It’s not exactly new that people are confused about me and what it is I do. For as long as I have been writing on the Internet (going on 25 years now), I have had an almost obsessive interest in the social and political impacts of this new shiny thing called the Internet. I’ve personally grappled with my own persona, and the idea that we are all public figures now. I’m writing a book. I have a large body of work, spanning decades, on this topic, and have pretty much been a crash-test dummy for the information revolution.
I study the Internet. I have always studied the Internet. I am an expert on its interpersonal, psychological and political impact. I write with a personal and casual style, because I want my work to be accessible and engaging, but I am still a researcher/analyst.
I thought that was clear.
It would appear that it needs explaining again.
Unfortunately, and no matter how many times I say it, I think people are still confused. They conflate my professional/academic specialty of an emerging phenomenon with a lot of moving parts (unintended consequences of the True Fans principle creating actual cults, how well-intentioned UX & marketing psychology, community building and CX work has led to filter-bubbles & radicalisation with pretty dire political, psychological and legal consequences), with activism.
Ask me a deceptively simple question like “so, what’s going on with J.K. Rowling?” and it takes hours to explain just one facet. This is my life’s work. I’m working really hard to try and drill it all down to bite-sized content, but I sit where three complex fields intersect: technology, psychology and policy law, and is a Herculean effort that requires time and money and resources that I simply don’t have. I wish I did. I do this all for the love of it and because I think it is important and I see where it ends.
It is easy to get lost in the noise of the online culture wars. It is especially easy to be misunderstood/mischaracterised. That’s kind of the point of it. A big factor in “Wokism’, “Anti-Wokism”, MAGAs and the so-called “Culture Wars” gaining online dominance, is largely that it has made itself completely impenetrable to the vast majority of people, and almost impossible to argue without looking evil or crazy. Because you inevitably end up brushing up against global politics, intelligence agencies and cybersecurity shit. The crazy is built in.
I mean, I found myself defending Donald Trump over his deplatforming for fuck’s sake.
But this stuff is really complicated if you’re researching it, because we are on the receiving end of a firehose of pain, trauma, bullshit, and genuine grievance 24/7 and the signal-noise ratio is constantly off-whack.
One thing we can agree on is that everyone has lost their damn minds. Right?
To even start understanding why, first up, you need bulletproof boundaries, balls of steel, resolve, a commitment to empiricism, and be willing to be misunderstood (and often viciously so). You need the ability to spot emotional manipulation, know it isn’t you, and stand firm. You’ll be told it’s you, by bots and dodgy agencies, before you even start, in the hope you back off. Then, you only need an advanced understanding of worldwide political systems and history. You really need to understand your theory. You need an understanding of several disciplines at roughly 3rd year undergrad level.
You need to be able to go into dry detail with data, and also try to figure out history and everything that led us here.
You need experience with policy, law, organising, campaigning and lobbying and how that process can be corrupted. For the Gender Wars alone, you need to know your Marx, your Dworkin, your Chomsky, your Foucault and your Butler. You need to know all of your Feminist theory, and the cultural and historical differences between the European and American movements (and all the different meanings for the same words). You need to understand the history of Intersectionality, and how the “left” of the United States has been co-opted and all but replaced in United States mainstream political discourse. That’s important. You also need to understand the context of all of this and Sociology’s tense relationship with the Hard Sciences and Materialist Social Sciences. Oh, and the United States overarching global war on Communism, Imperialism and Cultural Hegemony.
You need to be able to recognise entryism/infiltration and other political tactics. You need to know social policy and trends across a number of countries, and how “Wokism” (otherwise known as the gentrified left, which is the term I have settled on for it) has attached itself to genuine social movements worldwide. You need to know about US Foreign Policy and Cultural Hegemony and the tensions in France post-USSR. You need to know Securitization Theory and Cybersecurity and Cyberterrorism and Military PsyOps…. you need to know child development and adolescent behaviour. You need a cross-cultural understanding of the legal systems and history of politeness and speech and etiquette. In the Gender Wars, you also need to know your DSM V and your “basic” biochemistry and medicine (lol). You need to know all the different schools of thought in all the disciplines, across different cultures and how they clash across every single issue that has been impacted.
You need an understanding of the central role that corporations and the business incentives around content/branding and PR, and the push for “corporate social responsibility”, and how “diversity and inclusion” has been misused so that to question the ideology means to question the cause, and said corporations go about business as usual whilst dressing themselves in a rainbow flag and Black Lives Matter. Oh, and it’d be good if you have also designed and built some tech products and run those projects so you can identify the gaps and figure out solutions.
And that’s just for fucking feminism and gender, let alone race, environment, disability and the range of other social justice issues that have been tainted by the Critical Theory, “Woke” strawman.
Oh yeah, you also need Media Studies, Semiotics, Persuasion and Propaganda, Neuroscience, Critical Thinking, Logic, Epistemology, Ethics, History, Anthropology, English, Politics, Psychology, Biology, Marketing, Journalism, Public Relations, Economics, Finance… oh yeah and it also helps to understand how Facebook ads and micro-targeting and moderation and big tech algorithms work, including SEO and digital marketing funnels. A decade running an advertising agency at this point (as I did) is also helpful.
…And oh Lord, the dark money and network of charities and NGOs that are nested and nested and networked to create what is basically a massive MLM scam for donations and radicalisation.
Then, there’s the coercion, the linguistic tricks, sleights of hand, emotional manipulation and propaganda techniques that would get Goebbels doing the chicken dance in no time.
Oh yeah, and you need to be able to navigate extremely dense theory on all these things (ugh).
You need to either be very clever. Or very crazy (I am always open to the idea that I have lost my mind). And know that even if you’re clever, you’re going to be called crazy, and if you happen to also be a woman on the Internet saying clever things, crazy is the default, and crazy men will be the ones considered clever. Yes, even if they’re not even in your discipline, don’t work in tech and do 1/100th of the work.
Are you exhausted yet? This is my day. Try doing this only to be called a ‘bigot’ on one hand, and an idiot by men who read fools like James Lindsay and think they’re social scientists on the other. And to be shouted over by people who think Tim Pool and Jimmy Dore are knowledgeable. And, do that with no financial support, no University behind me, no money and a bunch of bros asking me to distill all this complexity into a tweet (without appealing to authority or being credentialist, of course)…. just me, my time, my brain and my ruthless desire to try and explain why everyone’s brains are melting and warn that this has severe political consequences that nobody can even understand, let alone care about.
To be a critic or questioner of the weapon of so-called “Wokism” (which I focus on because I am only concerned with how US Neoliberalism has managed to successfully attack and replace and mischaracterise socialist critique and destroy not only the Humanities, but are a direct threat to our digital rights, and is one of the several micro-cults that have formed on the Internet, but is the most prominent outside MAGA/Q), especially when it costs you friends, family and opportunities, is inherently crazy-making, because it gaslights, manipulates and bullies you into compliance and self-doubt every step of the way, even if you do all of the work that I have mentioned above. It is designed so that it is easier to go along with it or pick a side, and if you don’t, you end up in the fight of your life.
That’s called Thought Reform.
And everyone thinks I am crazy and/or stupid when I am not. I am just uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat this.
So, the crazy is built in. Your life is more peaceful if you go along with it. In order to fight it, you have to be insanely informed, insanely politically savvy, and even if you have all of that, insanely committed to receiving death and rape threats and able to withstand harassment, de-platforming and being hauled into HR and potentially fired for liking a tweet or making a joke.
And ideally, you need to be a beloved author and/or billionaire. That also helps. I’m broke because I don’t pander to either side and am focused on diagnosing the problem.
Obviously, people don’t understand the work I’m doing. It’s definitely niche, but it’s extremely important. And it’s a job. I feel like I am working with a Magic Eye Painting 24/7, trying to get people to see the sailboat. I am constantly moving it around, shifting the light, getting you to squint and tilt your head until you finally see the sailboat. Oh, and that sailboat is hurtling towards us all, on fire, and about to explode if we don’t start seeing it now and address it (EDIT: I wrote this when I was less clear on what was happening, but the thing I warned about was… ironically, the strategy. You try doing this, building a parachute on the way down, and see how often you’re wrong.).
There is always a fine line between ground-breaking research in an emerging and complex area that nobody else understands, and a crazy board. It is not fair to lump researchers in with crackpots. I assure you that I am the former. I am just way ahead of everyone else and up against… well… a lot. For free. With no support.
I wish that I could get funded to perform all this research (if anything just so that I am seen as legitimate) but I have stumbled on something that is not only incredibly corrupt and dangerous, but incredibly powerful. I’m not a journalist and have no desire to be (although I will happily write essays and Op Eds). I am stuck, just chipping away at a YouTube channel in my “spare” time, and hopefully, one day, a book or three.
I’d love to be a full time author, but there is only one way to get paid to write these days, and that is by being a soldier/cam girl in the US culture wars. No University will touch me, because I can’t find a PhD supervisor who isn’t balls deep in Postmodernism (which is what I critique), and because I am cross-discipline and have been in the business world, I’m not sure I fit there either. Not to mention PhDs are expensive and a full time commitment around work and family. I’d love a book deal, but I have to do it without funding, because first time authors don’t get advances.
So, I’m stuck, but I do it anyway, because I feel it is important, because everyone’s takes are just… bad and wrong. In fact, the more famous they are and the more they make, the more wrong they get. This seems deliberate, like nobody really wants the answers. Something, of course, is better than nothing, so I write Facebook posts and Twitter threads as much as possible in the meantime to get my thoughts out quickly, so that at least I can say I said it and there’s a record. Because a hefty number of dudes like running with my ideas and pretending they didn’t and then telling me that if I had a book or PhD then I’d be more credible. You know, merit. All that hustle.
Anyway, all I’m asking is that you try to see the things I post as analysis and ideas, not me being crazy or “radicalised” (whatever the fuck that means… I research radicalisation!). I am just working with what little resources I have, in an emerging and complex phenomenon that crosses about 15 disciplines in order to even describe, that very few people understand, in a world where even uttering a question about it gets you cancelled and punished and called crazy or worse.
It’s literally like this thing was manufactured in a lab, taking all the lessons from every failed totalitarian regime, fused with capitalism, big tech, pharma and patriarchy to make a Frankenstein’s monster that somehow sees brightly coloured hair as part of the dress code, because if you have colourful hair, you can’t possible be a neoliberal or something… like three kids in a trenchcoat to pass as the “revolutionaries”. Yeah, that’s the funny part.
I’m acutely aware of how single-minded I look, and how super-niche this is, but that is because this is important. It’s my life’s work. I reiterate: this is my area of professional expertise and I am trying to write books that actually make a difference.
So, I am not saying it flippantly when I say that:
- Online cults are an unintended consequence of Human-Centred Design thinking, user-centred algorithms and are a serious threat to our political systems;
- It can be largely explained by looking at unethical digital industry practices: black hat SEO, dark patterns, radicalisation funnels/propaganda networks, ‘reputation management’, astroturfing, troll farms, dodgy self-help communities, inexperienced community moderators and a number of MLM-style tactics. Focusing on the tactics is to diagnose the problem and regulate/find solutions.
- “Wokism” is deliberate gentrification of the left. The left is the easy target, as is feminism, because it gets people angry and hacks the left’s lizard brains. It exposes an unethical campaign strategy that rationalises violence and utilises Fair Game-style tactics under the guise of legitimate social justice issues/concerns, in order to deplatform and scapegoat people. It also has the institutional power, financial backing and dodgy financial interests, that replaces us with pro-corporate, pro-censorship, pro-establishment distractions, and have the result of driving people to the US Far Right, both in terms of scapegoat for liberals who have sold out workers for their own careers, and in making the right look reasonable. Pro Tip: No socialist would ever weaponise employment or livelihood. Ever.
- We are ill-equipped to deal with this threat, as law and policymakers have been asleep for a decade with US-dominated “Big Tech”, and these tools that were supposed to democratise now have the ability to destroy lives, communities and entire nations with no accountability/recourse;
- “Critical Theory” – specifically Tumblr Deconstructionist versions of Critical Theory (what others call “Wokism”. Note: YES, academics: I understand it is a generalisation, but I have to meet people where they’re at and nudge them towards me, and that’s what they think it is… you can learn from me…), via the Internet, US Sociology Departments and for-profit Universities, has been weaponised by bad actors and big, oh so dark money)- outside of the walls of Universities, has been used as a deeply problematic and totalitarian framework and it has the potential to go completely off the rails if not kept in check and put back into the sandbox, and despite the core theory being legitimate, is being used by the powerful to 1) implode and distract from materialist critique of US Imperialism and Neoliberalism, and 2) as a boogeyman to defund and take the teeth out of the Humanities and 3) to build frameworks that are pro-censorship, anti-democratic and fundamentally unethical and oppressive;
- United States political culture, Cultural Hegemony, corporate media and their cozy relationship with US Foreign Policy in particular is a significant root cause in a lot of this (hence Chomsky, and, alas, without invoking Godwin’s Law and thus losing all credibility, sigh, think how Nietzsche was misused…);
- Dark Money is a massive problem in every country, but particularly the United States, and Facebook (with the help of digital agencies, which people are ignoring) is an easy way to ‘launder’ said money and ideas. There is little scrutiny over ad spend and how it is managed, and the massive network of tech companies and agencies that can hide money, radicalise and misuse data. The law has not kept up with this and it is ripe for abuse. And the cultural power of the United States means that their dark money campaigns are our dark money funded campaigns.
- There is one dominant narrative that is not being truthful, and not even trying to hide it, but because their opposition is so repugnant/indefensible, they are getting away with it – with increasingly bigger targets every time. I believe it is much more sinister, mostly because the left refuses to talk about it and provides cover when we should be critiquing it and addressing it using our toolkit. Yes. The US Democrats have turned eerily fascistic, using people’s fear of Trump or other scapegoats as a ruse.
What is happening is just WRONG.
And this is the activism part.
People being fired, deplatformed and subjected to death threats for an opinion is a dangerous abuse of power by employers and corporations. The power of Big Tech and advertisers is out of control, unaccountable and terrifying. And this mass-hysteria over diversity & inclusion and ‘kind-washing’ of well-intentioned corporates, means if you question it, you are (so far, figuratively, but…) burned at the stake… and all of those extremely important issues go unaddressed.
Every Western institution has been captured – in varying degrees – by online micro-cults with far too much political power who are able to be nudged in any direction the powerful see fit.
The mainstream US media is manufacturing child consent and gaslighting all of us into accepting something that we cannot come back from. If you know your Chomsky, replace the Military-Industrial Complex with a Politico-Media-Pharma-Tech Ubercomplex, and the Fifth Filter with “Alt Right/Hate/TERF” and you’ll understand.
In other words, for the last time, I am NOT fucking Alt Right or radicalised or crazy or a TERF or a transphobe. I am also not a “leftist”. I am a senior woman in tech who sees a serious problem and want us to correct course. I am a researcher of the political impacts of the internet and a feminist who has a grip on history and data and sees where this takes us. That’s it.
Well, also a smart-arse but you can be funny and smart, folks.
I’m just building on Herman/Chomsky and studying in my FIELD OF EXPERTISE, which is the Internet’s role in this.
And you’re fortunate enough to be watching me work through my thoughts as I am doing important work.
So, in summary, I am an expert talking about complex issues. I am unfunded and independent, because I want to do it properly, without being compromised. I have no way of monetising beyond consulting or maybe doing courses or lectures. I have no book deal or sponsors. I freelance with select clients to fund this work, because I am not wealthy enough to just go and do a PhD or take a year off to write a book. Which means I then have even less time to do this work. I’m tired, you guys. I’m sorry I don’t output as much as I’d like. I really wish I could.
I work around the clock for what often feels like massive personal and financial cost (and honestly, it seriously isn’t worth it most of the time unless you actually care), bucket-loads of shit, and no credit, and to have many of my thoughts co-opted by the US culture warriors on the right and turned into a weapon so that when I say it, it sounds like a “talking point”. I’m not fuelled by anything other than intellectual curiosity and solving the problem, and wanting to help find solutions for something I believe is going to end really badly. I’m told constantly what my motivations are: hate. By the very people I am trying to help, and to try and save the political ‘left’. I have lost so much to this shit because of this sudden extrapolation from professional interests to personal qualities.
I write all this here in the vague hope that one day, I might actually get some recognition, even if I don’t have a PhD or a book (Yet! Soon! Maybe! One Day!), or don’t have the right pedigree or groin appendages to have an opinion that actually gets heard. It’s why I have spent two years trying to get over my camera and mic fright and to become a better speaker. Nobody works as hard as I do on this topic and I am not even going to get a doctorate at the end, let alone riches. I am hated for doing my job when I could just shut up, go back to corporate gigs at $300 per hour and sit pretty. But I don’t. I do this because it is right. And it is important.
I’m not interested in tribal wars. I am not a fucking Trump supporter, nor a transphobe, for fuck’s sake. I am an analyst. And furthermore, I fucking know what I am talking about.
So, if you can’t tell the difference between me exploring arguments within my vocation, and just talking made-up shit, well, I suggest maybe you need to listen to what I have to say more than anyone.
It’d be cool if you could support my work. I’m setting up some members only stuff and courses, but like everything, it is a chicken-egg problem where I have to constantly triage my time. But it’s coming as soon as possible 🙂
Hope that at least clears some stuff up.