolls and idiots drive out nuanced discourse, along with unprivileged / disadvantaged viewpoints. That's the principle reason free-speech absolutism is actually censoring.
There's a place for the uneducated / uninformed --- we all have to learn somehow, but even that can create burdens. As individuals and as groups we've only so much bandwidth.
Plazas and warrens.
The danger of cybernetic totalism is that it absolutely suborns the collective and individual wills of the many different peoples to follow the desires of the few ...
Maybe and maybe not.
I've been looking increasingly at the (mostly deprecated) work of cyberneticians --- Norbert Weiner, Stafford Beer, Alfred Kuhn (not to be cconfused with / no relation to Thomas), Donella Meadows, etc.
Much of their work looks to potential democratising or communitarian (sometimes socialistic or communistic) adaptations of cybernetics.
Riffing off my "dominant-node networks" description, one key might be that such nodes must be publicly held, publicly controlled, or at the very least under some form of collusion-resistant distributed control.
@vortex_egg In his recent talks (his Gizmodo System Reboot podcast interview f'rex: https://rss.art19.com/episodes/f1eb148b-3664-4e9f-935f-05e2371d267a.mp3), Doctorow brings up Lessig's Four Laws of cyberspace; Law, Norms, Markets, and Code.
I'm thinking of that in context of my #TechOntology (https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/5rnjg0/state_of_the_lair_2017/). "Code" might be a subset of that(Information), or a stand-in for all technological mechanisms.
Another set of frames I've been applying is "Progress, models, institutions, technology, limits, values. Interactions thereof." Which ... maps roughly onto Lessig's classification.
The Values / Norms element matters strongly. How much that can resist monopoly-market dynamics becomes ... an interesting (that is: existential) question.
Monopolies facilitate this centralized control, but they are a also a means and not the end.
So ... I'm not sure how separable these are, which is what I expanded at Diaspora: Control is about maximising desired outcome to applied effort. In monopoly, there is a central focus of influence: the monopolist. (https://joindiaspora.com/posts/7bfcf170eefc013863fa002590d8e506)
Power is inherently about finding some locus of control, and a locus of control is inherently monopolistic. I don't think that these are separable.
The means is the end.
Or at least: all power structures are monopolistic. Not all monopolies are power structures.
@vortex_egg The economic discussionnis interesting. Monopoly apologists try to assert that all monopolies exist bygovernment action, or similar nonsense.
Adam Smith discusses monopoly, but also discusses an now-archaic term, engross, "to buy up the whole stock of".
What's explicitly clear from the earlier term is that engrossing:
Yes, I agree. I think you pointed out the discernment that I was trying to make:
Centralization of control through controlling communication predates the corporate monopoly structure, but earlier attempts at the same thing also rely on centralization of control. I'm thinking of the mythical "priest caste" that controls the means of record-keeping, etc.
I was using a pretty one-dimensional definition of monopoly to stand in for corporate monopolies specifically, given that is the extent of the etymology of the word to my knowledge.
I am personnaly very carefull with the word cybernetics. To me there are as much different cybernetics theories as there are different possible cyberspaces architectures with their specific data flow rules or cyber-powers and cyber-rights models.
Currently, the word cybernetics is only understood in the current cyberspace architecture paradigm, fully crypto-fascist.
But it could be different with alternative cyberspaces.
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