democracy Tag

5 Life Lessons We Can All Salvage From Trump’s Presidential Election

A man with zero military or political experience has just been elected as US president for the first time ever. The ultimate example of winging it all the way to the top. Despite multiple hurdles and blows to his campaign he went from rank outsider to winner. What does this say about hard work, ambition, luck and success?

1. Authenticity comes through candour.

Donald Trump has said truly unacceptable things. His speeches have rambled and gone wildly off-script. He’s a raw, unedited maverick. But when he repeatedly says he’s going to build a wall, people believe him.

Ever been to buy a car and the salesperson has candidly told you about something minor that’s wrong with it? A wonky mirror that’s easy to fix. You’re highly likely to believe everything else they tell you after that. It’s a classic sales tactic.

In business or politics many people have polished their speech and presentation skills until there’s no authenticity left. That’s great for people like Trump. He got to play the ‘real’ guy, with nothing to hide and who really means what he says.

But… you don’t have to be a dick about it. Be candid. Be open. Be vulnerable. Be unedited. People will like, trust and care about you.

2. Accept that not everyone will like what you do. Some will hate it.

Ask someone to name the most hated bands on the planet and people will say “U2, “Coldplay”, “Nickelback”. The list goes on, and funnily enough it closely mirrors the list of most successful bands.

Chris Martin of Coldplay has to wake up every day knowing that people literally loathe his music. It clearly doesn’t stop him making more of his music because lots more people love it, and making it is what he feels born to do.

Trump faced an unprecedented amount of hate in the media. Yet he ploughed on regardless. He seemed to thrive on it at times. You need to do this on your level too. Perhaps your own work should make more people angry, at least make them feel something.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

3. Having qualifications is never enough. Connect.

Hilary Clinton is widely thought to be the most qualified candidate for US president ever. Yet the loudmouth barged in and won the job. Is this because Hilary’s a woman? Quite probably. But it’s also because the most qualified person rarely gets the job.

When you go for a job or opportunity, the people assessing you just want to know you can do it. It doesn’t necessarily help if you also have a masters degree and have authored books on the topic. Sadly, that probably makes you unlikeable.

Beyond basic capability it’s about personality. About connecting with people. Trump convinced disenfranchised America that he listened and he cared. That he was on their wavelength and not that of the political elite. This mattered far more than any experience or qualifications.

4. Say something new.

A useful brainstorming technique in advertising is to try and list all the things that client’s sector would never do. The big stinking no-nos. A beer brand talking about getting blind drunk, or a car maker talking about speeding.

They create fun jumping off points that lead to some of the best and most surprising ideas. But ultimately it’s a way to craft a message that you’ll be the first to say.

Trump’s policies sound like the kind of thing they find in a mass shooter’s notepad when they posthumously search their bedroom. Or at least they used to. Now they’re his actual presidential mandate.

His unorthodox policy promises were hard to believe at first. But they provided a breath of fresh air to people who had tuned out from politics. They said “yeah, we gonna fuck some shit up” and people responded to that.

5. Listen. Listen. Listen.

If I had to praise The Donald for one thing, it would be his harnessing of disenfranchised America, through listening to them and playing their concerns back to them. He’s an accomplished salesman and this is how sales works. A politician doesn’t think like this and that’s why he won.

This wasn’t about poor vs rich, black vs white, men vs women. It was about voters sticking a massive finger to the political elite in Washington, who don’t really listen to ‘hard working people’ — a phrase they constantly chant but never truly understand.

Just like other right wing political elements in the UK and Europe, Trump identified a huge gap between politicians and citizens. And with nothing more than populist, polarising words he stepped up to podiums and closed that gap.

Bonus tip: My money is on Michelle Obama being elected US president in 2020 😉

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Boaty McBoatface

Boaty McBoatface, The War In Iraq and Modern Democracy

So, the polar exploration ship will now be called Sir David Attenborough, instead of the overwhelmingly popular Boaty McBoatface, for the obvious reason that it’s a more ‘sensible’ name. But does this reaffirm to those who voted that democracy only works when it aligns with establishment wishes?

I feel like I should have gone now, but I didn’t. In 2002 as my London housemates prepared to go to the protest of record proportions, I openly admitted I wasn’t attending because there was no point. I didn’t even bother to vote at this time of my life, such was my mistrust in and apathy for politics. I didn’t feel in the slightest bit vindicated when we subsequently went to war, against the wishes of a huge section of British society. I felt sad. I felt that the political establishment, a Labour-led one at that, had once again done what the hell it liked without regard for us.

A comparison with Boaty McBoatface might seem trivial, but the people who took part in this poll were not only the very people we need to engage in democracy — young, savvy and engaged — but people who clearly understand the contract you make when you ask someone to vote on something. The result and subsequent change of heart only serves to show them that no, there is no point in involving yourself in anything political.

Since the middle ages and the Magna Carta (and arguably far earlier) we have all been born into a bargain with the state. We give a little of our freedom — freedom to kill who we like and park where we want — in return for the order of society, and security of the state. We live with total faith in that contract, but when it comes to the less pressing stuff, not of being murdered but whether we invade a foreign land or name a boat after a venerable broadcaster, our faith is in tatters.

I believe this is why there are no ‘normal’ people in politics. No people like you or me, just the kind of socially awkward kids that joined a political party when they were 15 instead of doing the more usual stupid teenage stuff. ‘We’ don’t really care. We never have because the entire system seems rigged and apparently resists any real change. The Farages and Corbyns of this world get ridiculed for standing by grassroots political values whilst the PM successfully brushes off necro-bestiality.

And so it is with a poll or referendum — the key instruments of democracy. They are carried out to discover what we all think so a decision can be made based on that instead of an authority figure’s arbitrary hunch. They’re risky of course. The outcome may be surprising, counter-intuitive, ridiculous. But that’s why we hold them. By having national elections we take the risk that the far right British National Party might gain power and perform a sartorially inferior re-run of the holocaust — if that’s what people really want. Of course it isn’t, but we do clearly want a polar exploration ship called Boaty McBoatface because it’s a great name and we chose it.

It might seem churlish to express my ‘appalled’ views about a silly online vote, and pointing to it as a symptom of a broken democracy. But the shame of it is, that however silly or trivial, it’s one more reason for today’s twenty-somethings — tomorrow’s political, cultural and business leaders — to believe that voting doesn’t change anything, and ultimately every important decision is down to some old white guy in a suit.

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The Pirate Bay Movie Now Available. Free.

Today, the movie TPB AFK (The Pirate Bay – Away From Keyboard) will be premiered online, free to download and even re-edit under a Creative Commons Licence. Filmmaker Simon Klose has spent the last four years following the founders of The Pirate Bay through its legal struggles, technical issues, and ongoing battle with some of the most powerful corporations on Earth. There’s a good interview with him on The Verge.

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The Pirate Bay is still the go-to place for downloading movies, songs, software and literature, all for free, for millions of internet users worldwide. Even in 2013 it is still the only means of obtaining much of the major studios’ catalogues because of the relatively small selection still available on streaming services. But the Swedish site also stands for something more than freeloading off the creative industries, they have been fighting the much wider cause of net neutrality – the idea that the internet should be the same for everyone and not controlled or selectively throttled by ISPs, corporations or governments.

2012 saw the tipping point for online movie watching. More movies were watched legally online than on physical media such as DVD and Blu-Ray, which is a huge story for services like Netflix, LoveFilm, Sony Playstation et al. But even though the movie industry is finally waking up to the reality of the digital age, The Pirate Bay and sites like it still offer the convenience of choosing a film and knowing you can download it in full for free within an hour. I’ve always been a big believer in the convenience factor being much more significant than many people consider. Whereas most observers assume illegal downloaders just love a free ride, successful businesses such as Netflix, Kindle and iTunes show that if you just make it easy people will pay the price of a couple of coffees for a film, book or album because it’s still very good value for money. There’s also the quality assurance and nice feeling from supporting art too of course.

Hopefully, 2013 will see entertainment media even easier to access legally and give us less reason to resort to torrenting, proxy IPs and illegal streaming services etc, so the idealists behind The Pirate Bay can get on with the really important business of campaigning for an open internet. Worldwide. Neutral. Forever.

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Thought Shower: Is the web a democracy or a meritocracy?

After a pub conversation the other night where various parties were espousing their views on the web and its democratic nature I argued that the web isn’t democratic at all, that in fact it’s meritocratic. This seemed to hold up for about a minute before realising it’s actually neither, rather somewhere between the two. In fact its characteristics are more than that and unique enough to require a name, albeit one you might get punched for using – webocracy

I’ve pulled out the definition for democracy and meritocracy. Both words, like almost all words, have several definitions listed but here they are with the appropriate definition for the usage we’re discussing:

de⋅moc⋅ra⋅cy

[di-mok-ruh-see]

the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

mer⋅i⋅toc⋅ra⋅cy

[mer-i-tok-ruh-see]
a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced: e.g. The dean believes the educational system should be a meritocracy.

(Thanks to dictionary.com for the definitions there)

So if we were to build a dictionary definition for the webocracy what would it look like? Let’s list the characteristics:

  • The internet is a place where almost anyone in the world can create or curate, and then share content.
  • Each morning when you look at the internet it has changed from what it was yesterday. This constant change is informed by its billions of nodes. Each node is a human in front of a computer, just as you are now. Hello node.
  • Money can buy the creation, development and exposure of any content. This money can come from anywhere and need not have been generated through online activity, meaning a previously offline entity can immediately enter and penetrate the online market. Success, however the creator measures it, is not guaranteed.
  • The content you create (ie personally author) or curate (ie find and gather together) is, if you wish, viewable by anyone with access to the internet, meaning that potentially your reach is the number of people in the world with internet access.
  • You have almost complete freedom of speech on the internet, though within the mainstream (ie outside of the likes of Freenet and underground groups) there are widely adopted standards that do not permit subjects such as terrorism and paedophilia. In reality this degree of freedom is similar to that of a western country in the physical world.
  • The internet is not significantly affected by Earth’s geography.

So in conclusion, the web is a level playing field where some people just rock up better equipped than others. Talent will often out but artificial help is a definite advantage. Here’s the dictionary definition, I’ll get on the phone to Oxford English Dictionary tomorrow as I expect to see this in their next edition:

web⋅oc⋅ra⋅cy

[web-ok-ruh-see]
the unique social system extant on the world wide web in which every user operates a terminal of potentially equal value, resulting in a broad and vast cultural environment driven by the open choice of consumers and publishers, two groups that the webocracy has rendered indistinguishable. The paths between consumer and publisher are now many million times more numerous than previously existed in non-digital media.
E.g. OMG, my video of the cat licking the mirror has got like forty thousand views on YouTube, that’s twice as many as that stupid Wrigleys ‘viral’. Webocracy FTW!

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