Year LXI, 2019, Single Issue, Page 84

 

 

DEMOCRACY AND POLITICS
IN THE BIG-TECH AND CYBERWARFARE AGE.
EUROPE UNDER ATTACK

 

 

Introduction.

A combination of many factors underlies the current political struggle that is leading the electorate in many countries to embrace forms of populism and nationalism, which offer emotive and seemingly easy answers to the complex problems of today’s society. And this is happening in spite of the fact that nationalist remedies cannot offer genuine solutions, as the migratory crisis, a significant example, clearly shows.

One of the aspects now emerging is the extent to which information technology has determined the success of certain political campaigns, which have often been found to be orchestrated by external powers through the use of voters’ data and profiles, as well as the activity of trolls and bot twitters, in both cases with the aim of influencing culturally weaker and more socially-economically disadvantaged sections of the population. This is a form of interference that seriously jeopardises the exercise of democratic rights, to the point that some commentators are now engaged in a fierce debate, asking whether there now even exists a liberal democracy and whether its values are still fundamental in the life of the Western democratic world, or whether that world is actually on the brink of a rapid decline.

These questions apart, there can be no denying that, for some time now, we have been witnessing the effects of a veritable war, waged with the aim of politically destabilising a number of EU member states, given that the European Union is considered the adversary of the world’s superpowers; and this war has been possible, in part, because of the political weakness of the European institutions and the room for manoeuvre that this has allowed.

Numerous authors have dealt with these issues. In this article, reference is made to several particularly significant texts and articles written by experts from a range of disciplines, specifically historian and sociologist Timothy Snyder (The Road to Unfreedom), university lecturer in information technology Giovanni Ziccardi (Tecnologie per il potere), economic sociologist William Davies (Nervous States), philosopher Remo Bodei (Vivere on line), and politician Carlo Calenda (Orizzonti selvaggi).
 

Technology and Power: the Influence of the Big-Tech Companies.

The technological age in which we find ourselves immersed has benefited us in many ways and allowed mankind to make giant leaps forward in, for example, the industrial, commercial and medical-scientific fields, in transport, and in daily life. At the same time, however, within our increasingly complex world, it has become clear that the giants of technology known as “Big Tech” companies have become central players in:

  • the conditioning of individuals,
  • disintermediation,
  • the destabilisation of society and institutions
  • collusion with politics

The economic weight of the Big Tech companies is tremendous. “Amazon captures more than one-third of all US online retail spending. Google represents 88 per cent of the US search engine market, and 95 per cent of all mobile searches. Two-thirds of all Americans are on Facebook, which having bought Instagram and Whatsapp now owns four of the top eight social media apps” writes Rana Foroohar in the Financial Times.[1]

According to William Davies, “In particular, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon […] are acquiring unprecedented insights into our thoughts, feelings, movements, relationships, and tastes, of a sort that was never available to traditional social scientists, statisticians, or market researchers.”[2]

In June 2015, Mark Zuckerberg, the inventor and owner of Facebook, which now has over two billion users, unveiled bold new development programmes: “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will be able to experience it too, if you’d like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.”[3]

Analysing and further exploring this perspective, Davies remarks that “the fantasy of brain-to-brain communication is becoming a reality, without requiring paranormal leaps” and that it “will depend on a form of language, just not one that most people are able to understand when they see it. The means of communication will have become privatised”[4]. “Mental processes are tasks, which can be split into a series of separate chunks: this is what it means to process something digitally. These tasks can be pieced together in the form of code, which a machine can then execute one by one. Mark Zuckerberg’s belief in telepathy ultimately rests on the idea that ‘thoughts’ are nothing but a series of physical motions, whose patterns can potentially be read like the smile on a face or an encrypted message to be cracked.” [5]

“The broader philosophical fear is of a society in which people become readable pieces of data, without any recognised interiority.”[6]

A development that further underlines the influence of Facebook came on June 18th, 2019, when Mark Zuckerberg presented the company’s digital currency, the Libra, initially to be used between twenty or so very large commercial or financial enterprises, such as Uber, Spotify, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Free. This power to issue and control a currency, hitherto a prerogative of states, can be expected to reduce the monetary sovereignty of central banks, and the power of state institutions, and it has the potential to undermine the functioning of democracy.

These profound technological changes, and particularly the speed at which they have occurred, have had an unsettling and bewildering effect especially among the older section of the population, many of whose members may be economically, socially and politically marginalised.
 

The End of the Bipolar Equilibrium and the Effects of Globalisation.

It would be wrong, however, to attribute people’s fears solely to distorted use of technology. The end of the bipolar equilibrium and the strengthening of the process of globalisation, both producing various negative phenomena, have also played a part in stoking people’s fears, and have thus contributed to the tendency of today’s electorate to adopt irrational stances. By negative phenomena, we mean:

— the US-triggered economic and financial crisis that began in 2008,

— uncontrollable wars,

— the severe effects, in some parts of the world, of global heating,

— the migration phenomenon,

— the wealth imbalances that have become particularly marked, especially within countries.

One of the topics dealt with by Timothy Snyder in his book The Road to Unfreedom,[7] which focuses mainly on the destabilising influence of Putin’s Russia on the Western liberal democracies, is indeed the large disparity in socio-economic and political conditions present within different countries, and how this, among other factors, has left people feeling detached from traditional politics. Britain’s situation is emblematic in this regard. As pointed out by William Davies “Britain has a similar story to tell with the most extreme polarisation of rich and poor regions of any nation in Western Europe contributing directly to the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Output per head in West London is eight times higher than it is in the Welsh Valleys, which was one of the most pro-Brexit regions.” Similarly, “in 2010-15, median household wealth in London rose by 14 per cent, while it fell by 8 per cent in Yorkshire and on the Humber, areas that also featured strongly pro-Brexit votes. Britain’s economy is the fifth largest in the world, and yet the majority of regions experience GDP per capita below the European average, something that is concealed by the disproportionate wealth and productivity of London.”[8]

 
A New Way of Doing Politics.

All this has led to an increasingly confrontational world and the development of a tendency to react to events emotionally rather than rationally. Accordingly, hitherto indisputable truths have been called into question, such as the truth and reliability of statistics and official data, scientific methods, and expert opinion, the latter considered biased; in addition, for some time now there has been a growing mistrust of parties and ideologies.

For Bodei, “The most striking thing today is […] the waste of intelligence, the contrast between, on the one hand, the possibilities offered by modern technology and by modern schooling and, on the other, the widespread decline in or blunting of common sense, which sometimes leads to incredible levels of credulity”[9].

Most people react to the complexity of the situation by seeking simple solutions, or by losing interest in politics and ceasing to engage with it.

Some politicians have been quicker than others to intercept and play on people’s fears and feelings of disquiet. Leveraging the general discontent, they have implemented a new way of doing politics, based on the use of social media and the spreading of violent messages, and in so doing they have offered people a vent for their anger.

Exploiting new communication technologies, they have constructed political campaigns that target, and seek to harness the votes of, the fearful and dissatisfied sections of the population, giving them the chance to interface directly with the political decision-makers, encouraging them to demand ‘everything now’ and to play a key role in the fight against perceived elites and the complete rejection of mediation.

As Davies has pointed out, populists are terrible decision makers but they have excellent slogans, effective gatherings and few scruples about lying. The hidden promise of nationalism is that of giving meaning to ordinary people’s lives.[10]

 
Big-Tech Companies and Cyberwarfare.

In his book, Tecnologia per il potere, Giovanni Ziccardi reveals that “today, in almost all countries, most people spend up to eight hours a day on social networks”[11] and that these have thus become instruments of a ferocious war waged not with weapons but with technology. We are facing a cyberwar in politics, in which, according to the philosopher Remo Bodei, “interactive media, especially the Internet and social networks, now represent the incubator, or new hothouse, of politics: ‘sites’ where consensus is not manifested and distributed through traditional means (government, parties, newspapers, street demonstrations), but is forced, drugged”[12].

Part of this cyberwarfare is orchestrated by Russia. In fact, “Vladimir Putin has expressed the view [...] that the country that leads the world in artificial intelligence will dominate the twenty-first century.”[13]

According to Dmitry Kiselev, coordinator of Russia’s state international news agency, “information war is now the main type of war”[14].

“The notion of ‘weaponising’ everyday tools has become a familiar part of the political lexicon. The Kremlin has been accused of seeking to weaponise social media so as to disrupt democratic elections and spread confusion in the media [...] Facebook and Twitter can be treated as tools of disruption or even violence, as they have the capacity to destabilise and spread fear.”[15]

This policy of disinformation, pursued principally by Russian agencies, dates back at least to the time of the 2014 war in Ukraine; to date, Brexit and the election of Trump are the most significant fruits it has borne, a fact also underlined in an interesting article by Scandinavian journalist Karin Pettersson, who wrote: “Since the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum and the election of Donald Trump as US president, the following year, discussion about the negative impact of social networks on democracy has intensified. ‘Fake news’, disinformation, Russian interference and propaganda have become the new normal. In a recent TED-talk, the Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr described how Facebook became a platform for lies and illegal behaviour in the Brexit campaign.”[16] Pettersson, remarking on the content of Mark Zuckerberg’s address to the company’s annual developers’ conference held on May 1st in San José, California, points out that “Facebook is now more powerful than most nation states” and asks whether there exist democratic solutions that may be implemented to address this situation or whether, as argued by the economist Dani Rodrik, the real problem is the trilemma whereby “hyperglobalisation, democratic policies and national sovereignty are mutually incompatible” and can never all three exist “simultaneously and in full.”[17]

What underlies cyberwarfare? And how does it play out? Giovanni Ziccardi, in his book, explains it all very clearly, stating that: “the fact that misuse of technology has the capacity to upset electoral and democratic balances is well known and has long been under the lens of states, candidates and specialists in communications and politics”[18], and also that “the technique of data falsification and the use of violent language are typical of this strategy. A broad look at the current framework of online politics reveals a scenario that is far from reassuring. The era of falsification of information and online dissemination of mutual accusations seems to be in full swing, with the use of pre- and post-election messages amounting to the creation and spreading of false assumptions and personal attacks.”[19]

Ziccardi highlights, in particular, how control of user data is one of the ongoing battles, citing the data scandal that blew up around Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that “after gaining access to Facebook profiles was able to harvest the data of 87 million users”[20], data that were subsequently used to influence the choices of the electorate in the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential elections. He also invites readers to “consider […] the suspected Russian interference in the conducting of elections held in other countries (primarily in North America, the UK and France), the frequent allegations of deliberate and organised dissemination of false information or hatred via Facebook, Twitter and in WhatsApp groups — as in the recent election in Brazil won by Jair Bolsonaro —, as well as similar allegations concerning the activation, also in Italy, of veritable digital mud-slinging machines that, set up in a matter of seconds, serve to mercilessly attack and denigrate opponents or critics of a particular political force.”[21]

“For the first time in the history of politics, the entire world was shown how, through a team, a structure, a strategy and a huge database — all specifically created to manage technologies, profile potential voters and collect their contributions, and exploit big data and the creation of social media data archives and social networks —, information technology and technological platforms could be an essential and decisive factor behind unexpected electoral outcomes. In short, they showed that the world’s most important elections could be won by placing technology, as the driving force, at the heart of the electoral strategy.”[22]

Snyder, too, asserts that the “Russian campaign to fill the international public sphere with fiction began in Ukraine in 2014, and then spread to the United States in 2015, where it helped to elect a president in 2016.”[23] In a comment alluding to the fact that Russian money has previously saved Trump from bankruptcy, he adds that it is more than speculation that the US elections were piloted by Moscow: “Russians raised ‘a creature of their own’ to the presidency of the United States.”[24]

In an interview given to Public Radio International, Lyudmilla Savchuk, a journalist who worked under cover for two and a half months in a “troll factory”, explained how the Internet Research Agency works. Here, she found hundreds of mainly younger people working in rotating shifts around the clock. Some, known as “demotivators” were dedicated to producing visual memes. There was also the “news division,” and a department staffed by “social media seeders” [...]

“Despite the division of labour, the content was remarkably uniform. The US, the EU, Ukraine’s pro-European government, and Russia’s opposition were regular targets for scorn. And then there was Russian President Vladimir Putin —seemingly no Russian triumph under his rule was too small to warrant a celebratory tweet, meme or post.”

The operation was run by Evgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur from Saint Petersburg. “Often called ‘Putin’s Chef’ for his close ties to the Russian President, Prigozhin was placed under US sanctions in 2018 for what American officials say was a coordinated attempt to interfere with the US elections”; “he was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team last year.”[25]

 
Attacking the EU.

Carlo Calenda, too, highlights the existence of “a clear strategy of destabilisation of the West and liberal democracies pursued by Russia’s leaders.”

“Russia [...] has lost all its links with Europe and the West and has gone back to conducting aggressive and ruthless power politics. [...] Orbàn, Salvini and Le Pen are all inspired by Putin, from whom they have obtained support that is probably not only ideological.”[26]

According to Davies, “the anger, intimidation, and lies that have crept into the media and civil society, destabilising institutions without constructing alternatives, can generate a downward spiral of fear and mutual suspicion. Politicians of the far right, often loosely allied to online and offline crowds using intimidation, are successfully mobilising people who are and feel disempowered. Across Europe, the European Union provides a target for nationalists seeking to explain why their society isn’t safer and richer.”[27]

Snyder, referring to the situation in the UK, writes: “All of the major Russian television channels, including RT, supported a vote to leave the EU in the weeks before the June 23, 2016, poll. [...] Russian internet trolls, live people who participated in exchanges with British voters, and Russian Twitter bots, computer programs that sent out millions of targeted messages, engaged massively on behalf of the Leave campaign. Four hundred and nineteen Twitter accounts that posted on Brexit were localised to Russia’s Internet Research Agency—later, every single one of them would also post on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. About a third of the discussion of Brexit on Twitter was generated by bots—and more than 90 per cent of the bots tweeting political material were not located in the United Kingdom.”[28]

“In the 2017 French presidential campaign, Marine Le Pen praised her patron Putin. She finished second in the first round of elections that April, defeating every candidate from France’s traditional parties. [...] In the second round, Le Pen received 34 per cent of the ballots. Though she lost to Macron, she did better than any other far Right candidate in the history of postwar France. To support the Front National was to attack the European Union.”[29]

Disruptive interference has always been present in politics, but now, as a result of the use of new technologies and social platforms, its power is unprecedented and overwhelming.
 

Efforts to Stop the Interference.

Ziccardi points out that “with big data and the use of digital technology now at the centre of political activity, security has become the key issue, given the increasingly widespread use of information technology in election campaigns.”[30]

On June 14th, 2019, a European Commission progress report on the fight against disinformation referred to evidence of sustained disinformation activity carried out by unnamed Russian sources in the run-up to the European election, with the aim of reducing turnout and influencing voter preferences.

Macron, in his open letter to the citizens of Europe on March 4th, 2019,[31] highlighted the EU’s need to create a European democratic protection agency: “Our first freedom is democratic freedom: the freedom to choose our leaders as foreign powers seek to influence our vote at each election. I propose creating a European Agency for the Protection of Democracies, which will provide each member state with European experts to protect their election process against cyberattacks and manipulation. In this same spirit of independence, we should also ban the funding of European political parties by foreign powers. We should have European rules banish all incitements to hate and violence from the Internet, since respect for the individual is the bedrock of our civilisation of dignity”.

On June 2nd, 2020, the French National Assembly began discussing how to stem the growing intrusiveness of Google, Facebook and Amazon in political debate, and how to tax these entities.
 

Democracy and the Political Crisis of the West.

This war of information is undermining the democratic rules of dialogue-based consensus building that, until now, have applied in the Western world. It is a global war, yet it is being fought in our very homes through social media (Facebook, Google, YouTube), which are greatly influencing the way people think, particularly those without the cultural tools necessary to defend themselves.

Bodei remarks that “many have the feeling that, within democracies, politics has been emptied, from within, both of its rational motivations and of its civil passions, leaving just a hollow shell of spectacle that has been filled with emotivity that offers little in the way of content”; and, further, that “nowadays, the truth is threatened by what those in Trump’s entourage call ‘alternative facts’, because we now live — this is an expression that is taking hold — in the post-truth era.”[32] Bodei even wonders “whether democracy still exists, or whether we have not, instead, already entered the post-democracy age, which is taking the form of populism, demobilisation and infantilisation of the masses, elective autocracy, conformism, relegation of truth to mere opinion, and loss of the ability to judge, an ability often paralysed by artfully spread fears. All these factors are making individuals, given their levels of insecurity and complementary need for reassurance and protection, less rational, and generating a sense of alarm mixed with resignation. In the mechanisms designed to ensure the citizens’ protections and guarantees, something has broken down: it is though a lowering of immune defences has given the powers of seduction more room for manoeuvre, and allowed analysis, reasoning and projects become to be turned into mere storytelling.”[33]

As Nunziante Mastrolia explains, “democracy is at risk when it abandons ‘the people’ and panders to ‘the crowd’”, where crowd, a holacratic concept developed by Plato, refers to a lawless, degenerate entity. “The crowd is a mass that fears the future. A fear that can be accentuated by the lack of a livelihood (or by the perception of a relative impoverishment) or by the absence of the intellectual tools necessary to rationalise the problems that afflict it. […] The mass that fears the future feels poor and sees itself as a victim of dark forces that are ruining its existence (any scapegoat will do); […] letting the crowd enter the liberal citadel means opening the door to tyranny. It is no coincidence that the great despots of the twentieth century, from Mussolini to Hitler, did not seize power overnight with a coup. Instead, they did so to the applause of cheering crowds! The crowd is reactionary and irrational [; instead,] there has to be a people for there to be democracy.” The people is a political construct resulting from great achievements such as the welfare state and the constitutionalisation of institutions, which brought freedom from fear, poverty and ignorance: “the political crisis of the West derives from having produced such an extraordinary scientific, technological and economic change that the political and social structures, designed for the Fordist era, are unable to treat and prevent the harmful side effects that such progress has had on large swathes of citizens of Western open societies: citizens who are now afraid. The political crisis of the West comes down only to this! The fact of having allowed the people to become the crowd, without intervening to prevent this transformation. It was the crowd that voted for Brexit, the crowd that voted for Trump, and the crowd that voted in populists in Italy.”[34]

Davies, too, remarks that a “sense that we have entered a new age of crowds is heightened by the growth and rising influence of social media” and he also points out that “crowds have been a feature of politics since ancient times, but they never possessed real-time coordination tools until the twenty-first century.”[35]

Calenda, on the other hand, says that a main reason for the crisis of liberal politics and democracy in the West is “the separation of politics and power resulting from the weakening of the nation-state. As the international markets have come to prevail over the national markets, the state has gradually lost its powers. But this process has not been accompanied by the birth of an international democratic political power. The only experiment of this kind has been the European one, but [...] economic integration has advanced much further than political integration [...]. The internationalisation of the economy has thus ended up weakening liberal democracy [...;] when the pace of change impacting on society exceeds society’s capacity to adapt to it, the citizens, justifiably, continue to demand that the state provide them with protections and guarantees.”[36]

Vladimir Putin, in a recent interview with the Financial Times said, among other things, that: “the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population” and that “our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable.”[37]

The most recent election results, which have seen many countries rejecting traditional liberal-democratic forces in favour of populists and nationalists, seem to support Putin’s view. In fact, it was excessive and unfettered liberalism that created the conditions for the financial crisis and the emergence of huge disparity in wealth, well highlighted in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century,[38] that have resulted in today’s deeply fractured society.

Liberal democracy must be combined with social justice and liberal excesses must be controlled. Furthermore, in the words of Martin Wolf, responding to Putin’s claims, “Liberal societies do need shared values and identity. That is perfectly compatible with immigration and enduring cultural differences. But both need to be managed: otherwise, popular discontent will bring to power leaders who despise the norms of liberal democracy. The fragile balance might then collapse.”[39]

While the illiberal oligarchy present in Russia, a country where income gaps are among the highest in the world, is clearly not the answer, the fact remains that democracy in our countries finds itself plunged into a deep crisis. As Calenda remarks, “only 47 per cent of Europeans and 31 per cent of Americans consider it essential to live in a democracy”[40] and in Italy “over 73 per cent of under-20s are politically uninformed, and 30 per cent never talk about politics.”[41]

Is our increasingly cybernetic society therefore destined to be a society without values and without respect for life and human dignity? A society that fails to grasp the consequences of what it does, and that, in the grip of negative and destructive emotions, loses individual references and becomes part of a mechanism or robot, a society that forgets history, or an indifferent society in Gramsci’s sense of the term?

Is there still time to mount a European resistance on behalf of mankind?

 
What to Do and the Illusion of Continuity.

The globalised world really is a new world that, politically speaking, demands new attitudes from Europe, which must, in particular, avoid adopting a simple wait-and-see strategy.

It is important to recognise that there is nothing Europe’s nation-states can do, singly, to address the huge power imbalances present in the world.

Even though, in this schizophrenic framework, Europe, should it choose to settle for the status quo, runs the risk of spiralling in on itself and collapsing, it nevertheless remains, for now, the world’s only real bulwark of democracy and civilisation. But, we have to recognise that the Europe we have is one that has been self-referential for far too long, and whose supporters, even those hailing from parties that profess to be progressive, have always been too lukewarm in their support of European unity, and not always thrown themselves wholeheartedly behind the cause.

The enemies of European unity, starting with Trump, Putin and, to an extent, China, are both numerous and strong, and they act by fomenting discontent, by financing anti-European parties, by managing cyberwarfare, and by implementing the divide and rule strategy; or, alternatively, they wait on the sidelines ready to grab the pieces of the crumbling Union.

The strength of these enemies is such that there can be no continuing with the policy of small steps, under the illusion that continuity will win out.

This is a misconception that Snyder explains very clearly: “Americans and Europeans were guided through the new century by a tale about “the end of history,” by what I will call the politics of inevitability, a sense that the future is just more of the present, that the laws of progress are known, that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing really to be done. In the American capitalist version of this story, nature brought the market, which brought democracy, which brought happiness. In the European version, history brought the nation, which learned from war that peace was good, and hence chose integration and prosperity.”[42]

The most important and urgent thing is to build a new European institutional framework that, within the Union, can implement a federation project involving the countries that are most in favour of this endeavour.

It has become necessary to work out a new model of social development based on reduction of economic imbalances, to make institutions influential and authoritative once again; and where these are inadequate, as in Europe, we need to find effective political responses to the serious global problems that today’s “new politics” is unable to address.

As reported across all the leading media channels, the Federal Trade Commission, the independent US consumer protection authority, recently fined Facebook 5 billion dollars for furnishing Cambridge Analytica with the data of around 87 million users for political purposes.

What is needed, in place of today’s nation-states that lack the necessary size and resources, is a European federation capable of controlling, with appropriate laws, the excessive power of the Big Tech companies.

The right wing and populist parties were quicker than the progressive ones to really appreciate the hardships faced by the sections of society most in difficulty, and exploited these as a means of manipulating them. The disorientation felt by much of the electorate is, indeed, the fabric and basis of nationalist and populist action. If the nationalist agenda wins and, in the ensuing chaos, Europe falls, this will lead to the war the superpowers are perhaps hoping for.

But who should be doing what in a European Union in which 27 countries want the single market but are, in many cases, opposed to the ideas of deeper integration and a political Europe? What might be the starting point?

As Calenda has pointed out “the European integration process can be furthered only by (and among) a group of states that might be considered an enlarged founder members group (Germany, France, Italy and Spain). […] The rift with the Visegrad countries is definitive […] To counter the Visegrad group, it has become necessary to establish a ‘Rome Group’ (named in honour of Europe’s birthplace) that can constitute the hard core of the future federal Europe.”[43] “This may prove to be a difficult path to follow, or even impossible, but there are no alternatives. Unless the climate of mistrust can be eliminated, at least among a smaller and more homogeneous group of countries, then there will be little that the EU institutions can do to move Europe forward […]. And we have to act soon, because the next financial or geopolitical crisis (be it over migration or war) risks being Europe’s last.”[44]

The federal structure characterised by autonomous power at different levels, ranging from neighborhood to European and, ultimately, global level, is the ideal structure for meeting the challenges of globalisation, combatting divisions and hatred, and restoring confidence in the future.

Let us “turn the crowd back into a people and look to the future with the confidence of an open society.”[45] Or, as Snyder urges, let us “halt our thoughtless journey from inevitability to eternity, and exit the road to unfreedom. [The time has come to] begin a politics of responsibility.”[46]

This is, in fact, the crux of the matter, and it goes beyond the question of external interference (influential as this undoubtedly is): it is up to Europe to believe in itself and abandon the status quo. Through an initially small group of countries, it must start creating a genuine European political decision-making power, in the new ways that politics demands, and it is up to the progressive and liberal parties to quickly shoulder their responsibility for promoting this.

Anna Costa


[1] Rana Foroohar, Big Tech is America’s new railroad problem, Financial Times, 16 June 2019, https://www.ft.com/content/ec3cbe78-8dc7-11e9-a1c1-51bf8f989972.

[2] William Davies, Nervous States, How Feeling Took Over the World, New York, Random House, 2018.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Ibidem.

[5] Ibidem.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom, http://cd.bos.rs/online-citanka-novi-lideri--nove-mogucnosti-10/uploaded/Timothy%20Snyder%20-%20The%20Road%20to%20Unfreedom(2018).pdf.

[8] William Davies, op. cit..

[9] Remo Bodei, Vivere on line, Il Mulino, 490 (2017), pp. 207-208.

[10] William Davies, op. cit..

[11] Giovanni Ziccardi, Tecnologia per il potere, Milan, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2019, p. 116.

[12] Remo Bodei, op. cit., p. 207.

[13] William Davies, op. cit..

[14] Timothy Snyder, Russia is winning the information war, Literary Hub, April 3, 2018, https://lithub.com/russia-is-winning-the-information-war.

[15] William Davies, op. cit..

[16] Karin Pettersson, The trilemma of Big Tech, https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-trilemma-of-big-tech.

[17] Ibidem.

[18] Giovanni Ziccardi, op. cit., p. 11.

[19] Ibidem, p. 51.

[20] Ibidem, p. 111.

[21] Ibidem, pp. 9-10.

[22] Ibidem, p. 18.

[23] Timothy Snyder, op. cit., p. 14.

[24] Ibidem, p. 177.

[25] Charles Maynes, PRI’s The World, The trolls are winning says Russian troll hunter, https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-03-13/trolls-are-winning-says-russian-troll-hunter.

[26] Carlo Calenda, Orizzonti selvaggi, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2018, p. 153.

[27] William Davies, op. cit..

[28] Timothy Snyder, op. cit., p. 89.

[29] Ibidem. p. 87.

[30] Giovanni Ziccardi, op. cit., p. 224.

[31] Emanuel Macron, For European renewal, https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/03/04/for-european-renewal.en.

 

[32] Remo Bodei, op. cit., p. 208.

[33] Ibidem, p. 209.

[34] Nunziante Mastrolia, La democrazia è a rischio quando abbandona “il popolo” e coccola “la folla”, https://open.luiss.it/2018/04/20/la-democrazia-e-a-rischio-quando-abbandona-il-popolo-e-coccola-la-folla/. Readers are also referred to the article by Mastrolia published in this issue of the journal.

[35] William Davies, op. cit..

[36] Carlo Calenda, op. cit., p. 143.

[37] Martin Wolf, Liberalism will endure but must be renewed, Financial Times, 2 July 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/52dc93d2-9c1f-11e9-9c06-a4640c9feebb.

[38] Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2014.

[39] Martin Wolf, op. cit..

[40] Carlo Calenda, op. cit., p. 27.

[41] Ibidem, p. 50.

[42] Timothy Snyder, op. cit., pp. 10-11.

[43] Carlo Calenda, op. cit., p. 159.

[44] Ibidem, p. 160.

[45] Nunziante Mastrolia, op. cit..

[46] Timothy Snyder, op. cit., p. 225.

 

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