The Internet Is Becoming A Very Scary Place!

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In the past year, the Internet has changed. It is not as friendly as it once was. It has become a battleground that is threatening all of its users, and the companies that do business here. Worse, many rules we used to live by to protect ourselves, no longer apply.

There is a lot to write about here, and plenty of topics to cover, the links in the last paragraph all lead to really good articles about NEW issues and challenges facing the Internet today, and I recommend reading them.

But I am not covering those topics in this post. Instead, I decided to start with the one that is on everybody’s minds thanks to an amazing piece of stupid legislation here in the US: PRIVACY!

ISPs and FCC Chair Ajit Pai celebrate death of online privacy rules

There is absolutely no reason to give Internet Service Providers (ISP) like AT&T and Comcast the right to sell users browsing history. First of all, They are a self enforced monopolies that charge way too much for access already and don’t deserve other revenue streams.  Second, the selling of your browsing habits is already a major industry worth billions of dollars a year.  It is basically the primary revenue stream of both Google and Facebook, as they use user searching and liking data to sell targeted advertising.  Third, they still cannot sell browsing history of individuals, or history that can be tied to an individual, so all they can really sell is bulk group data which is useless, see reason 2.

I’m pretty sick of it, and I hope you are, too, because I am going to present some ways to stick it to the data brokers, especially the ISPs as they are the ones that bought and paid for the Republican Congress to pass the legislation.

Keep in mind that sniffer software, spyware which looks at the streams of data that is coming from your computer, is becoming more common as a hacking tool, sticking it to the ISP’s is also sticking it to spyware. So even if you think you have nothing to worry about with your ISP, it doesn’t hurt to protect yourself from others listening in looking for passwords and answers to security questions.

1. Use HTTPS Everywhere Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: high, technical know how to implement: easy.

How it works: Your ISP doesn’t have ANYTHING that you do on a secure HTTPS web page. They only know which websites you visit, but not what you do on them. Once you have connected to an HTTPS server, your connection is encrypted, and only you and the website will know what you are doing.

This is why more and more websites are converting to https, this is why arianeb.com is now https.

Note: Some unprotected websites will not work with this browser plug in. These are probably the websites you want to avoid, but if you must, you can always temporarily disable it.

2. Use a 3rd party DNS server Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: some, technical know how to implement: medium to high.

Domain Name Servers or DNS are computer servers that translate yahoo.com into “98.138.253.109” which is the actual internet address of yahoo.com. 97% of the users use DNS servers controlled by their ISP.  This is how ISP’s know which websites you are visiting, so by using a 3rd party DNS, you are making it a lot harder for them to get that information. This however does not stop spyware from knowing where you are going.

Using a 3rd party DNS server requires some technical know how of getting in your router and changing some settings. Yes, it is doable even on routers provided by ISP’s, but it may require some digging into the settings. Chances are the ISP support staff will not be helpful. (I highly recommend learning the best way to factory reset your router first, in case you screw up badly.)

Those two combined are pretty effective, but for real browser privacy:

3. Use a VPN service! Cost: free to reasonable priced for individuals, effectiveness in privacy protection: very high, technical know how to implement: easy to medium.

Virtual Private Networks are like mini internet services. Practically every business with more than 2 computers probably have their own VPN, and if you work from home you probably connect to work via VPN. VPN for personal computers, phones, and tablets are practically non existent as there has been very little reason to use them. But with the need for privacy solutions increasing, VPN may be the answer.

VPN + HTTPS = near complete encryption the entire length of your internet connection. Even the CIA can’t get past good encryption.  That is part of the reason China has made VPN’s illegal.

The biggest source of protection VPN’s offer is hiding your IP address. Websites like this one  can track your location sometimes within a few feet if you have an unprotected IP address. The truth is EVERY website can track your location the same way.

With a VPN service, you share an IP address with everyone else on the VPN so you are impossible to track, and the location data will be that of the VPN server which can be located in a different state, different country, or on the other side of the planet. There are hundreds of VPNs to choose from.

This of course will mess with many websites that rely on location data. I now use a VPN and can locate my IP address in any of over 30 countries. Switching my VPN to Mexico and going to Google gives me Spanish language Google based out of Colombia. Switching to Canada lets me watch Space TV, where many of my favorite sci-fi shows air before they get to America. If VPN’s become commonplace, it could ruin the business models of most of the major internet sites, which makes me fearful that other countries could follow China’s lead.

I recommend staying away from FREE VPN servers as they tend to slow your internet service and limit your bandwidth. If you are serious about privacy and security spend a little money. Some offer additional bonuses like server based ad blocking that cannot be detected by websites. They cannot block site based ads, but they kill the notoriously bad ones.

4. Use STARTPAGE as your search engine. Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: keeps your search history out of the hands of Google while simultaneously using Google, technical know how to implement: easy if you use Firefox, more difficult if you use Chrome (which insists on real Google) or Edge (which insists on Bing)

Ixquick is a search engine company based out of Netherlands. Their search engine gives the same results as Google because they use Google to provide the results (yes Google is aware of this and there are contracts involved), BUT they cut off your searches from actually reaching Google where they can track you and push targeted ads at you. It’s a very nice loophole, it is sort of the search engine equivalent of a VPN.

5. If you need Facebook on your phone, use mbasic.facebook.com in the browser. Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: its still Facebook, but its not always running in the background watching your every move, technical know how to implement: fairly easy but unfortunately not as easy as just using the app.

Facebook may know you better than you know yourself. It’s pretty much their business model. The majority of the people use the Facebook app on their phone to get on Facebook. It is probably the biggest piece of spyware known to exist, and definitely the most distributed. If you want real privacy, don’t even use it. A bare bones interface to Facebook can be found at mbasic.facebook.com. It is designed for older phones that can’t handle the latest html standards, or lack memory for cookies, etc.

Another important privacy tip if you are using Facebook: NEVER “COPY AND PASTE”, ALWAYS SHARE! More and more viral posts ask you to “copy and paste” into your status instead of share because it supposedly makes you harder to track, but guess what, it is the opposite! Data brokers can search for key words and find who copied and pasted a post, thus making it easier to categorize people and sort them for advertisers. Sharing is much safer and shared posts can be deleted if they turn out to be false.

Of course if you REALLY are serious about privacy, stay the hell off Facebook.

6. Close your Yahoo! account. No Really! Their security record is abysmal. They have been hacked 3 times in the last 4 years and waited months to report it to users, leaving their accounts vulnerable. Here’s how!

Since Congress passed the anti-privacy bill, I have done most of these. It hasn’t slowed my internet down and I haven’t been blocked from doing what I want online.

The Power of Privacy

This is the new ARIANEB.COM

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That’s right, we moved! My wordpress blog is now my main site. A few months ago I added a lot of the main content from the old site to this site, accessible by the menus at the top.

Want info on Date Ariane? click the button at the top. Links to download are there, as well as the international versions, and my other games.

You can leave comments on any of the pages, something you couldn’t do before, and this site is more secure than my old site. Also as a WordPress site, there is a mobile version of this site now.

The old site is still available for now at http://virtualunderworld.net/arianeb/. Once I move everything over here, I will probably drop that site (this one is cheaper).

I’m sure there are plenty of broken links to fix. Tell me what you think.

Some More Erotic Visual Novels

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Posts about other Erotic Visual Novels are consistently the most popular, and I haven’t done one in a while, so here goes. If you want to see my other posts like this, click on the category “Visual Novels” or just click here.

Finding Miranda

Story by Tlaero
Graphics by Mortze
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download link
Play Online Link

This is the third Tlaero / Mortze game and the stories of these games tend to intertwine. I highly recommend playing Dreaming With Elsa and Redemption for Jessika if you haven’t yet. The stories sort of intertwine with each other.

Finding Miranda has a bit of a comic book feel to it. Nearly every line of Miranda’s dialogue has a new image to see, and every image was rendered using iRay physics lighting rendering engine, which can sometimes take a while.  Personally I’m not a huge fan of physics rendering for human figures as skin never looks right, but Mortze makes up for some of the rendering flaws with great character acting. Miranda’s personality comes out in every image.

The biggest flaw in Finding Miranda, and the other games of the series, is the game play choices. The game play is pretty linear with very few plot changing choices, but you will be faced with choices involving what to say in situations, and to score points you have to pick a line of dialogue that best fits your character’s personality, which you choose in the early part of the game. There are 4 personalities to choose from, and which you choose will change some of the content in the story. Picking lines of dialogue that are not true to your character will end the game early, and stop you from getting to the sexiest content. With that in mind a walkthrough may be needed.  More Info.

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Envying Celina

Story by Superawesomemans
Graphics by Sylakone2
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download

Envying Celina is a sequel to Inspiring Celina which I wrote about 2 and a half years ago here. In the first game you played a white male character Luke trying to build a relationship with a introverted bookworm Celina. In this one you play as April an African American female who is also interested in Luke, but your BFF Celina already has him.

Playing from a female point of view is rare enough in these games, but also as a racial minority may be a first!

The stories are pretty short, and it doesn’t take long to get to all the endings. More Info

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After I posted how to make Ariane (see last post), fellow VN creator Chaotic of http://www.vdategames.com/ made this picture. The girls swimming in the background (Betsy and Violet) are from two of her games.

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Betsy

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format HTML/Javascript
Play Online and Download

Betsy is the latest free game from vdategames. I like to download these games and play offline, this game is a big download over 800 MB (that’s twice as big as Date Ariane and Something’s in the Air combined). This is mostly due to low compression of the images and it shows, every picture looks really good.

You can choose your race and gender in this game up front, so I played as Ariane. Betsy wants to do a play, but the play has a topless scene. Your job as her boyfriend or girlfriend is to build up her confidence while keeping her happy. It’s a bit different from the usual romance plot which makes it feel more original.

Its a good story, though I kind of like Violet more than Betsy. If you are willing to pay for a membership, (and I have one) there is a second Violet game, which I downloaded, but haven’t played yet. There is a walkthrough for Betsy if you need help. More Info

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Highway Blossoms

Directed by Syon Santeria
Produced by Josh “raithfyre” Kaplan
Released by Alienworks
Format: Renpy
Available on Steam $9.99 (on sale for $5.99)
Website

Thought I’d finish with something completely different. This is a Kinetic Yuri Visual Novel set in the American Southwest, or for those that don’t speak VN, it is a linear story (no branches or multiple endings, that’s the “kinetic” part) about a couple of young girls falling in love with each other (that’s the “yuri” part). Unlike the other games, this is not 3D rendered, not free to play, and even with the optional adult patch, it is only mildly erotic compared to the others.

The rather silly “treasure hunt” plot involves going to 8 different landmarks around the American Southwest looking for hidden gold stashes left by a California prospector in the 1850’s. Having been to 7 of the landmarks, I can tell you that any buried gold at these places would have either been found long ago, or completely impossible to find, so I had to suspend disbelief a bit at this plot. (Side note, I have attempted treasure hunting for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine in the Superstition Mountains, I’m pretty much convinced that that lost mine legend and the nearby Goldfield Mine were one in the same thing.)

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The treasure plot merely serves as an excuse to bring the characters together. It is in the development and interaction of the 5 main characters that the game really shines. It takes a long while for Amber and Marina to figure out their feelings for each other and the development of that relationship is really well done. More Info

How to Make Ariane in Daz Studio

dazariane1I have had a few people ask about getting a 3D model for Ariane, so here’s how to do it.

Shopping List:

My folders are organized for Poser so they will not be in the same place as the default locations for these products. Use the search feature if you have to.

In the library, do a search for Victoria 4 and find the “Actor Victoria 4.2”. When you click to load, it will give you a dialog box, put a check on morphs++ to load those as well.

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Next, find MRL Ariana and load “AriBody1 INJ”and in the subfolder PoserDazMATs load “Ari_MAT”, in the sub-subfolder Ari_Lips load “AriLips01”, and under Ari_MakeUp, load “AriMU01”

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Next, find Andromeda and open “!AndromedaHead INJ” then under “PoserDazMats/And_Eyes” load “AndEyes07”  Note: Andromeda also comes with a bunch of custom expressions designed for the Andromeda head, I use these a lot.

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Next, do a search for reby and load “RebyGlam Victoria 4”

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On the right hand adjustment panel (your interface may vary) click where it says Victoria 4.2 and a menu will pop up, select Reby Glam Victoria 4, then on the library window (left side) find the “AprilRebyGlam” directory  and apply “2 M Black” and “1 handles off”

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Now, on the right side, you need to select “RebyGlamVictoria4 : neck” then in the Parameters menu select “custom fits” and raise “hairline” to 50%

That’s it, you are done. I have added other features like moles and realistic anatomy, but the above is close enough.

Rachel, by the way is just DMR Ella, though because this older texture does not have the latest settings, I have been using MRL Eris skin

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Now, on the parameters menu reselect Victoria 4.2, apply a pose then on the render menu, select “render” and soon you have a picture of Ariane.

Rachel and Ariane: An Experiment in Storytelling

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After finishing the Renpy version of Date Ariane back in July 2015, I have been tinkering with the idea of what would happen if Ariane (of Date Ariane fame) and Rachel (of Something’s In The Air fame) were to meet.

I made both games for my own entertainment, and I am glad they have been successful. So I started tinkering with Rachel and Ariane being the third part of the trilogy.  I’ve never tried writing a story like this, and so I’m not sure what I am doing, and kind of making things up as I go along.

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So far it is coming off as “official fanfic”. I struggle with the writing part, but I am really having a lot of fun doing the pictures part, which is why I keep going.

I released part one in October 2015, a piece at a time until the final part was released on Halloween, when the story was set.

It starts with a “meet cute” as all rom-coms do, in this case they show up to a Halloween party dressed the same.  As they get to talking they discover they are the same in a few other ways as well.

After Ariane finds out Rachel is a supermodel, Rachel takes Ariane home and tests her in a few ways. Ariane passes the tests, and they end up getting drunk together.

It ends with Ariane revealing her never before revealed job: game developer. Rachel, being a game addict herself, is intrigued and wants to get together again.

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Rachel Dates Ariane is set about two weeks later, or mid November, though there was over a year before I released it in November 2016.

It almost follows a typical “Date Ariane” date. Rachel comes over, and they play video games (tying back to the end of part 1) then they go out for dinner. This time to a pizza place they both like (Pizza Mia shows up in both games). Then back to Ariane’s and some naked hot tubbing.

Rachel then makes a (intentional?) move that results in the two of them in bed naked together.  Can two mostly heterosexual women find love? or is it doomed to “friendzone”? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

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I just released part 3: Rachel Takes Ariane’s Photo. I tried to make it more game like with choices to eventually turn it into a game, which I actually made, and found it repetitive as most of the choices end up in the same place.

So I just converted it to HTML and posted it all at once. It’s about 23 HTML pages total using simple links to the choices you pick.

It takes place still in November, with still autumn colors (which is part of the plot). The two key scenes for me are the “short cut” and Rachel setting up cameras.

I establish in the games that Ariane is a bit of a dare devil or “Action Girl”, but never get a good opportunity to demonstrate it. The short cut scene is Ariane demonstrating that part of her personality to Rachel, who being a science geek is not all that thrilled with that side of Ariane.

Then when we get to the the actual picture taking, Rachel is the one demonstrating her personality, talking about photography in a geeky way and having it go way over Ariane’s head. The photo session itself is very clinical and very professional, the way a supermodel likes it, and with the exception of one version of the photo shoot, no where near as sexy as the ones Ariane did in Date Ariane.

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Control of what happens to the photos is in the hands of the photographer, or the party that commissioned the photos in the first place. That means Ariane has no control.

The objective here is to add a little bit of conflict. Differences that could get bigger later.

I’m working on a part 4, which basically would be act 3 of a typical 3 act story: Things get worse before they get better. It’s tough to write characters I like struggling with stuff, so I am struggling writing it. I don’t know if it will be linear like parts 1 and 2, or whether there will be multiple versions based on choices like part 3.  Depends on what works best.

Even if you don’t like the writing, I think I did some great pictures here. The pictures are actually bigger than they display on the web page, parts 2 and 3 are 1960×1080. Just right click and view picture to see the full sized images.

The Age of Facebook is Over

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As my last post documented there is a plague on the internet that is having a negative affect on civilization as a whole.  Facebook is the leading cause of this plague, and despite many opportunities, has completely failed to do anything about it.  Pretty much every open group has been taken over by trolls and spam and it is impossible to have any intellectual discussion.

Social Media is the New Television

Fahrenheit 451 is a book by Ray Bradbury which is often mistaken as a tale of censorship. In fact it is a tale about how television has destroyed intellectual discourse.  I thought about this recently upon reading a couple of different articles.

First is an article “Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV” which correctly identifies social media as an entertainment platform rather than an actual discussion platform. It is this decades new TV:

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

Social media not only does this, it makes it worse.

Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it. Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society. This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation.

I attempted to join a Facebook group that would challenge me intellectually, it didn’t work. In fact it will never work on Facebook. The problem is that there is no mechanism for moderation on Facebook, because it would go against its business model.

Our Changing “Internet” Minds

Second is an article “Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories?” which starts with the observation that “novels” are a dying art form, replaced by visual storytelling that is less satisfying to our mental development.

My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at a distance, of which the internet is only the most egregious example. Our era is also replete with the mental illnesses occasioned by such technologies – sometimes I think our obsession with viewing violent and horrific imagery is some sort of collective post-traumatic stress disorder.

The article is more broadly directed at tech and internet culture as a whole, and I am not convinced of the thesis, but as I have documented time and time again, the internet does change us and our ability to think rationally.

So stop reading blogs and pick up a book.

TV News is something you don’t need

Facebook is not the source of “fake news” and misinformation, it is the conduit for its dissemination.

TV news should take a lot of the blame for what is going on in society. We watch it because it is the quickest way to become “informed”, but it is not really informing us. Many people have decided that in the age of Trump, TV news is no longer worth watching.

The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.

Their selections exploit our negativity bias. We’ve evolved to pay more attention to what’s scary and infuriating, but that doesn’t mean every instance of fear or anger is useful. Once you’ve quit watching, it becomes obvious that it is a primary aim of news reports—not an incidental side-effect—to agitate and dismay the viewer.

What appears on the news is not “The conscientious person’s portfolio of concerns”. What appears is whatever sells, and what sells is fear, and contempt for other groups of people.

As I stated in my last post, I blame the media for creating and promoting Trump. I see the exact pattern happening with “Brexit” in Britain, and the rise of the radical right all over Europe. The fear-mongering of the media is creating false fear in the general population.

If you really want to be informed, dig deeper. There are sources out there, find them.

The Need For a Course Correction

I have decided I need a change from this culture of meme and misinformation and troll trash.

For now, I have found it in Reddit, where the upvote/downvote tends to self moderate. There are still problems, especially since a lot of people like a lot of stupid crap, but I have found it to be quite a few IQ points above facebook.

The internet is a big place, and for every problem there are solutions. Reddit is not the perfect solution, but it is a start.

Internet Memes are Destroying Civilization!

Whatever Happened To The Internet Dream? Part 6
(read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)

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My last post was on happiness, this is the exact opposite.

As you all know by now the US has elected a ultra right wing dictator wannabe who the only hope he gives to continued freedom in this country is that he has no idea what the hell he is doing.

This comes just months after the UK did something extremely stupid and voted to leave the European Union.

Both were campaigns built on lies, both were billed as “protest votes” of the status quo.

Both got their start as internet memes.

Nobody thought the UK would vote to leave Europe, the very idea was ludicrous. At the same time nobody thought an illiterate celebrity would become President of the United States.

And yet here we are. Both results created overnight economic recessions that we may never recover from.  The desire to “stick it to the man” is a universal one, but sticking it to the man is not smart when “the man” signs your paychecks.

But don’t think this is isolated to just the US and UK. Awful people and policies are being voted on around the world for the same reasons.

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The Role of the Internet Press

Old fashioned media is dying. News today is all about the click bait, paid advertising, and getting eyeballs and email subscribers. The internet is becoming filled with “humor” websites that just rehash lists and funny news stories from two or more years ago (so you forget if you already read it) and turn them into slideshows that slow your internet down with advertisement gifs and videos.

(Personally, if one of these sites publishes something I am interested in, I will just google the title and find the original story sans ads, or barring that, right click and view source and see all the slideshow text right there buried in the code. But I digress.)

The thing is, the news is driven by clicks and memes. If a story can’t generate clicks, it goes unreported.

Brexit generated clicks in the UK, people were fascinated by the idea of Britain without Europe. Eventually they lost site of the fact that it was a really bad idea, but less educated working class thought it might be fun to try something different.

Similarly, Donald Trump generated clicks in the US. For some reason, people have this myth that if we ran government like a business, it would work better, and therefore a businessman should run government.  No one bothered to find out that it NEVER works! Every businessman elected to high government office has failed miserably. I give you Governor Evan Mecham as a typical historical example.

It is estimated that Trump got $4 Billion in free air time from the complicit American media.  In a campaign season that cost $5 Billion, that is a lot of free advertising.

The media wouldn’t report on Trump so much if it didn’t bring in clicks. TV news got higher ratings with Trump, and internet based news got millions in new ad revenue.

The media is not going to turn that kind of money down in the interest of equal time.

For that reason, I blame the media — all of it, both “liberal” and “conservative” — for Trump’s victory.

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Memes are Ruining Democracy

The term “meme” originated from the 1976 book The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. The  meme is a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene, and like a gene the best ones replicate themselves into human culture.

Memes have always been a part of US politics. From “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” to “Yes We Can” the meme has been a major factor in elections. And they are not always positive. “Daisy” was a negative meme that won Lyndon Johnson the White House in 1964.

With the internet, memes find a huge petri dish to replicate rather rapidly into millions, sometimes billions of minds.

In an article in the Guardian by Daniel Haddow, he makes the case that this petri dish has a major negative effect on intelligent discourse:

What’s novel here is an inversion of control – political memes are no longer rare flashes of uncensored personality or intensely manicured visual messages. They are now born from the swamps of the internet in real time, distributed from the bottom up. They have grown into a form of anarchic folk propaganda, ranging from tolerable epigrams to glittering hate-soaked image macros akin to a million little rogue Pravdas.

Like me, you probably have more than a few Facebook friends who make it their life’s work to circulate political memes in hopes of influencing how you see the world. They are our deadbeat uncles, former co-workers and long-forgotten high school acquaintances. They are agents of nowhere, apparatchiks of nothing in particular. And through the raw power of mass replication, even their most insipid ideas are able to surface from below. By typing some text on an image and sharing it with friends, they too have a voice capable of reaching a critical mass.

The reason why it is now possible for Darryl from Accounting who hates “social justice warriors” to have the same communicative power as a television network is down to the DNA of the medium: speed and lack of gatekeepers. Memes thrive on a lack of information – the faster you can grasp the point, the higher the chance it will spread.

He then links to a Breitbart article written by  propagandist Milo Yiannopoulos (a very pro-Trump web site) which explains the use of meme warfare, or as he calls it “Meme Magic” in getting Trump all that free publicity:

Trump’s supporters have treated the campaign as one long trollfest. First Jeb, then Marco and finally Lyin’ Ted all stumbled and fell before the chaotic power of Trump’s troll army. Facing a hilarious combination of in-jokes, YouTube remixes, and Photoshop mashups, Trump’s opponents were subjected to non-stop ridicule from the cultural powerhouses of the web.

The internet made them look stupid. The internet made them look weak. And what begins on /pol/ and leaks out into Twitter has a way of colouring media coverage and, ultimately, public perception, even among people who don’t frequent message boards.

The power of Trump’s branding is partly down to the media’s hunger for drama — but it’s also in large part due to his internet supporters, who have an uncanny ability to create and popularize cultural tropes. Or, as we on the internet have come to know them, memes.

Haddow continues:

At their most basic, meme warfare presented an opportunity for individuals to seize control of the means of media production from corporate interests. It was a viral and open-source medium that would allow individuals to compete for attention against the all-consuming hydra of advertising, marketing and public relations.

This line of thinking was, in retrospect, breathtakingly naive. It assumed that the act of meme generation by a non-corporate entity would be innately good. Like many instances of the tech-centric idealism, it would unravel in spectacular fashion. It’s not that anti-corporate activists were wrong about how the internet could be leveraged to change politics – it’s that they were terribly right.

To Meme or Not To Meme

The success of internet trolling in shaping the debate in this election will go down in history as a watershed moment.

Do we condemn it? Or do we create an actual meme war — debate social issues with nothing but memes devoid of intellectual honesty as long at it infects the viewers brains.

Science and rational, logical thought should be the tools of debate.  Meme warfare has undermined rational though in favor of easy tag lines, which are often false (“England is better off without Europe”) or too simplistic and unrealistic (“Let’s build a wall”).

George Orwell was absolutely right! “Newspeak”, the language of propaganda and control, is now alive and well in internet memes.

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Memes are a Symptom of Democracy Run Amok

Back in the 90’s I was big into philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle. In Plato’s Republic parts 8 and 9, Plato describes the tendency for different forms of government to morph into others. History has proven Plato right time and time again. His most upsetting is the transformation from democracy to tyranny:

“Can liberty have any limit? Certainly not…By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses…The son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom…Citizens…chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority… they will have no one over them…Such…is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny…Liberty overmasters democracy…the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction…The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery…And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty… “

So what does this mean? I’ll explain shortly in more modern terms.

But first, Andrew Sullivan took this as a starting point in an excellent article written in May of this year, which turned out too prescient: Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic

Democracy to Tyranny in the Internet Age

The internet has democratized media, putting every poster, blogger, and vlogger in charge of the news to their followers. This ultimately created “bubbles” of followers who follow their favorite internet media stars to the exclusion of actual researched and vetted information.

These “bubbles”  have their own version of reality often very at odds with actual reality: “Obama is a secret Muslim!”,  “Immigration is killing our jobs!”,  “The government is hiding space alien corpses at Groom Lake!”, “The “rapture” will happen soon so we don’t need to worry about the environment!”

The mainstream media no longer has control of public conscience, and as a result there is no common understanding of “facts”. Civilization requires a common understanding among its citizens.

Once lies become widespread among many bubbles, it becomes a substitute for the actual facts, thus a new fantasy reality is born.

We have self sorted ourselves into different groups who live in different realities and moralities. It is no longer possible for people living in one reality to communicate with members of another reality and convince them of anything.

Eventually, as Plato predicted, one “reality” will become tired of the belittling of its fantasy reality and will seek a tyrant to impose the “new reality” on the unenlightened.

Democracy becomes a dictatorship. Trump has all the qualities of a tyrant, if we let him become one.

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The Internet is No Longer a Reliable Source of Anything

Since I wrote this a new chapter has arisen in this drama. “Fake News” is being blamed for Trump. Specifically, Facebook and Google’s complicity in spreading fake news reports without identifying them as fake.

At the start of this series, I mentioned that the internet as it currently stands is predominantly controlled by a handful of websites. Facebook, Google and Wikipedia are among them.

The problem with this consolidation is it reduces what it takes to control the truth. This TED talk explains “astroturfing” or fake grass roots movements to control “research” with marketing.

Google is trying to do its part by cutting off paid advertising on fake news sites, thus cutting off their main source of income. Considering how easy it is for fake news to bubble to the top of Google News, I am not sure it is enough.

Facebook is quietly figuring out what to do. Earlier this year it was revealed that Facebook adjusts their “trending” list based on the readers perceived biases. This caused a bit of a conservative backlash which halted moves to expand the program to keep “fake news” from trending. Due to their complicity in creating “President Elect Trump” they will no doubt do something eventually.

As the video above points out, Wikipedia has its own problems with what is truth and what is fake.  They are supposed to have their own safeguards, but increasingly it is not working out that way.

And so we are left with a conundrum: Where can we get the truth? An even worse conundrum: How do we survive in a world where the “majority” believes the lies?