How the network is bringing down the Murdoch Empire and rocking the status quo

Posted by on July 10th, 2011

This. This is what is happening in the UK right now. Radical destabilisation of the existing order, the status quo, through the pure power of the truth.

Murdoch: the network defeats the hierarchy:

The Murdoch empire fractured, a Conservative prime minister attracting bets on his resignation, the Metropolitan Police on the edge of yet another existential crisis and the political establishment in disarray.

A network of subversives would have counted that a spectacular result to achieve in a decade, let alone in a single week. But it was not subversives that achieved it – the wounds are self-inflicted.

As the News of the World scandal gathered momentum it became clear, by midnight on Thursday, that this was not just the latest of a series of institutional crises – the banks, MPs expenses – but the biggest. For this one goes to the heart of the way this country has been run, under both parties, for decades.

It is like a nightmare scripted by Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek: key parts of the political machinery of Britain are wavering.

In economics journalism, we have learned to study what the Financial Times writer Gillian Tett calls “the social silence”: the subject that everybody at high-class cocktail parties wants to avoid.

After Lehman Brothers collapsed, we realised that the unasked question had been the most important: “on whose books do the increasingly toxic debts of the housing market stand?” The answer was “in the shadow banking system”, but we only knew it existed when it collapsed.

The political equivalent of that question is the one everybody has been asking journalists and politicians this weekend: why do all politicians kow-tow to Mr Murdoch; what is it that makes them incapable of seeing the moral hazards of the relationship?

Nobody outside the Murdoch circle knows the full answer, but I suspect it is quite prosaic: like the Wizard of Oz, Mr Murdoch’s power derived from the irrational fright politicians took from his occasional naked displays of it. The Kinnock “light bulb” headline was probably the signal moment. He was powerful because people believed he had the power, and that editors like Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson probably had a file on everybody bigger than MI5′s, and so you should never, ever, cross them.

Now there is a school of social theory that has a name for a system in which press barons, police officers and elected politicians operate a mutual back-scratching club: it is termed “the manufacturing of consent”.

Pioneered by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, the theory states that essentially the mass media is a propaganda machine; that the advertising model makes large corporate advertisers into “unofficial regulators”; that the media live in fear of politicians; that truly objective journalism is impossible because it is unprofitable (and plagued by “flak” generated within the legal system by resistant corporate power).

At one level, this week’s events might be seen as a vindication of the theory: News International has admitted paying police officers; and politicians are admitting they have all played the game of influence (“We’ve all been in this together” said Cameron, disarmingly). The journalists are baring their breasts and examining their consciences. The whole web of influence has been uncovered.

Finally, the political influence that was supposed to stop the system crumbling, itself has crumbled. We are told Tony Blair pleaded with Gordon Brown to call off Tom Watson MP from his crusade over the original hacking allegations. It did not work.

Tom Baldwin, Ed Miliband’s spin-doctor purposely selected from the Murdoch empire to hone Labour’s message in the direction of Wapping, warned Labour “not to conflate phone-hacking and BSkyB”. Mr Miliband’s Bloomberg speech on Friday contradicted that approach.

One part of the Chomsky doctrine has been proven by exception. He stated that newspapers that told the truth could not make money. The Guardian, whose veteran reporter Nick Davies led the investigation, is indeed burning money and may run out of it in three years’ time.

But a combination of the Guardian, Twitter and the public-service broadcasters, including Sky News, proved stronger than the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch, and for now the rest of Fleet Street has joined in the kicking.

(It should be said here that the Daily Telegraph’s role in the exposure of the MPs expenses scandal laid the groundwork for this moment. The Telegraph proved you can attack major sections of the political elite, who had assumed impunity, and win.)

Now three institutions stand weakened: Mr Murdoch is facing the collapse of his BSkyB bid; a Conservative Party, cut adrift from him, faces a moment of internal re-appraisal; and in the cappuccino joints around New Scotland Yard there is apprehension over whether the Met can survive another systemic kicking so soon after the MacPherson report.

Of all these institutions, it is the one with least resilience among the mass of people that stands in greatest danger. The Conservative Party has branches, summer fetes, jumble sales and social roots going back centuries; the Met is, tonight, dressed in its stab vests and fuelled by stale McDonalds, dealing with traumatized victims of urban mayhem on housing estates few politicians would dare to visit after dark.

But Rupert Murdoch’s resilience relies on the few handpicked lieutenants and family members holed up in London and New York. It is a classic “Weberian hierarchy” – a command structure stronger vertically than horizontally.

Six months ago, in the context of Tunisia and Egypt, I wrote that the social media networks had made “all propaganda instantly flammable”. It was an understatement: complex and multifaceted media empires that do much more than propaganda, and which command the respect and loyalty of millions of readers are now also flammable.

Where all this leaves Noam Chomsky’s theory I will rely on the inevitable wave of comments from its supporters to flesh out.

But the most important fact is: not for the first time in 2011, the network has defeated the hierarchy.

via Mark Pesce


Posted by on January 19th, 2011


TED Talks: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

Posted by on July 8th, 2010

Lurker SneakyLil left a link to this in our comments:

I have only read Pinker‘s How The Mind Works, but I believe most of his work to be well worth checking out.

What I would like to pick up and extend on are his comments on how ‘cosmopolitanism’ and Peter Singer‘s ‘expanding circle’ have helped erode our feafulness of the Unknown Other, through reading about and understanding cultures and people we don’t see in the world around us. As my friend David Forbes says, There Is No They.

Our increasing connectedness, and ease of making new connections, is the great benefit of technologies such as Twitter. I daily read the stories of people on every continent on this planet and above it (thanks to tweets coming in from the residents of the ISS).

I would also point to people’s further awareness of their place of ‘privilege’ through tagging their tweets #firstworldproblems. I know it can seem a tad trite at times, and it’s often just a way for people to feel better about bitching about their iPods or Macs. But then think back to your classic literature and remember just how insular and self obsessed some of these great works seem now; completely obsessed with Upper Class Problems. Yes, I’m looking at you Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde!

So tweet away and tag them guilt free.. but do try to ever expand your circle, there’s enough inward facing collectives out there today (fuck you Glenn Beck!), let’s shake things up and dare to join hands across timezones and yes, even generational limits (I dare to believe not all Boomers are evil!).

Post-Privacy and the democratization of celebr1ty

Posted by on April 6th, 2010

It is with much interest that I have observed the rapid popularity of This is an extremely powerful service that simply let’s the user:

Create a box where friends can ask questions anonymously.

So not only are people microblogging their life, replying to each other and retweeting; now they can hold their own Press Conferences.

Now, to help understand this, let’s go back to danah boyd’s seminal piece on Super Publics:

A reporter recently asked me why kids today have no shame. I told her it was her fault. Media is obsessed with revealing the backstage of people in the public eye – celebrities, politicians, etc. More recently, they’ve created a public eye to put people into – Survivor, Real World, etc. Open digital expression systems coupled with global networks took it one step farther by saying that anyone could operate as media and expose anyone else. What’s juicy is what people want to hide and thus, the media (all media) goes after this like hawks. Add the post-9/11 attitude that if you hide something, you are clearly a terrorist. Should it surprise anyone that teenagers have responded by exposing everything with pride? What better way to react to a super public where everyone is working as paparazzi? There’s nothing juicy about exposing what’s already exposed. Do it yourself and you have nothing to worry about. These are the kinds of things that are emerging as people face life in super publics.

What’s the difference between micro-celebrity (let’s say anyone with a few thousand followers on Twitter) and the sub-lebrities Joan Collins is bitching about? Nothing! They are just two of the ways we are entertaining each other to death, waiting for the world to end. One is for Hipsters and the other is for Chavs; that’s the only difference.

In fact, can it be that the only reason celebrity biographies are so popular is that we are data-mining them for content and clues?

This is the democratization of celebr1ty.. a new Golden Age.. when anyone that is entertaining enough and has an internet connection can develop a Cult following.

In the spirit of this, Ask Us Anything!

The path to 10 Billion tweets

Posted by on March 21st, 2010

Mashable have produced this infographic:

One thing it’s noticeably missing is when they turned off features; like Track and IM.

We still love you twitter, you’re a simple idea that’s changing the world.  Happy 4th Birthday!

Sunset over Asheville

Posted by on March 6th, 2010

Stare off into the distance, watch Heavenside appear….

Photo taken by Derek Olson, link via David Forbes.

Astro_TJ tweets from the ISS

Posted by on January 23rd, 2010

Seems a belated retraction is in order; @Astro_Mike wasn’t tweeting from orbit, but was having his updates relayed via mission control.

@Astro_TJ is the first to update live from the space station.

From the NASA press release, here’s how:

This personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, takes advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and gives astronauts the ability to browse and use the Web. The system will provide astronauts with direct private communications to enhance their quality of life during long-duration missions by helping to ease the isolation associated with life in a closed environment.

During periods when the station is actively communicating with the ground using high-speed Ku-band communications, the crew will have remote access to the Internet via a ground computer. The crew will view the desktop of the ground computer using an onboard laptop and interact remotely with their keyboard touchpad.

Original Artist Sued by Imitator

Posted by on October 26th, 2009

John T. Unger, creator of Artisanal Firebowls, is being sued in federal court by an imitator who wants to continue to make knockoffs of Ungers’ original art.

I need your help. My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor. If I run out of funds before we reach trial, a default judgment would be issued against me and could put me out of business. I don’t believe my opponent can win this case in court and I don’t believe he really intends to try. I believe his goal is to use strong-arm litigation tactics to force me to keep spending money or risk losing my copyrights — not by true adjudication, but by default if he is able to outspend me.

Note, since the knockoff company initiated the lawsuit first, the default judgment will be entered in the knockoff company’s favor. Fighting in court takes time, but most importantly, money. Lawyers are expensive. He’s already spent 50K out of pocket so far, but attempts to settle have been unsuccessful.

Seeking a judicial ruling in federal court will cost more than any artist or small business can afford on it’s own, but attempts at settlement have been unsuccessful. I am holding a fundraising sale of my artwork to finance a defense in court. If you can contribute to the fund or share this story with others to help raise awareness, it would mean the world to me.

Money aside, this is an important judicial situation for artists, as the US Copyright Office approved Ungers’ designs as sculptural artwork and awarded him certificates of copyright as the originator of these designs. The law can not and should not be eroded further, but few artists have the money to defend their rights in court. This is a chance to do so now. Please spread the word!

Link via Warren Ellis, via twitter.

High court serves first writ on Twitter

Posted by on October 1st, 2009

AN anonymous Twitter user has received the first British High Court injunction to be issued on the social network.

The High Court ordered its first injunction via Twitter this week, saying the social website and micro-blogging service was the best way to reach an anonymous Tweeter who had been impersonating someone.

Solicitors Griffin Law sought the injunction against the micro-blog page arguing it was impersonating right-wing blogger Donal Blaney, the owner of Griffin Law.

The legal first could have widespread implications for the blogosphere.

In December last year, an Australian court broke new ground by serving court documents on Facebook.

“I think this is a landmark decision to issue a writ via Twitter,” said Dr Konstantinos Komaitis of Strathclyde University’s law faculty.

“You are creating a precedent that people will be able to refer to. It only takes one litigant to open the path for others to follow,” Dr Komaitis said.


The Trick is to Keep Breathing

Posted by on August 8th, 2009

Iran is right, it is a conspiracy.

Only it’s the kind of conspiracy that Iran can’t or won’t understand.  The word “conspiracy” comes from the Latin “conspirare”, which means “breathe together”.   When people conspire through internet mediated means, their conspiracies, from going to the movies to spreading the word about a corrupt regime, take on the qualities of the medium.  The internet “routes around censorship as though it was damage”, and net-mediated conspiracies are learning the same trick.

The ruling Iranian government tried to silence dissent via traditional methods, only to find it as easy catching ghosts.  So now they are trying to make a case for aggressive foreign intervention and sabotage, (a so-called “soft overthrow”) because they can’t acknowledge what really happened.   Any nation-state admitting that hundreds of thousands of self-organized people with cell-phones can go toe to toe with an army, for even a moment, is tantamount to admitting that the age of the nation-state is over.   Even if the lumbering, fear and hate-mongering Iranian government does have a grasp on what really happened, it can never admit it.

This is what I’m talking about when I say that social-media can change the world.

The next time something like the Twitter-based uprising against the rigged Iranian elections happens – and it will happen again, somewhere – the reaction will be faster and more widespread and even harder to pin down and silence. And again, and again.

There IS a vast conspiracy against the Iranian government.   It’s not exclusively driven by heads of state and corporations.   It’s driven by people who are learning that tyranny is something to be routed around as though it were damage.

There are people undergoing mass trials right now in Iran, because the Iranian government needs to be able to blame someone.   It’s a horrible thing to see people have their lives on the line for speaking truth to power, and it’s an uglyness we’re all too used to seeing.  So I think it’s important to remember that there is a conspiracy.

It doesn’t require secret meetings, or government financing, and it’s open to everyone who is willing to put aside their fear to try and make, if only in small part, a better world. It’s a conspiracy that is learning to make itself heard even when its voice is silenced.  I’m a member, you could be a member, even the Ayatullah Ali Khamanei could be a member if he wished.  It’s a conspiracy that in some part succeeds by the simple act of being recognized as existing.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Welcome to the human conspiracy.

(My thoughts go out to those on trial and those who have been abused, detained, injured or killed in the attempt speak truth to power in Iran or anywhere else.)

The Real Twitpocalypse: Asteroid Alerts Come to Twitter

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Twitter will now let you know when the sky is really falling:

Alerts about asteroids cruising near Earth have come to Twitter. @AsteroidWatch will let you know any time a space rock gets within a few lunar distances. Much more asteroid info will be distributed via a new NASA/JPL website. (Though if you want to know if a nuke is the best way to stop an asteroid, you’ll still need to come to Wired Science.)

“Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects,” Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. “And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth.”

The recent collision between a comet and Jupiter underscored the very real presence of possibly dangerous space objects in the solar system.

The Twitter feed, @lowflyingrocks, already uses NASA’s raw data to let you know after an asteroid has passed the Earth. But the site tells you about every rock within 0.2 astronomical units — that’s more than 18 million miles — so you get a ton of updates. @AsteroidWatch will be choosier about the near-earth objects it tells you about. Only rocks that come within a scant 750,000 miles or so of Earth will earn a Tweet.


Landlord sues tenant after tweet about moldy apartment

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

Food for thought on public tweets:

Those 140-character “microblog” posts to Twitter don’t constitute much more than links, dinner recipes, and bitching, right? Be careful with the bitching, though—a property management company in Chicago has filed a lawsuit against a tenant who tweeted an off-the-cuff comment about the company. The company, Horizon Group Management, says that the Twitter user in question sent the message maliciously, and is now asking for $50,000 in damages.

There are several reasons why this lawsuit is breaking new ground, not the least of which is its Twitter origin. There is much debate as to whether people’s Twitter streams are more like blogs—which are increasingly being held to the same legal standards as regular media when it comes to defamation—or a giant chat room, where most people presume “anything goes.” It may actually be somewhere in between, but the one problem with trying to hold tweets to a higher journalistic standard is the hard character limitation—it’s difficult to back up your comments within 140 characters (or even within several 140-character tweets), plus links to sources or pictures of evidence.

The other question is: did Horizon make any effort to sort out this issue with Bonnen before filing the lawsuit? It doesn’t seem so, given Bonnen’s immediate deletion of her Twitter account after the lawsuit was filed, but we admittedly don’t know the answer (and Horizon did not respond to our request for comment by publication time). The lawsuit makes no mention of the company making any effort to ensure that Bonnen’s apartment doesn’t have mold or to work with her to address her concerns.

Either way, the company has now managed to position itself as one that a lot renters and prospective homeowners wouldn’t want to do business with, unlike those that monitor their reputations on Twitter to address customer service issues. Zipcar, Boingo, one of my local pizza places, and even Allstate and Comcast have all swooped in to help out Ars staffers in need after we have aired some complaints. Even if Bonnen really had no mold and Horizon was technically innocent, the bad PR from this move will surely do more damage than Bonnen’s message to 20 of her best Twitter friends.


Does Social Media Produce Groupthink?

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

From, Ron Callari applies the eight signs of Janis’ “Groupthink” thesis to social media:

In the 1970s, Irving L. Janis’s book “Victims of Groupthink” described it as “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.” In the Age of Social Media, where social networks like Twitter and Facebook have consumed our lives, has Digital Man evolved into the the current version of “groupthink” or the herd mentality?

* Invulnerability. Members of the group are so overly optimistic that they are willing to take extraordinary risks and unwilling to heed signs of danger.
An example here might be the rallying cry we heard from the streets of Tehran and their access to the microblogging site Twitter which was used to amplify their protest message to the world. While on the one hand, using Twitter as a communication tool was eye-opening, might it have created a false sense of security? As the West joined the Iranian protesters online, did we put people at risk? I myself was approached by several of my LinkedIn contacts to remove Twitter profiles from blogs that I had posted that listed Iranian Twitter account names.

* Rationale. They rationalize away negative feedback and warnings that might otherwise cause the group to change course.
Are we encouraging children to be intellectually curious or merely teaching them that every question has an instant and obvious answer? Does Google or Twitter Search make us less intellectually curious as we rely on their easily accessible database of knowledge?

The Rise Of Homeless Internet Users

Posted by on June 1st, 2009

Anyone can be anyone on the internet, even if they don’t have a permanent roof over their head:

Cheap computers and free Internet access fuel the phenomenon. So does an increasingly computer-savvy population. Many job and housing applications must be submitted online. Some homeless advocates say the economic downturn is pushing more of the wired middle class on to the streets

Link via, story from the Wall Street Journal online.

EyeStop – Italy’s 21C bus stops

Posted by on May 28th, 2009

From cnet:

eye stop

The EyeStop is a touch-screen bus shelter that monitors environmental conditions and real-time bus movement and also provides information and communication tools that can interact with your cell phone.

The EyeStop, which has touch sensitive e-Ink screens as well as LEDs, features a bus map plotting locations in real-time, e-mail and Web access, tools for planning a best route and getting directions, a community bulletin board, and, of course, a place for silent video advertisements. It will also use sensors to monitor and display local air quality.

Riders can choose to have their local EyeStop bus stop sync with their cell phone. The EyeStop you normally frequent, for example, could twitter you that your usual bus is running late that morning.

Intended for tourists as well as locals, the EyeStop tools will be accessible in several languages.

pole versionThe bus shelter and bus pole versions of the EyeStop will power themselves with solar energy, but they won’t be one-size-fits-all.

Each EyeStop will be customized by a computer program that takes into account the stop’s immediate surroundings. As a result, each can be built to fit into the existing space using steel, glass, and gray stone local to Florence. The software also considers maximum sunlight exposure for the location to determine power generation needs.


via chris arkenberg

Astro_Mike is tweeting from orbit

Posted by on May 15th, 2009

For those who have missed it, Astronaut Mike Massimino is sending updates whilst in orbit, on the Hubble repair mission.

astro_mike tweets from space

Scientist updates Twitter using only his mind

Posted by on April 21st, 2009

Link via


The system works by monitoring electroencephalography – or EEG – which is the electrical activity produced on the scalp by the movement of neurons within the brain.

The user of a BCI wears a cap, which is studded with electrodes and connected to a computer. The electrodes detect the electrical signals caused by thoughts.

Mr Wilson’s Twitter set-up contains an onscreen alphabet. The letters flash in turn, and when the letter that the user wants to type flashes, the system detects a spike in their brain activity, and selects that letter.

Slow, slow progress – but progress.

Twitter = Mob rule?

Posted by on April 14th, 2009

Twitter, twitter, twitter. Once the social networking playground of those on the cutting edge of new internet toys, now it’s become mainstream – everyone seems to be on it. (Let’s not talk about the fail whale!) A recent conversation with a friend brought a thought into my head: Twitter is the ultimate mob rule.

Here’s why:

1. Everyone following you can click on the link you send, almost all at once.

2. Get a shit load of people to do this and it crashes sites rather quickly.

3. What if you did this on purpose?

Forget the bot networks. Forget the viruses. All you need is a massive follower list (or enough people to cross pollinate their twitter streams with your message) and people clicking to take down or disrupt websites for a bit. Click. Click. Click.

So what? Easy to grab people’s attention – see the latest amazon fuck up with ‘adult’ searches. By de-ranking the searches, people noticed quickly and the result spread through twitter like wildfire. So simple and fast to retweet information and have it distributed almost exponentially. People will click on the links and see where it leads them, get enough people to bombard a site and people could send a potential message to the site’s owner.

You have your own army at your fingertips and you don’t even know it.

What would you do?


Posted by on March 20th, 2009

@grinders is the twitter feed for Bite-sized grinding chunks, neatly delivered to your twitter account of choice. Please don’t reply to grinders, as it’s now only programmed to relay the posts presented here.

Want to send us things via twitter?

Now you can.

Social Collider

Posted by on March 20th, 2009


A Twitter visualization project using javascript and web browsers is inspired by particle colliders to reveal the hidden connection between tweets

Or a program developed for google chrome, Social Collider gives twitter relationships a gorgeous visual representation.

Quote and video via, by Kevin Makice.